Wild Roots: Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

Horehound is an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic, and antihypertensive perennial that has been used for thousands of years to treat mainly coughs, colds and digestive problems.

The name “Horehound” comes from the Old English words “har” and “hune.” Marrubium means “bitter juice,” while Vulgare means “common.”

Here in New Mexico, it has other names I dare not mention since it’s the bane of the weed wacker. This is unfortunate since horehound is an essential medicinal herb I always keep on hand for coughs, colds and wound care treatments. I’ve used it successfully on several of my horses over the years to treat lung infections and in chicken feed to prevent parasites.

My favorite preparation of horehound as a cough and cold remedy is made by boiling the tops of the flowering plant in water like tea, then letting it steep overnight. In the morning, I strain the tea and add honey and a little whiskey as a preservative. Then I put it in the fridge for a daily tincture, whether I need it that day or not. It truly is an excellent cough medicine and a preventative if you’ve been exposed to someone with cold symptoms. Horehound is also found in Ricola cough drops and other over-the-counter remedies.

As with most herbals, horehound should be avoided during pregnancy, and the use of any herb should be discussed with your doctor. It’s an herbal remedy I always keep on hand and use often. Up here in the mountains, the syrup or candy makes a sweet and helpful gift for friends and neighbors on birthdays or at Christmas.

So, avoid the plant with your weed wacker and pull it up by hand. Use the tops and let a few grow in your garden to cure you all year.

Read more “Wild Roots” (formerly Herb of the Month) columns!

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