Horehound by J. Zane Walley
You don't have to travel far to find this very beneficial herb. Chances are you have been ripping it out of your yard spring and summer. It grows in abundance, in all climates throughout America. Although viewed as an unwelcome weed, it was actually brought from Europe to America by Anglo settlers and cultivated as a medical plant.
Horehound has been in medical use from the time of the Pharaohs. The name is formed from Horus, the Egyptian god of sky and light. Greek physician Hippocrates held this herb in high esteem for healing many ailments. The Romans esteemed Horehound for its' medicinal properties. It was one of the bitter herbs, which Jews were ordered to take for the Feast of Passover and it was the principal ingredient in Caesar's antidote for vegetable poisons.
In the 1800's Dr. Gerard wrote in his book, The Herbal Digest, "Syrup made of the fresh greene leaves and sugar is a most singular effective remedy against the cough and wheezing of the lungs .... In addition, doth wonderfully ease those who have been long sick with any consumption of the lungs, as has been often proved by the learned physicians of London College. It helpeth expectorate tough phlegm from the lungs. I would recommend the syrup to heal the lungs of aged persons, especially those who are asthmatic and short-winded." Dr. Gerard also prescribed the plant for those who "Have drunk poison, or have been bitten by serpents, or mad dogs."
King's Dispensatory describes this valuable remedy in the following terms: "Horehound is a stimulant tonic, expectorant, and diuretic. Its stimulant action upon the laryngeal and bronchial mucous membranes is pronounced and it undoubtedly influences the respiratory function. It is used in the form of syrup, in coughs, colds, chronic inflammation of the mucous membranes, asthma, and all pulmonary affections. The warm infusion has been used with benefit in jaundice, asthma, hoarseness, and hysteria."
Contemporary Herbal Uses
Horehound is a valuable plant in the treatment of bronchitis cough, asthma, bad cold, and influenza where there is a non-productive cough. It combines the action of relaxing smooth muscles of the bronchus while promoting mucus production and thus phlegm. It is used with benefit in the treatment of whooping cough. The bitter action stimulates the flow and secretion of bile from the gall bladder, aiding digestion. In addition to relieving the cough and phlegm, it will promote sweating and break fevers. As a mild stimulant, it relieves the sluggish feeling that accompanies flu and colds.
Preparations & Dosage
Infusion - Pour a cup of boiling water onto one teaspoonful of the dried or fresh herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. For flu and colds, drink the infused tea; as much as is comfortable.
Horehound Ointment - Horehound is used externally to promote the healing of skin abrasions. Bruise and boil, ½ cup fresh green leaves in 1 cup lard or shorting as an effective ointment for lacerations and burns. Go easy if you try this, for the salve burns very, very easily. Strain while shortening is liquid. Cool and store refrigerated in a covered container.
Horehound Candy - Many of us silver-haired folks remember buying this candy at the corner store. It's tasty, and works just about as good as any store-bought cough drops. Boil a quarter cup of the leaves in two cups of water for ten minutes. Discard the leaves. Add twice as much honey as the remaining liquid and stir the mixture smooth. Blend two cups of sugar with 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar then add the honey-horehound mixture. Stir over low heat until the sugar melts. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens enough to form a hard ball when dropped in chilled water. Pour onto wax paper; dust with confectionery sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Cut into squares when cool. Store in airtight containers.
During spring, summer and fall; gather and use fresh. Before frost, harvest a winter's supply, roots, and
all. Dry by hanging bunches upside down by the roots. When powder dry, store in a sealed container. Use the dry leaves as the green is used.
Warnings and Precautions
Do not take if you are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future, have any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, esophageal reflux, ulcerative colitis, or spastic colitis. Excessive consumption will result in a mild purgative effect. As with all medications, consult with your physician before taking.