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White Horehound

Marrubium vulgare

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Lamiaceae (Dead-nettle)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Cliffs, grassland, roadsides, sea cliffs, seaside, wasteland.

White, 5 petals
White flowers arranged in whorled clusters up the stem around the leaf bases. Pollinated by bees.
A 4-parted nutlet. The seeds ripen from August to October.
Very crinkled, roundish, greyish-green, white downy leaves, up to 5cm (2 inches) long. The leaf margins are bluntly-toothed. Perennial.
Smells of thyme.
Other Names:
Common Horehound, Horehound.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Marrubium vulgare, also known as White Horehound or Common Horehound, is a perennial herb of the mint family, Lamiaceae. The plant is native to Europe and Asia, but it is now widely distributed throughout the world. The plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and has a square stem and a strong odor. It has green, hairy, and wrinkled leaves and produces small, clusters of white flowers. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and is considered to have sedative, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Marrubium vulgare is used in many cultures to treat respiratory problems, such as coughing and bronchitis, it is also used to treat digestive problems, as a laxative and a diuretic. It can also be used in cooking, but the leaves should be used with caution, as the plant can be toxic in large doses. It is also used in perfumery and aromatherapy. The plant prefers well-drained, sandy soils and full sun to partial shade. It is hardy and easy to grow, but it can be invasive in some areas.


White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, but has been naturalized in many parts of the world, including North America. The plant is also known as Common Horehound or just Horehound. In this blog, we will take a closer look at White Horehound, including its physical description, traditional uses, and potential health benefits.

Physical Description

White Horehound is a perennial herb that can grow up to two feet tall. It has woolly leaves that are gray-green in color and grow in opposite pairs along the stem. The plant also produces small white flowers that bloom from June to September. White Horehound is known for its distinctive aroma, which has been described as a cross between mint and sage.

Traditional Uses

White Horehound has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The ancient Egyptians and Romans both used the plant to treat respiratory problems, including coughs and bronchitis. In medieval Europe, White Horehound was believed to have a range of medicinal properties, including the ability to stimulate digestion and alleviate menstrual cramps.

In addition to its medicinal uses, White Horehound has also been used as a flavoring agent in candy and cough drops. The plant's bitter taste is thought to help soothe sore throats and coughs.

Potential Health Benefits

White Horehound contains a variety of compounds that are believed to have potential health benefits. These include:

  1. Anti-inflammatory: White Horehound contains compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a potential treatment for conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

  2. Antimicrobial: White Horehound has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, which means it may be effective against a range of bacteria and fungi.

  3. Respiratory Health: White Horehound has traditionally been used to treat respiratory problems like coughs and bronchitis. Recent research has shown that the plant may be effective in reducing symptoms of these conditions.

  4. Digestive Health: White Horehound has been shown to have digestive benefits. It may help stimulate the production of digestive juices and reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.

  5. Cancer Prevention: Some studies have suggested that White Horehound may have anti-cancer properties. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Safety and Precautions While White Horehound is generally considered safe, there are some precautions you should take if you plan to use the plant medicinally. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using White Horehound, as should people with certain medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Additionally, the plant may interact with certain medications, so it's important to talk to your doctor before using it if you take prescription drugs.

In conclusion, White Horehound is a versatile plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. While more research is needed to confirm its potential health benefits, the plant is generally considered safe when used in moderation. If you're interested in using White Horehound, be sure to talk to your doctor first to make sure it's safe for you.

Facts about White Horehound

There are a few other interesting facts and uses of White Horehound worth mentioning:

  1. Culinary Uses: In addition to its medicinal and flavoring uses, White Horehound can also be used in cooking. The leaves can be used to flavor soups, stews, and sauces, and can also be used to make tea.

  2. Insect Repellent: The scent of White Horehound is believed to repel insects, particularly flies. In the past, the plant was used as an insect repellent in homes and gardens.

  3. Companion Plant: White Horehound can be grown as a companion plant in gardens, as it is believed to repel certain pests and attract beneficial insects like bees.

  4. Traditional Uses in Different Cultures: White Horehound has been used in traditional medicine in many cultures. In India, for example, the plant is used to treat fever and as a digestive aid. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to reduce phlegm and as a diuretic.

  5. Essential Oil: White Horehound essential oil is used in aromatherapy for its calming and soothing properties. It is believed to help alleviate anxiety and stress.

Overall, White Horehound is a fascinating plant with a long history of traditional use. While more research is needed to fully understand its potential health benefits, there is no doubt that this herb has played an important role in traditional medicine and culinary practices around the world.

And some more facts...

Here are a few more interesting facts about White Horehound:

  1. Folklore: White Horehound has a rich history of folklore and superstition. In some cultures, it was believed that carrying a sprig of White Horehound could protect against witchcraft and evil spirits.

  2. Ecological Importance: White Horehound is an important plant for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Its flowers provide nectar and pollen for these insects, and it can be a valuable addition to gardens and wildflower meadows.

  3. Medicinal Combinations: White Horehound is often used in combination with other herbs in traditional medicine. For example, it is often combined with thyme and ivy leaf for respiratory conditions like coughs and bronchitis.

  4. Other Species: There are several other species of horehound that are used in traditional medicine, including Black Horehound (Ballota nigra) and Water Horehound (Lycopus europaeus). These plants have similar medicinal properties to White Horehound, but may have different flavors and aromas.

  5. Endangered Species: While White Horehound is a common and widespread plant, some related species are endangered or threatened. For example, the endangered Manx Horehound (Marrubium bivonae) is found only on the Isle of Man, and is under threat from habitat loss and climate change.

Overall, White Horehound is a fascinating plant with a rich history and many potential uses. Whether you are interested in traditional medicine, culinary arts, or simply the beauty of nature, there is much to appreciate about this versatile and resilient herb.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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