Horehound tea is an herbal tea made with the leaves of the white horehound plant. Tea brewed with horehound leaves can be used to treat a wide variety of minor ailments. It is particularly effective in alleviating the symptoms of upper respiratory disorders, such as cough or asthma. Horehound tea is also used medicinally to relieve night-time acid reflux, abdominal pain and indigestion, lessen the pain of headaches caused by sinus infections, and reduce symptoms related to the common cold. The herb also soothes the pain and itching caused by a sore throat.
White horehound is a perennial herb and a member of the mint family. It is indigenous to Europe, but it may also be found growing in North and South America. The name "horehound" is apparently derived from the name of the Egyptian hawk-headed god of light, Horus, as an alternative name for the plant is "seed of Horus." Horehound leaves contain marrubiinic acid, tannins, resins, and flavinoids.
It is the marrubiinic acid, or marrubiin, in horehound tea that gives the tea most of its beneficial medicinal properties. Marrubiin is an expectorant that stimulates the salivary glands and the bronchioles, which helps remove phlegm and mucus from the lungs, chest and throat. It also stimulates the production of more gastric juice and speeds up the process of digestion, which in turn minimizes the occurrence of night-time acid reflux. Marrubiin is also an analgesic compound, which is why horehound tea is effective in reducing the pain caused by sore throat, sinus infection or indigestion.
Another active component of horehound tea is tannin. Tannins have anti-inflammatory and astringent properties that shrink down organic compounds like proteins, amino acids, and alkaloids. For this reason, horehound was used historically to treat victims of poisoning. In modern times, the medicinal uses of tannin include the treatment of diarrhea, hemorrhoids, gastritis, and enteritis. The ingestion of too many tannins can be dangerous, however, as tannins interfere with the body's ability to absorb vital nutrients like calcium and iron.
A single cup of horehound tea may be made by pouring one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried horehound leaves. This infusion must then be allowed to sit, covered, for about 10 to 15 minutes. The horehound leaves may then be strained out, and the tea may be sweetened with honey or molasses to combat the bitter flavor of the herb. Horehound tea should not be sweetened with sugar, as this is believed to nullify some of its beneficial effects.