Horehound is a popular plant used in cough remedies and to soothe the digestive system. The plant features a bitter flavor similar to licorice and boasts analgesic and antispasmodic properties that can help soothe everything from sore throats to snake bites. Read on to find out more about horehound tea including its bitter flavor profile and most common uses.

What Is Horehound Tea?

Horehound tea is made from the leaves of the white horehound plant known by the botanical name Marrubium vulgare. The plant goes by other common names including seed of Horus, the eye of the star, and houndsbane. The plant belongs to the mint family and is native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia though today it can also be found across the American continent. The perennial herb features grey, wrinkled leaves with soft hairs. The plant also produces white flowers along the upper part of the stem. 

The common horehound plant is used to produce essential oils, spices, and herbal tea. Horehound tea features bitter notes wit minty undertones. The flavor of the tea is often described as a middle ground between root beer and licorice. To balance out the bitter taste of the tea, many people add a dash of lemon juice or a touch of honey.

Health Benefits of Horehound Tea

Horehound tea has a long history of use as an herbal remedy dating back to B.C. times and was integral in Ancient Roman and Egyptian societies. The plant was first mentioned in medical texts in the Roman document De Medicina where the author documented the use of the plant as a cough aid. In modern times, the plant is a popular ingredient in cough syrups and cough drops as well as holistic treatments — like horehound candy — for general cold and flu symptoms

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend the use of horehound in treating ailments but has established the plant as safe for consumption as food and in teas. As demand for natural products and alternatives to synthetic medicines increases, more and more research is being conducted on the uses of herbals such as horehound in treating mild ailments. Read on to discover some of the potential benefits of this herbal tea backed by science.

Cough Aid

Horehound is most commonly used to ease symptoms of cough and was used in past times to treat whooping cough. Research published in Phytomedicine found that the horehound plant offers analgesic effects that may help to soothe pain from a cough. Researchers also found the plant boasted antispasmodic effects, which help to soothe smooth muscle and may decrease the incidence of cough (1).

Digestive Aid

The bitter flavor of horehound tea may help to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes that help to streamline digestion. These enzymes help to break down food more efficiently to avoid digestive problems such as stomach upset and diarrhea. The bitter herbs are also used as an appetite stimulant in holistic circles. Researchers believe these digestive benefits can be attributed to diterpenes including marrubiin present in the plant’s leaves (2).

Side Effects of Horehound Tea

Horehound tea is generally safe for consumption though some individuals may experience mild side effects. Avoid the tea if you are allergic to either the white horehound or black horehound plant. People with a heart condition or who take medications to alter high or low blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels, or blood sugar levels should use the herb with caution. Women who are pregnant may experience irregular heartbeat when drinking the tea and should always talk to a qualified professional before using herbal teas.

Always seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional when taking herbal teas. These teas may interact with certain medications or cause side effects in people with existing health problems. Your healthcare provider can help you understand your health situation and identify any problems with consuming this herbal tea.

Horehound Recap

A cup of horehound tea may help to decrease the pain of a sore throat caused by cough and may boost digestion. The tea can be consumed using dried leaves or fresh leaves from plants in your garden. Just steep the leaves in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes and add sweetener if desired. The flavor is best suited for individuals who enjoy strong, bitter flavors.


1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711398800056 

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29709538 

Tags: Herbal Tea