Horehound Medicinal Uses

By | June 24, 2014

The many traditional horehound medicinal uses have been around for centuries. In fact, until the FDA got involved and denied any medicinal benefits, horehound candy was sold for relief of coughs and sore throats. Recently, however, recent studies are now showing that horehound may indeed have medical benefits; something the rest of the world has known all along.

Horehound, Marrubium Vulgare, is a member of the mint family native to Europe and Morocco, with woolly, hairy leaves and white flowers. It is the leaves and flowers that are used to treat a variety of ailments.

Uses and Benefits

Horehound is an expectorant and antitussive and can be used to treat the following ailments:

  • Coughs
  • Bronchitis
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Sore Throats
  • Cardiac Arrhythmias
  • Diabetes
  • Bowel and Uterine Stimulant
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Flatulence
  • External Sores and Wounds

Practitioners of traditional medicines believe that horehound medical uses have the following properties:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Vasodilator
  • Diuretic

Since ancient times it has been in use as bitter confection or food. The Jewish people chose it as one of the bitter herbs (maror) of the Passover feast and even now it is in use for its bitter flavor in confectionary, teas, ales and other foods.


There are several active chemicals that are found in the herb form. The main ones are:

  • Flavonoids, including quercetin
  • Diterpenes, including the lactone premarrubiin
  • Alcohols including marrubenol and marrubiol
  • Mucilage
  • Saponins
  • Alkaloids like betonicine and stachydine

There are also a number of less important chemicals, like marrubinic acid which is an appetite stimulant and a choleretic. The bitter taste may mean that this herb may stimulate the gastro-pulmonary mucokinetic reflex and therefore function as a non-specific expectorant.

A demonstrable hypoglycemic effect has been found in rabbits, which could mean that it is a potential treatment for diabetes.

Clinical Trials

To date there have not been any clinical trials that confirm the various horehound medicinal uses or the main constituent, marrubiin.

Side Effects

Most people can tolerate normal doses of the herb, but some individuals might not like the bitter taste. In large doses, it can cause nausea and vomiting and have laxative properties. There are no known drug interactions.

Be careful if you are pregnant as the herb is not been proven to be safe in pregnancy. There are no known restrictions during nursing.

Preparation and Dosage

A common way to take horehound is in tablet form like medicinal candies or throat pastilles, but it you can also take it as a liquid extract or made into a tea. It is usual to prescribe a dose of 4.5g/day of herb or 30-100ml of juice taken three times a day. You might need to disguise the bitter taste to make it more palatable if you are taking it.

It is possible that horehound has minor expectorant properties because like all bitter foods it might stimulate the gastro pulmonary expectorant reflex. This is still to undergo clinical tests. , and it is not possible at this time to recommend its use for serious or persistent ailments. There is no clinical evidence for the other reputed health benefits. Even so, horehound medicinal uses continue to be a popular remedy for sore throats and other minor conditions.