Horehound, White (Marrubium vulgare)

Horehound: Medical Uses

Traditional use has been for bronchitis and respiratory illness with a nonproductive cough.

Historical Uses

In folk medicine, horehound has been used primarily for expelling worms; stimulating menses; and treating cough (horehound drops), dog bites, and fevers. In Egypt, horehound was known as “Eye of the Star”.


A member of the mint family, horehound has hairy leaves and stems. It grows in the United States and Europe and likes sandy soil, warmth, and sun. It can be planted by seed or cuttings. Harvest horehound leaves to about 4 inches above the ground before flowering.

Parts Used

• Dried leaves

• Flowering tops

Major Chemical Compounds

  • • Marrubin
  • • Bitters
  • • Mucilage
  • • Tannins

Horehound: Clinical Uses

Traditional use has been for bronchitis and respiratory illness with a nonproductive cough. Horehound also may have a hypoglycemic effect. It has been approved by the German Commission E for “loss of appetite, bloating and flatulence”.

Mechanism of Action

This herb’s bitterness aids digestion. It also exerts expectorant, antispasmodic, and antinociceptive (decreasing painful stimuli) effects by an unknown mechanism, but it is not known if horehound does not interact with opioid systems and is not reversed by naloxone.

Horehound: Dosage

Tea: Pour 150 mL of boiling water over 1 to 2 grams of finely cut leaves and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Then strain and drink up to three times a day (Natural Medicines, 2000).

Lozenges: Use as needed.

Side Effects

Horehound may lower blood glucose levels. Large doses may induce cardiac irregularities.


• Horehound is contraindicated during pregnancy.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Use cautiously in diabetic patients who take insulin or other antidiabetic agents (Roman Ramos et al, 1992).

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Do not use horehound in pregnant patients because it is an abortifacient (induces abortion) and because it stimulates the uterus and menstrual flow. No restrictions are known for breast-feeding patients.


  • • Horehound may lower blood sugar levels.
  • • Large doses of horehound may cause changes in heart rate.
  • • Don’t use horehound if you take insulin or another antidiabetic medication.
  • • Don’t use horehound if you are pregnant because it stimulates the uterus, promotes menstrual flow, and may induce abortion.
  • • No restrictions are known during breast-feeding.


Homemade horehound cough syrup

Pick a few fresh horehound leaves and chop them finely. Add ½ teaspoons of chopped leaves to 8 ounces of water and steep for 10 minutes. Then strain the herb and add twice as much honey to the liquid. Mix and take 1 teaspoon four times daily for coughs.