Grow Your Own Horehound!

Grow Your Own Horehound!
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Horehound brings to mind the old fashioned horehound candy that so many people remember fondly from their childhoods. But horehound, Marrubium vulgare, is an herb that can easily be grown in your garden. One plant is enough for a family and can be used not only for horehound drops, but also tea and homemade cough syrup.
Horehound is very easy to grow and can actually become a pest if not watched carefully. It self-seeds readily and rapidly! The flowers should be cut BEFORE they dry and form seeds. This is one of the reasons it's considered a noxious weed in Victoria, Southern and Western Australia plus parts of New South Wales. IF left on its own it can spread to the point of covering entire pastures. Don't let this stop you from growing it though. Cut the flowers and harvest it heavily each season and you should be fine.

Horehound is not picky about soil---except if it's wet and heavy. It can even grow in dry, rocky ground in full sun! The seed can be sown in the spring after the frost ends. The plant will bloom the second season, but can be harvested the first year since it's the leaves that are mainly used. As mentioned, you want to keep it well pruned and harvested. During the second season, cut it immediately after it flowers. The leaves and flowers lose their flavor quickly, so snip them into smaller pieces to dry on screens. When dry, crumble and store in jars.

Horehound is hardy to Zone 4 and will grow to about 2 foot tall. The leaves are soft and have a wooly crinkled appearance. The small flowers are white and attract beneficial wasps and flies to the garden. It's a great companion plant for tomatoes and peppers as an added bonus!

Now, back to using horehound in candy and tea. It's been used for centuries for coughs and other ailments. The FDA took it off the approved list, but not because it was harmful. They didn't see enough scientific evidence to consider it a medicine.

Before I get to the recipes, I do want to mention a few cautions. Make sure you buy or are growing the proper horehound. There is black horehound, Ballota nigra which is not related. Also bugleweed, Lycopus virginicus, is known as water horehound, but again, it is not related. These plants have their own benefits, but they shouldn't be used interchangeably.

People with low blood pressure, heart conditions or those using any type of insulin or related meds should avoid horehound. And lastly, do NOT use horehound if you are pregnant or nursing. The tea can be especially potent, more than the candy, so avoid that at all times if you fit into any of these categories. It's always better to be safe!

If you aren't scared off at this point (which I hope you aren't!) you can use the following recipes with either fresh or dried horehound.

Horehound Candy

Source: Herbal Treasures by Phyllis V. Shaudys


2 cups fresh horehound, leaves, stems and flowers (or 1 cup dried)

2 1/2 quarts water

3 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. butter

1 tsp. lemon juice (or 1 sprig lemon balm)

In large saucepan, cover horehound with water. Bring to boil, simmer 10 minutes. Strain thru cheesecloth and allow tea to settle. Ladle 2 cups horehound tea into large kettle. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar. Boil, stirring often, until mixture reaches 240 F. Add butter. Continue to boil until candy reaches 300F (hard crack). Remove from heat, add lemon juice. Pour at once into buttered 8" square pan. As candy cools, score into squares. Remove from pan as soon as it is cool. Store in aluminum foil or ziplock plastic bags.


The recipes vary with the cough syrup. Mainly on the amount of sweetener. Horehound does have a bitter taste. Some people can take it more than others. But then again, the cough syrup or cough drops that work the best never taste good.

Here is a basic recipe for the cough syrup.


1/4 to 1/2 cup dried horehound leaves and/or flowers

1 cup water

2 cups honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice or cider vinegar (optional)

Boil horehound in the water for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to sit for 5 more minutes. Strain out the horehound using cheesecloth or a very fine strainer. (you don't want particles left in the syrup). Add honey and lemon and stir until it is combined. Pour into a glass jar and cover. Use one tablespoon as needed.

Horehound Tea


1 cup fresh leaves, or 1/4 cup dried

1 quart water

2 tablespoons honey

1 fresh lemon

1 tsp. anise seed (optional)

Place the herbs into a pan, add water and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain the tea, pressing the herbs as you strain. Add the honey and the juice of the lemon. You may add more honey if you wish. Sip it warm. 2-3 cups per day as needed. You can also add a little bit of fresh ginger in place of the anise seed.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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