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Horehound

( Originally Published 1933 )



MARRUBIUM VULGARE, L.

Labiatae Perennial

Horehound is native to the Old World and widely naturalized in tilt United States. It is rather weedy looking, but the roundish wrinkled leaves curving out and down form an attractive pattern. At Foxden the whole plant had no scent, although elsewhere it is considered an aromatic. It tastes frightfully bitter.

Root. The roots are woody and deep.

Stem. The stems are gray-green, angular, and with a white bloom on them.

Leaf. The leaves all along the stems are downy, much crinkled, almost square, but with rounded angles. They branch out and then turn down in opposite pairs, and are toothed. Their surface is covered with a fine network.

Flower. The flowers are inconspicuous and in compact whorls in the axils of the leaves, growing in tiers to the top of the stems. They are tiny, cream-colored, and greenish. They blossom from June 15th to September.

Seed. The seed is small, oblong, brown, pointed at one end and rounded at the other, and the germinating power lasts two to three years.

HISTORY AND LEGEND

Pliny mentions it as a highly esteemed medicinal plant, and Strabo recommended it against magical poisons. It was thought that if the horehound plant were put in milk and set in a place pestered with flies it would speedily kill them all. In the "Toilet of Flora," a recipe is given for making a powder of the leaves in the same manner as snuff. Claytonius in "Flora Virginica," 1762, mentioned it as Marrubium album vulgare. Prince had it in his catalogues in 1790, and Bartram in his in 1814, and it was mentioned in Stearns' "The American Herbal," in 1801.

USES

Medicine. The leaves and flowering tops were used for medicine. The juice, or a sweetened tea of the leaves was given for a cold and for coughs.

To make horehound candy, a popular domestic medicine, the fresh plants are boiled down until the juice is extracted, and then sugar is added and the whole boiled until it candies. It. tastes bitter, but has a definite flavor of its own.

The "National Standard Dispensary," 1916, said it is not used medicinally although it is said to be an expectorant and a diaphoretic.

Food. In Norfolk, England, a beer called horehound beer was made from it.

CULTURE

We grew ours from seed bought in America. It thrives in poor, light soil, and can be increased by cuttings or divisions. I saw it spreading over a deserted pueblo in New Mexico in the blazing sun, on the dryest of soils.

Harvest. Just before flowering, the plants are cut close to the ground. By planting them close together the plants will have smaller stems and yield a finer quality of crop. The annual importation is from sixty to seventy tons.



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