Skip to main content


Common Name: horehound
Botanical Name: Marribium vulgare
Native Range: Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern and central Asia

A description of the use of horehound in Natural History by Pliny the Elder, c. 77-79 AD:

Most medical writers have spoken in high terms of marrubium, or horehound, as a plant of the very greatest utility. The leaves and seed beaten up, together, are good for the stings of serpents, pains of the chest and side, and inveterate coughs. The branches, too, boiled in water with panic, so as to modify its acridity, are remarkably useful for persons troubled with spitting of blood. Horehound is applied also, with grease, to scrofulous swellings. Some persons recommend for a cough, a pinch of the fresh seed with two fingers, boiled with a handful of spelt and a little oil and salt, the mixture to be taken fasting. Others, again, regard as quite incomparable for a similar purpose an extract of the juices of horehound and fennel. Taking three sextarii of the extract, they boil it down to two, and then add one sextarius of honey; after which they again boil it down to two, and administer one spoonful of the preparation daily, in one cyathus of water.

Beaten up with honey, horehound is particularly beneficial for affections of the male organs; employed with vinegar, it cleanses lichens, and is very salutary for ruptures, convulsions, spasms, and contractions of the sinews. Taken in drink with salt and vinegar, it relaxes the bowels, promotes the menstrual discharge, and accelerates the after-birth. Dried, powdered, and taken with honey, it is extremely efficacious for a dry cough, as also for gangrenes and hang-nails. The juice, too, taken with honey, is good for the ears and nostrils: it is a remedy also for jaundice, and diminishes the bilious secretions. Among the few antidotes for poisons, it is one of the very best known.

The plant itself, taken with iris and honey, purges the stomach and promotes expectorations: it acts, also, as a strong diuretic, though, at the same time, care must be taken not to use it when the bladder is ulcerated and the kidneys are affected. It is said, too, that the juice of horehound improves the eyesight. Castor speaks of two varieties of it, the black horehound and the white, which last he considers to be the best. He puts the juice of it into an empty eggshell, and then mixes the egg with it, together with honey, in equal pro- portions: this preparation used warm, he says, will bring abscesses to a head, and cleanse and heal them. Beaten up, too, with stale axle-grease and applied topically, he says, horehound is a cure for the bite of a dog.

Last updated: 3/10/2020