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Ease Your Cold with Horehound This Winter

Updated: Jan 11

Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

The horehound, Marrubruim vulgare, is the most common plant species in the mint family (Labiatae) and a native to Europe. The scientific name, Marrubium vulgare, originates from the Hebrew "marrob," meaning "a bitter juice".

Horehound dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece and has a long history of use for coughs and colds. It was used as an expectorant, making it easier to expel phlegm.

A perennial herb that grows up to two feet tall with many woolly, white square stems. The leaves are opposite, one to two inches long, round-ovate, scalloped, dark green, and white-gray woolly below. The small white flowers grow in dense whorls and mature into burs that stick to everything. As a non-native invasive species, they have only a minor impact on the native species in California.

Horehound can be found throughout the United States below subalpine elevations. It loves to grow in disturbed soils, vacant lots, and roadsides, preferring drier climates. In the Los Padres National Forest, horehound can be harvested year-round, even during the snowy months at elevations up to 6,000 feet.

Medicinal Uses for Horehound

For millennia, Europeans utilized it as a bitter digestive tonic, increasing bile to aid fat digestion. Hot infusions of horehound were used as a diaphoretic to induce sweating, and a cold infusion was used as a diuretic to increase urination.

Horehound's most common use in modern times has been an expectorant to help expel phlegm from the lungs. The expectorant syrup and cough drops are made from a decoction of the leaves.

The main ingredient in horehound is marrubin, which accounts for the bitter taste. The terpenes in horehound have also been known to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antibacterial properties.

Horehound Cough Syrup

Used for wet coughs


  • 1 oz dried horehound

  • 1 pint of spring water

  • 16 oz of raw local honey


  • Prepare a strong infusion by pouring just-boiled water over dried horehound in a teapot. Steep, covered, for 30 minutes.

  • Strain liquid into a stainless steal saucepan

  • Add raw local honey and heat, uncovered, over a low flame, stirring occasionally, until the honey is dissolved and the liquid is a syrup consistency.

  • Add more honey to thicken if needed.

  • Store in refrigerator


  • Take 1 tsp as needed for coughs

  • This is an expectorant syrup to help remove phlegm out of the lungs

Horehound, Marrubium vulgare


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