What is Horehound?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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An herb is a plant whose leaves, seeds, or flowers are used for flavoring food or in medicine. Other uses of herbs include cosmetics, dyes, and perfumes. The name is derived from the Latin word herba, meaning “green crops.” Horehound, Marrubium vulgare, is a perennial herb in the mint family. It is known as “white horehound” to distinguish it from another herb called black horehound that is primarily involved in medical use.

History. There are different explanations of the name horehound. One explanation is that it is from an Old English word for a grayish plant, horhune, and was influenced by the word hound. Another explanation is that the name horehound may derive from its having been an ancient antidote for the bite of a rabid dog, hore coming from hoar, meaning “old” or “grey.” The Latin name, Marrubium vulgare, may come from the Hebrew word marrob, meaning “bitter juice,” possibly indicating that horehound was one of the bitter herbs that the Jewish people ate at Passover.

Description. Native to most of the British Isles and most of Northern Europe, horehound is naturalized in the United States. Horehound grows to a height of about 1 ½ feet (1.2 m), making it a good border plant. The small white flowers bloom from June through September, but may not bloom until the second year.


Gardening. Horehound is one of those plants that thrives in poor soil – dry and sandy does the trick. It is considered a good border plant. Leaves and flowers should be harvested at the peak of blooming, and they can be used fresh or dried. Sometimes, the stems are included in recipes, and these can also be used fresh or dried.

Food and Other Uses. Because horehound is so bitter, its inclusion in food or medicinal preparations is generally offset by a large amount of sugar and/or other sweeteners. It is used in making candy, cough drops, and cough syrups, and in juice and tisane. The tisane can be made using either fresh or dried horehound.


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