Horehound: Nature’s Cough Remedy

Shane Mahoney

Summertime cough getting you down?  Here’s a natural remedy that realty packs a punch!

Horehound (Marribium vulgare), commonly known as white horehound, is a bushy perennial plant belonging to the mint family.  Other names for it include houndsbane, marribium, eye of the star, seed of horus, marvel, and bull’s blood.  Native to Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern and central Asia, but naturalized in most of North and South America, it has small, white flowers and a bitter taste.

For centuries, people all over the world have used horehound to naturally treat respiratory conditions and it is thought to be one of the oldest known cough remedies. In recent times, some of the leading manufacturers of cough drops and syrup have included horehound in their formulas.

What makes it so special, you ask? 

Well, horehound contains naturally occurring plant compounds called diterpenes.  More specifically, its primary active chemical compound is a diterpene called marrubin, a powerful expectorant.  In other words, it’s ideally suited to help rid cough sufferers of nasty, airway clogging, mucus.  Additionally, research has shown that this “bitter herb” has both antispasmodic and analgesic, or pain-relieving, properties.

How to Make Horehound Cough Drops


  • >> 1 ¼ cup boiling water
  • >> 2 cups of organic cane sugar
  • >> 50 grams of dried horehound
  • >> 1/3 tsp. cream of tartar


  1. > Place the dried horehound into a (non-plastic) mixing bowl.
  2. > Pour boiling water over the dried herb, cover and steep for 30 minutes.
  3. > Strain the infusion into a heavy saucepan, pressing to extract all the liquid you can.
  4. > Over low heat, add the sugar and cream of tartar and stir continuously until sugar is dissolved.
  5. > Cover the pan and let cook at low heat 3-4 minutes or until steam has melted any sugar crystals clinging onto the pan.
  6. > Remove lid and cook the mixture without stirring over high heat until a candy thermometer reads 149°C (300°F) – or until drops form brittle threads in ice water – immediately remove from heat.
  7. > Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and slowly pour the mixture onto the sheet. As it sets, score it with a sharp knife. Cut along the lines when it is totally cooled and brittle.
  8. > Store pieces in an airtight container.
  9. > In the event that your mixture does not harden – store the syrup in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry location. Use within 4 months – if not needed, then discard.