Horehound (white And Black)
The herb Horehound occurs of two sorts, white and black, in our
hedge-rows, and on the sides of banks, each getting its generic
name, which was originally Harehune, from hara, hoary, and
hune, honey; or, possibly, the name Horehound may be a
corruption of the Latin Urinaria, since the herb has been found
efficacious in cases of strangury, or difficult making of water.
The White Horehound (Marrubium) is a
herb of the Labiate order, growing in waste places, and of
popular use for coughs and colds, whether in a medicinal form, or as
a candied sweetmeat. Its botanical title is of Hebrew derivation,
from marrob, a bitter juice. The plant is distinguished by the
white woolly down on its stems, by its wrinkled leaves, and small
It has a musky odour, and a bitter taste, being a much esteemed
Herbal Simple, but very often spuriously imitated. It affords
chemically a fragrant volatile oil, a bitter extractive marrubin,
and gallic acid.
As a homely remedy it is especially given for coughs accompanied
with abundant thick expectoration, and for chronic asthma. In
Norfolk scarcely a cottage garden can be found without its
Horehound corner; and Horehound beer is much drunk there by the
natives. Horehound tea may be made by pouring boiling water on
the fresh leaves, an ounce to a pint, and sweetening this with honey:
then a wineglassful should be taken three or four times in the day.
Or from two to three teaspoonfuls of the expressed juice of the herb
may be given for a dose.
Candied Horehound is best made from the fresh plant by boiling it
down until the juice is extracted,  and then adding sugar before
boiling this again until it has become thick enough of consistence to
pour into a paper case, and to be cut into squares when cool. Gerard
said: Syrup made from the greene fresh leaves and sugar is a most
singular remedy against the cough and wheezing of the lungs. It
doth wonderfully, and above credit, ease such as have been long
sicke of any consumption of the lungs; as hath been often proved by
the learned physicians of our London College.
When given in full doses, an infusion of the herb is laxative. If the
plant be put in new milk and set in a place pestered with flies, it
will speedily kill them all. And according to Columella, the Horehound
is a serviceable remedy against the Cankerworm in trees: Profuit et
plantis latices infundere amaros marrubii.
The Marrubium was called by the Egyptian Priests the Seed of
Horus or the Bull's Blood and the Eye of the Star. It was a
principal remedy in the Negro Caesar's Antidote for vegetable
The Black Horehound (Ballota nigra), so called from its dark
purple-coloured flowers, is likewise of common growth about our
roadsides and waste places. Its botanical title comes from the Greek
ballo, to reject, because of its disagreeable odour, particularly
when burnt. The herb is sometimes known as Madwort, being
supposed to act as an antidote to the bite of a mad dog. In Beaumont
and Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess, we read of:--
Black Horehound, good
For Sheep, or Shepherd bitten by a wood-dog's venomed tooth.
If its leaves are applied externally as a poultice, they will relieve
the pain of gout, and will mollify angry  boils. In Gotha the
plant is valued for curing chronic skin diseases, particularly of a
fungoid character, such as ringworm; also for diseases of cattle.
This, says Meyrick is one of those neglected English herbs which are
possessed of great virtues, though they are but little known, and still
less regarded. It is superior to most things as a remedy in hysteria,
and for low spirits. Drayton said (Polybion, 1613):--
For comforting the spleen and liver--get for juice,
The Water Horehound (Lycopus), or Gipsy wort, which grows
frequently in our damp meadows and on the sides of streams, yields
a black dye used for wool, or silk, and with which gipsies stain their
skins, as well as with Walnut juice. This is called Gipsy Wort,
says Lyte, because the rogues and runagates, which name
themselves Egyptians, do colour themselves black with this herbe.
Each of the Horehounds is a labiate plant; and this, the water
variety, bears flesh coloured flowers, whilst containing a volatile
oil, a resin, a bitter principle, and tannin. Its medicinal action is
astringent, with a reduced frequency of the pulse, and some gentle
sedative effects, so that any tendency to coughing, etc., will be
allayed. Half-an-ounce of the plant to a pint of boiling water will
make the infusion.