Horehound, Black

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Horehound, Black

Botanical Name: Ballota nigra (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

Synonyms: Marrubium nigrum. Black Stinking Horehound.
Part Used: Herb.

Description: Black Horehound is distinguished by its disagreeable odour. It also belongs to the Labiatae order, among which it is distinguished by the strongly ten-ribbed salver-shaped calyx. The Ballota are natives of the temperate regions of the Eastern Hemisphere, and are remarkable for their strong offensive odour, on account of which they are for the most part rejected by cattle; hence the name from the Greek ballo (to reject). This plant (Ballota nigra) is sometimes given the opprobrious name of 'Black Stinking Horehound.' It is a common wayside perennial, has stout-branched stems, eggshaped wrinkled leaves, and whorls of numerous dull purple flowers.

The whole plant is as offensive in odour as it is unattractive in appearance. It is mostly found growing near towns and villages, and has accompanied our colonists to many remote countries.

It has a perennial root of a woody and fibrous nature. The leaves are arranged in pairs on the stem, each pair being at right angles to the pair it succeeds. They are stalked, with margins coarsely serrate, dull green in colour, their surfaces clothed with soft grey hairs, and with rather conspicuous veining.

The flowers are arranged in more or less dense whorls at the axils of the leaves; their colour occasionally varies to white.

The corolla of the Horehound has its upper lip erect and slightly concave, and the lower lip cleft into three, the lateral lobes being considerably smaller than the central ones. The calyx is tubular, its mouth having five short spreading teeth terminating in a stiff bristly point. The body of the calyx is sharply ridged and furrowed.

It is found in flower from June to October. The name ballote was given to this plant as early as the time of Dioscorides.

It has been suggested that the name Horehound came from two Anglo-Saxon words signifying the hoary honey-yielding plant; but other authorities find other derivations.

Dioscorides (like Gerard) declared that the Ballota was an antidote for the bite of a mad dog. Beaumont and Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess has a reference to this property of the plant: 'This is the clote bearing a yellow flower, And this black horehound: both are very good For sheep or shepherd bitten by a wood-Dog's venom'd tooth.' Medicinal Action and Uses: Antispasmodic, stimulant and vermifuge.

Preparation: Liquid extract.