Horehound – characteristics, cultivation and use

Horehound flower
Horehound flower By Kurt Stüber [1] - caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/mavica/index.html part of www.biolib.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7347

Horehound is a rather inconspicuous plant that originates from the Mediterranean area and is today widespread worldwide. Since ancient times, the common horehound is used as a medicinal plant. Until the early modern era, the plant was one of the best known medicinal herbs. Even today, the plant enjoys a high status in natural medicine. The containing bitter substances and tannins of the herb act mainly for stomach problems, digestive problems and persistent cough.

Profile of horehound:

Scientific name: Marrubium vulgare

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: common horehound

Sowing time / Planting time: May – June

Flowering period: June – August

Harvest time: June – August

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers

Location: sunny

Soil quality: low-nutrient, calcareous and permeable soils

Use as a medicinal herb: diarrhea, hypertension, cough, discomfort during menstruation, biliary disorders

Use as aromatic herb: tea

Plant characteristics and classification of horehound

Origin and occurrence of the horehound

The natural habitat of horehound is the western Mediterranean around the Iberian Peninsula and parts of North Africa. Due to brisk maritime activities in the late Middle Ages, the plant is also found today wild in South and Central America. Since the plant was a popular and frequently used medicinal plant in the Middle Ages, it can sometimes even be found in southern Scandinavia and the British Isles.

The horehound is relatively undemanding in the choice of its locations. It is occasionally found on brownfield sites, dry and clayey sites, and near railroad tracks.

Plant order of the common horehound

The common horehound belongs to the large plant family of the mint family. The famous medicinal herb is thus related to other important herbs such as sage, lavender or peppermint. In the closer relationship, the plant belongs to the genus of Marrubium, which consists of about 50 species.

Characteristics of horehound


The common horehound is a perennial plant that grows mostly herbaceous. Depending on site conditions, the herb can reach heights of growth between 25 and 90 cm (10 and 36 in). The roots of the herb are spindle-shaped and usually quite thick.


Characteristic of horehound are the angular, almost square and hollow stems, with white glandular hairs. Of the stems grow opposite pairs of leaves, which can often reach lengths of up to 2 cm (0.8 in). The mint-green leaves are ovate, tapering, slightly sawn and also hairy. The nerves of the leaves are semicircular.


Heyday of horehound is usually expected between early June to late August. Then the plant forms closely spaced, small white flowers, which have a distinct lip shape. The flowers arise from the leaf axil.


When the plant reaches maturity, small claus fruits develop on the tiny barbs. The seeds thus adhere like sticks to passing animals and are thus spread.

A horehound plant
A horehound plant – By Stefan.lefnaer – Own Work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41091881

Cultivation and care of horehound

The cultivation of the herb is not particularly difficult because the plant is generally quite undemanding, requires little care and is rarely infested with diseases and pests.


Optimal for the herb are sunny locations with sparse, nutrient-poor and slightly calcareous soils. Well suited are gardens with loamy or clayey soils. If horehound is to grow on sandy soil, it should first be mixed with some clay flour.


The best time for sowing outdoors are the months of May to June. It is possible to pre-culture on the windowsill between March and April. The seeds of horehound need light to germ and should therefore only be pressed lightly into the ground. Since the herb grows very bushy and its roots grow flat, a planting distance of about 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) should be maintained. The soil in which the seeds should germinate must always be slightly moist. The germination itself can take up to three weeks. It is possible that several seeds do not germinate.


If compost is available in the garden, the soil can be mixed with it before sowing. However, smaller quantities are sufficient. Otherwise, you can use some normal universal fertilizer shortly before flowering. If horehound grows on the balcony, the pot or bucket should be supplied with a normal herbal fertilizer every four weeks.


The herb does not require large amounts of water. Care should be taken that the soil is always slightly moist. The horehound usually survives short dry phases without problems. On hot and long low-rainy summer days, the soil should be watered vigorously, especially in the evening.


It should be noted that horehound is an invasive plant and spreads quickly around its location. At flowering, therefore, most of the flower heads should be removed or cut back. Apart from that, the plant is quite resistant to pests and diseases.

Diseases and pests

Under normal growth and local conditions, diseases and pests are rarely expected. As the plant contains bittern, horehound has sufficient basic protection against most pests. For long-lasting warm to hot days with low humidity during the day, the leaves are vulnerable to powdery mildew. The risk increases the longer the plant carries dry leaves.


Horehound tolerates frost to about -12 ° C / 10 ° F and is considered hardy. Plants that are already older, therefore, need no special winter protection. For younger plants, it is recommended to cover the soil with a little brush, if the frosts are too strong.


Horehound is harvested during flowering. Usually the upper parts of the plant are used, as the lower leaves have high bitterness and taste too bitter.

Use of horehound

Horehound in the kitchen

In the kitchen horehound is hardly used. The leaves of the herb have a very bitter taste with a slightly sharp undertone. Smaller amounts are sometimes used in herbal salads or fatty meat dishes. It can be used for the preparation of herbal liqueurs.

Horehound as a medicinal herb

Horehound is a very old herb that has been used extensively since Roman times. The plant was already recommended as an effective remedy for numerous respiratory ailments and persistent coughing.

The herb was mentioned by Hildegard von Bingen, which gave the herb a great importance in gastric disorders and respiratory diseases. It was described by her as a warm herb. Horehound was seasoned with sage, thyme and fennel in butter and spread on the head.

Also in many old herbal books of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period horehound was used as a tea or wine extract and used against stubborn mucus of the lungs. For severe coughing and side-stitching, horehound mixed with violet root was a commonly used home remedy. In addition to these complaints, the herb was used for diseases of the liver, kidney and spleen and for worm infestation and labor pain. Bladder and kidney problems, however, have been advised against the sole use of the herb, unless it is taken together with licorice and raisins.

Horehound, along with agrimony, borage and horse-heal, has also been used for constipation and jaundice. The medicine was prepared in white wine, with a cup was drunk every morning. Outwardly, the plant should help with grind, dandruff, genital warts and skin plaits.

Horehound can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • anemia
  • badly healing wounds
  • boosting the immune system
  • cough
  • chronic bronchitis
  • eczema
  • biliary weakness
  • gastritis
  • immune deficiency
  • intestinal inflammation
  • liver weakness
  • promoting menstrual
  • poor circulation
  • nervous heart disorders
  • stomach inflammation
  • ulcers
  • weak menstruation

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • blood-building

Many ingredients support the gentle treatment of stomach and intestinal diseases. The containing bitter substances provide for an increase in gastric juice production, which can help especially against feeling of fullness and flatulence. In addition, the liver is animated to produce larger amounts of bile. By contrast, the tanning agents contained in horehound can help to restore the intestinal mucosa. This is especially the case when diarrhea occur or have occurred.

In Central America and some South American countries, horehound is used in addition to hypertension and diabetes. At least some studies seem to indicate that horehound actually seems to work on high blood pressure. The corresponding ingredients are found mainly in the root of the herb and ensure that the veins are narrowed to expand again.

The most common dosage forms for horehound are pressed juices, herbal wines and tea (Infus).

Preparation of a horehound tea

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how you prepare a horehound tea by yourself

  1. put one to two teaspoons of horehound in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let it steep for 10 minutes

  4. drink in small sips

  5. from this tea you drink one to three cups daily

Preparation of a horehound tincture

  • put horehound in a screw cap jar
  • pour with double grain or spirit until all parts of the plant are covered
  • allow the mixture to brew for 2 to 6 weeks
  • then strain and fill in a dark bottle
  • this tincture is taken one to three times a day 10-50 drops
  • if the tincture is too concentrated, you can dilute it with water

Side effects

Basically, no side effects are known. However, it is recommended to discuss the use of horehound products during pregnancy or lactation with a doctor or pharmacist, as the herb can stimulate the uterus.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy horehound – What is there to pay attention to?

You can buy horehound for the garden, as plants or seeds online or in garden centers.

The price for a plant is about 4 to 6 EUR/$. A package of seeds (500) is about 1.5 EUR /$.

In many pharmacies and online shops one can buy however numerous horehound products. Tea blends, dried herb and pressed juices are mostly offered. Horehound juice should help well against tight cough and indigestion. Many herbalists also offer dried herb, which is priced between 2.50 to 5 EUR/$ at 100 grams.

An alternative to juice and tea are cough drops, which consist of horehound extract. Angocin bronchial drops, which are a gentle alternative to synthetic cough suppressants and solubilizers, are recommended here.

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