Horehound (Ku Bo He)
Botanical Name: Marrubium vulgare
Horehound (aka Marrubium) has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a wide range of respiratory conditions. It is a popular ingredient in commercial cough syrups and lozenges. There are two types of horehound, white and black. They are related but different plants. White horehound is commonly just called horehound and the black variety (Ballota nigra) is called black horehound. They have some similar properties, but black horehound has a very bitter taste, while white horehound is minty with menthol qualities and is often used to make candies. White horehound also has a long history for being used for its antispasmodic properties. It has been used to treat seizures, tremors, and cramping, including menstrual cramping.
Below is an overview of Horehound (Ku Bo He), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Horehound (Ku Bo He).
Western Name: Horehound
Also Known As: Marrubium, White Horehound, Hoarhound, Bonhomme, Common Horehound, Houndsbane, Soldier’s Tea
Organs/Systems: Respiratory System, Digestive System
Key Actions: Expectorant, Antispasmodic, Analgesic, Vasodilator, Digestive, Bitter, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Vermifuge, Cardiotonic, Anticancer, Antibacterial, Antimicrobial, Mild Nervine
Medicinal Uses: Coughs, bronchitis, open blood vessel passageways, lowers blood pressure, poor appetite, indigestion, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, liver and gallbladder complaints, whooping cough, asthma, tuberculosis (TB), menstrual cramping, jaundice, wounds, skin ulcers, increases urine production, parasitic worms, diabetes, cancer.
Pin Yin: Ku Bo He
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Lungs, Spleen
Key Actions: Clears Heat, Resolves Phlegm, Tonifies Spleen, Moves Qi, Calms Tremors
Medicinal Uses: Fever, headaches, red eyes, coughs (especially unproductive coughs), sore throat, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, wheezing, vents rashes, irritability, indigestion, poor appetite, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, aching joints, menstrual cramping, tremors, seizures.
Horehound is a perennial plant and a member of the mint family Lamiaceae. There are two types, white and black. White horehound is commonly just called horehound. Its leaves are green and white and crinkled with soft fine hairs. Its small white flowers are densely packed and bloom around the stems where the pairs of leaves are attached.
Horehound is native to Asia and Europe. It is now naturalized in North America. While horehound can grow in many climates, it is said the best quality is grown in intense desert heat.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, Flowering Tops
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Salty, Pungent, Cool
Caution: Considered safe. Use with caution. Horehound helps increase stomach acids that can aid digestion but may be too much for those already dealing with stomach ulcers or gastritis. Not recommended during pregnancy. (Black horehound is not recommended for people with Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia.)
History/Folklore: The herb has been documented as a medicine dating all the way back to the 1st century B.C. Egyptian priests referred to the herb as “Seed of Horus”, which may be where its modern name, horehound derives from. The ancient Egyptians used the herb as an antidote for poison and legends say they also used the herb in ceremonial rituals. In medieval Europe it was used to ward off spells by witches.
The 16th century English herbalist, John Gerard, described the herb as an antidote to poison and a syrup for respiratory infections.
The 17th century English herbalist Culpeper said, “There is a syrup made of this plant which I would recommend as an excellent help to evacuate tough phlegm and cold rheum from the lungs of aged person, especially those who are asthmatic and short winded.”
A decoction of the roots were used by the Navajo as a healing herb for before and after childbirth.
In China, white horehound is especially used for its abilities to treat stubborn coughs and sinus congestion. A cooling herb it is effective for treating fevers, headaches, and the upward moving symptoms of colds and flu that affect the head, neck, and upper lungs.
For treating lung conditions, white horehound combines well with lobelia, coltsfoot, and mullein. Adding a bit of honey to your tea can help counter the herbs bitter flavor. The herb also combines well with marshmallow, licorice, and hyssop.
Used externally, white horehound is useful for treating eczema and shingles and healing skin lesions, ulcers, and wounds.
The constituent, marrubium, has been found to have notable healing impact on cancer, diabetes, and other health issues. White horehound extract has been shown to effectively prevent cell death and reduce the promotion of cancer in cells, in particular, colon cancer cells.
Used to aid digestion, a typical recommended dose is 3 to 4.5 grams of the dried herb or 2 to 4 tbsp of the pressed juice used daily. White horehound is known for increasing stomach acids that help aid digestion.
A study in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that black horehound (Ballota nigra) placed in the top 10 of 104 medicinal plants for its ability to inhibit the antibiotic resistant strain known as MRSA. White horehound also has powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
A study in “Oncology Reports” noted white horehound extract to be effective in promoting early cell death of cancer cells as well as aiding the prevention of inflammation that can lead to cancer. The herb showed particular promise in treating colon cancer.
The hoary or silver-colored hairs on the plant’s stems and leaves are the likely root of its name horehound. In old English, “har” and “hoary” mean “white” or “grey-haired”. The botanical name, Marrubium may have derived from the ancient Roman town “Mariaurbs” or from the name of one of the bitter herbs, “marrob” that is used by the Jewish peoples during Passover. Some suggest that the Egyptian god Horus could also be a source for the plant’s name.
White horehound has been grown around the home to keep wild animals and mad dogs away. Similar to lavender, white horehound has been sprinkled on floors to cleanse the air, keep evil spirits out, and protect against spells and magic. The herb can be used to inspire creativity and heal by bringing a person back into balance. White horehound can be carried in a white bag for protection.
White horehound is used to make alcohol-free ale called horehound beer. It is also used to make candies.
Want Horehound (Ku Bo He)?
Here are some options…
Marrubium, Flavonoids (including Apigerin, Luteolin, and Quercetin), Alkaloids, Bitter Lactone, Saponin, Sterols, Tannins, Monoterpenes, Diterpenes, Vitamin C, Sesquiterpenes, Thujene, Eugenol.
Horehound is the bitter herb sometimes included in Passover meals.
Candy and Lozenges
Horehound is still used to make minty candies and even commercial lozenges used to treat sore throats, indigestion, and coughs. White horehound is an ingredient found in the popular Swiss cough lozenges called Ricola drops.
One of the oldest uses of white horehound is to alleviate indigestion, particularly constipation. The herb helps eliminate an inflamed colon, reducing bloating and constipation.
Find out what you DON’T know about how and why herbs work.
How, Why, and When do you use a particular herb? These courses include BOTH the energetic traditions of the East and the science of the West as well as recipes, gardening tips, herb identification tips, essential oil information (if it applies), and much, much more!
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page. Disclosure: If you purchase from some links on this web page, we may receive some kind of affiliate commission. However, we only ever mention products we would recommend whether we were being compensated or not. Thank you so much for your support of White Rabbit Institute of Healing!