A member of the mint family, White Horehound displays attractive whirls of sweetly scented white flowers - but its pleasant first impression belies its intensely bitter taste. Nevertheless, it has claimed a niche in herbal medicine and found its circle of admirers. In ancient Egypt it was dedicated to Horus, the God of the Morning Sun, and it was variously known as 'The Seed of Horus', 'The Eye of the Star' or 'Bull's Blood'. Dioscorides recommends it for numerous conditions, including the bites of venomous creatures and the effects of poisons. These days it is far less popular than it used to be not too long ago - at one time, Horehound candy could be had on any street corner, an effective remedy for sore throats and persistent tickles. It also was traditionally used as flavouring for beer or may have been smoked as a tobacco substitute. Before electricity was commonly installed its stems were floated on oil as wicks for nightlights. Bees love Horehound and beekeepers took advantage of that fact by putting bunches of flowers beneath their beehive in order to encourage the bees to mate. Farmers utilised Horehound's appetite stimulating effect by placing wreath of the herb around the necks of their cows, which was thought to stimulate their appetite and thus make their milk flow more abundantly.
Horehound's primary use is for afflictions of the pulmonary organs. It is one of the best remedies for persistent coughs and bronchitis, especially where there is tough phlegm which proves difficult to expectorate. Horehound apparently loosens the phlegm and makes it more liquid so that it can be brought up more easily. It can even be used successfully for whooping cough and asthma. The ancients also used it for its bitter principles, to stimulate the liver and gallbladder and aid the digestive processes or to enhance the appetite. It is an intensely bitter herb and the usual way of administration is in the form of syrup. Recent studies have found Horehound effective in lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which suggests that it may prove beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, however, so far only preliminary studies have been done and more research is necessary.
Horehound has a prominent reputation as a counter-magical herb of protection. It is said to ward of witches and protect against their evil doings. It seems to have played a role in the ancient Egyptian mystery cults, though its significance today is lost. Its name 'seed of Horus' implies a lunar connection as Horus' seed gave rise to a lunar disk that was born from Seth's forehead and which became the symbol of Thoth, a lunar/mercurial God of magic.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.