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White horehound (Marrubium vulgare Labiatae)

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Also listed as: Marrubium vulgare, Horehound, Ricola®
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Attribution

Related Terms
  • Acylated flavonoid, alkaloids, almindelig kransburre (Danish), andorn (German, Swedish), Andornkraut (German), antioxidants, bitter lactone, blanc rubi (French), bonhomme (French), borremynte (Norwegian), bouenriblé (French), bull's blood, common hoarhound, diterpene alcohols, diterpene marrubiin, diterpenoid, eye of the star, flavonoids, Gemeiner Andorn (German), Gewöhnlicher Andorn (German), glycosides, Gotteshilfe (German), grand bon-homme (French), grand-bonhomme (French), haran haran, herbe aux crocs (French), herbe vierge (French), hoarhound, horehound, Horus frø (Danish), hound-bane, houndsbane, Hvit andorn (Norwegian), Hvit marrau (Norwegian), jablecník obecný (Czech), kransborre (Swedish), kransburre (Dutch), labdane, Labiatae (family), ladanein, Lamiaceae (family), lectins, Llwyd y cwn (Welsh), maltrasté (Spanish), mapiochin (French), mapoichin mont blancmariblé (French), mariblé, Mariennessel (German), marinclin, marrochemin (French), marroio (Brazilian Portuguese), marroio-branco (Brazilian Portuguese), marromba, marrube (Danish), marrube blanc (French), marrube commun (French), marrube des champs (French), marrube officinal, marrube vulgaire (French), marrubenol, marrubic acid, marrubii herba, marrubiin, marrubinic acid, marrubio (Spanish), marrubio commune (Italian), marrubium, Marrubium vulgare, marruboside, maruil, marvel, mastranzo (Spanish), monoterpenes, mont blanc (French), okseblod (Danish), orvosi pemetefu (Hungarian), p-menthane-5,6-dihydroxy-3-carboxylic acid, phenylethanoid glycosides, phenylpropanoid esters, premarrubiin, Ricola®, saponin, seed of Horus, sesquiterpene, soldier's tea, sterol, stjernens øye (Danish), szanta zwyczajna (Polish), tannins, thymol, ürt-penimünt (Estonian), vitamin C, Weisser Andorn (German), Weisser Dorant (German), wild horehound, witte malrove (Dutch), woolly horehound.
  • Note: White horehound is not to be confused with black horehound (Ballota nigra) or water horehound (Lycopus americanus, also known as bugleweed).

Background
  • Since ancient Egypt, white horehound (Marrubium vulgare L.) has been used to help remove mucus from the lungs or throat. Ayurvedic, Native American, and Australian Aboriginal medicines have used white horehound to treat lung conditions. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy. However, horehound is currently used in Europe, and can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States (for example, Ricola®).
  • The expert German panel, the Commission E, has approved white horehound for an appetite stimulant, heartburn, and as a stimulant for bile acid secretion. There is some early evidence favoring the use of white horehound as a blood sugar-lowering agent for diabetes mellitus, and as a non-opioid pain reliever.
  • There is limited evidence on safety or toxicity in humans. White horehound has been reported to cause low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and abnormal heart rhythms in animal studies.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Animal studies and early human studies suggest that white horehound may lower blood sugar levels. White horehound has been used for diabetes in some countries, including Mexico. In clinical research, treatment with white horehound significantly reduced plasma glucose, as well as total cholesterol and triglycerides. Further well-designed human trials are needed.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Analgesic (pain relief), antioxidant, anorexia, antibacterial, antifungal, antihelminthic (agent for worm infections), antispasmodic (preventing spasms), asthma, bile secretion, bloating, bronchitis, cancer, cardiovascular disease prevention / atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), cathartic, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), colic, congestion, constipation, cough, long-term debility (disability), diarrhea, digestive aid, diuresis (increased urine), dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), emetic (vomiting stimulant), expectorant (remove mucus from lungs), fever reduction, flatulence, food flavoring, gallbladder complaints, heart rate abnormalities, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, immune system regulation, indigestion, insecticide, intestinal parasites, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), laxative, liver disease, liver protection, lung congestion, menstrual pain, nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (morning sickness), pain, pneumonia, rabies, respiratory ailments (other than cough), skin conditions, skin ulcers, snake poisoning, sore throat, stomach ulcers, sweat stimulation, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), tuberculosis, upper respiratory tract infection, vasodilator (widening of blood vessels), vasorelaxant, warts, water retention, wheezing, whooping cough (pertussis), wound healing (vulnerary).

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • For indigestion or to stimulate the appetite, 4.5 grams of cut white horehound herb, two to six tablespoons of fresh white horehound juice, or the equivalent has been recommended for daily use by the German Commission E. Other traditional dosing suggestions have included one to two grams of dried white horehound or an infusion of white horehound three times daily.
  • For cough and/or throat ailments, doses that have been used include 10 to 40 drops of white horehound extract in water by mouth up to three times daily, or lozenges dissolved in the mouth as needed. Ricola® drops are recommended by the manufacturer at a maximum of two lozenges by mouth every 1-2 hours as needed.
  • For diabetes mellitus, infusions containing one gram M. vulgare powder added to a cup of boiling water for five minutes have been taken by mouth three times daily prior to meals for 21 days.

Children (younger than 18 years)

  • There is a lack of sufficient information to recommend the safe use of white horehound in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or sensitivity to white horehound, its parts, or to members of the Lamiaceae family (mint family).

Side Effects and Warnings

  • White horehound is likely safe when used by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods.
  • White horehound is possibly safe when above-ground parts of are used by mouth, in recommended doses, for limited duration in otherwise healthy adults.
  • White horehound may raise or lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • White horehound may raise or lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • White horehound may also cause abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias), decreased potassium levels in the blood, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, excess saliva, expansion of the intestines, fluid retention, increased sodium in the blood, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, nausea, skin irritation, and vomiting.
  • Use cautiously in doses above the recommended range or when used long-term.
  • Use cautiously in people taking agents for depression (SSRIs), agents that suppress the immune system, agents for estrogen or hormone therapy, or penicillins.
  • Use cautiously in people with stomach and/or intestine diseases, with sensitive skin, or with musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Use cautiously in people undergoing surgery, as white horehound may interfere with the action of inhaled anesthetics.
  • Use cautiously in people taking agents that are metabolized by the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system.
  • Avoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding, due to abortion and menstruation promoting effects reported in animal studies, as well as reports of uterine stimulant activity.
  • Avoid with known allergy or sensitivity to white horehound, its parts, or to members of the Lamiaceae family (mint family).

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Avoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding, due to abortion and menstruation promoting effects reported in animal studies, as well as reports of uterine stimulant activity.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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