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white horehound (generic name)

treats High cholesterol, Cough, Pain, Heartburn/poor appetite, Diabetes, and Intestinal disorders/antispasmodic
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Average Ratings

Alternate Title

Marrubium vulgare, Horehound, Ricola

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

Acylated flavonoid, andorn, blanc rubi, bonhomme, bouenriblé, bull's blood, common hoarhound, eye of the star, grand bon-homme, grand-bonhomme, haran haran, herbe aux crocs, herbe vierge, hoarhound, horehound, hound-bane, houndsbane, labdane diterpene marrubiin, Labiatae (family), Lamiaceae (family), lectins, Llwyd y cwn, maltrasté, mapiochin, mariblé marinclin, marrochemin, marroio, marroio-blanco, marromba, marrube, marrube blanc, marrube commun, marrube des champs, marrube officinal, marrube vulgaire, marrubenol, marrubii herba, marrubiin, marrubio, marrubium, Marrubium vulgare, marruboside, maruil, marvel, mastranzo, mont blanc, phenylethanoid glycosides, phenylpropanoid esters, Ricola®, seed of horus, sesquiterpene, soldier's tea, sterol, weisser andorn.

Note: White horehound should not 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 as an expectorant (to facilitate removal of mucus from the lungs or throat). Ayurvedic, Native American, and Australian Aboriginal medicines have traditionally used white horehound to treat respiratory (lung) conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy. However, horehound is currently widely used in Europe, and it can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States (for example, Ricola®).

There is a lack of well-defined clinical evidence to support any therapeutic use of white horehound. The expert German panel, the Commission E, has approved white horehound for lack of appetite, dyspepsia (heartburn), and as a choleretic. There is promising early evidence favoring the use of white horehound as a hypoglycemic agent for diabetes mellitus and as a non-opioid pain reliever.

There is limited evidence on the safety or toxicity in humans. White horehound has been reported to cause hypotension (low blood pressure), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) in animal studies

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: 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.

Cough: Since ancient Egypt, white horehound has been used as an expectorant. Ayurvedic, Native American, and Australian Aboriginal medicines have traditionally used white horehound to treat respiratory (lung) conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its effectiveness. However, horehound is currently widely used in Europe, and it can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States (for example, Ricola®).
Grade: C

Diabetes: 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. Further well-designed human trials are needed.
Grade: C

Heartburn/poor appetite: In Germany, white horehound is approved for the treatment of heartburn and lack of appetite, based on historical use. There is not enough information from scientific studies to evaluate the effectiveness of white horehound for these conditions.
Grade: C

High cholesterol: Early study shows that white horehound may lower cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Grade: C

Intestinal disorders/antispasmodic: White horehound has been used traditionally to treat intestinal disorders. However, there are few well-designed studies in this area, and little information is available about the effectiveness of white horehound for this use.
Grade: C

Pain: White horehound has traditionally been used for pain and spasms from menstruation or intestinal conditions. There is a lack of reliable human studies on safety or effectiveness for this use.
Grade: C

Tradition

WARNING: DISCLAIMER: 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.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

Safety and effectiveness of doses has not been proven. Doses that have been used for cough/throat ailments include 10 to 40 drops of extract in water up to three times a day or lozenges dissolved in the mouth as needed. Ricola® drops are recommended by the manufacturer at a maximum of 2 lozenges every 1 to 2 hours as needed.

Doses recommended by the expert German panel, the Commission E, for treating heartburn or stimulating appetite include 4.5 grams daily of cut herb or 2 to 6 tablespoons of fresh plant juice. Other traditional dosing suggestions are 1 to 2 grams of dried herb or infusion three times daily.

Children (younger than 18 years)

There is not enough information to recommend the safe use of white horehound in children.

Safety

DISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

Allergies

In theory, white horehound may cause an allergic reaction in persons with known allergy or hypersensitivity to members of the Lamiaceae family (mint family) or any white horehound components.

Side Effects and Warnings

White horehound is generally considered to be safe when used as a flavoring agent in foods. However, there is limited scientific study of safety, and most available information is from animal (not human) research. Reported side effects include rash at areas of direct contact with white horehound plant juice, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and decreased blood sugar (seen in animals with high blood sugar). White horehound may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Caution is warranted in people with heart disease or gastrointestinal disorders. Caution may also advisable in persons with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare professional, and medication adjustments may be necessary.

Theoretically, white horehound may interfere with the body's response to the hormone aldosterone, which affects the ability of the kidneys to control the body's levels of water and electrolytes. These theoretical effects may cause high blood pressure, high blood sodium, low potassium, leg swelling, and muscle weakness. Individuals who have high or unstable blood pressure, high sodium, or low potassium or who are taking medications that reduce the amount of water in the body (diuretics, or "water pills") should use caution. White horehound may contain estrogen-like chemicals that either have stimulatory or inhibitory effects on estrogen-sensitive parts of the body. It is unclear what effects may occur in hormone-sensitive conditions such as some cancers (breast, ovarian, uterine) and endometriosis or in people using hormone replacement therapy/birth control pills.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

White horehound is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Animal studies suggest that white horehound may cause miscarriage.

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