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Horehound.

White Horehound (Marrubium Vulgare).
Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra).

Also see Hool, 1918: Black Horehound.

In writing on Horehound my object is to give some information which may not be generally known either to Herbalists or the public at large. There are two kinds of Horehound known to Botanists, viz., White and Black. The White Horehound, or Marrubium Vulgare, is so well known that it needs no description. It is a well-known pectoral remedy, and is extensively used in coughs, hoarseness; asthma, bronchitis, and consumption; but, when boiled it gives off a peculiar, bitter, nauseous principle, which tastes and smells like Bitter Aloes, and is liable to purge freely if taken by persons of weak constitution, and for that reason I scarcely ever recommend it or use it, but employ the Black Horehound instead. Ballota Nigra—Black Horehound—grows with leaves ovate, two at a joint, opposite each other, on leaf stalks, indented at the edges, dark green on the top, paler underneath, netted, veined, slightly hairy; the stem is from one to four feet high, four square angled, branched, rough and hairy, and of a green or dark brown colour; flowers in whorls, calyx funnel-shaped abrupt, with short spreading teeth, dilated at the mouth. Corolla dull purple, upper lip cleft, covered externally with small white hairs, the lower part marked with small white veins. It Is a perennial, flowering in July and August. It grows amongst rubbish, along roadsides and hedges, and in gardens and sandy cops.

Black Horehound belongs in the natural system of classification to the order Labatecea, as also does White Horehound, and in the Linnaean system to the 14th class, called Didynamia, order first, namely, Gymnospermia. The whole plant is used. The number of principles are four, viz., resin, reslnoid, alkaloid, and neutral. Its properties are diuretic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, expectorant, pectoral, alterative, tonic nervine, and anti-acid, and may be employed in amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, hysteria, gravel, dropsy, and stomach affections, in coughs, hoarseness, bronchitis, consumption, loss of appetite, debility, general weakness, loss of energy, nervous affections, etc., etc. It may be used in infusion, decoction, fluid extract, solid extract; in powder, pills, or tincture, or chewed in the mouth and the juice swallowed, either in the fresh or dry state.

In Black Horehound we have one of the most efficacious remedies that we can use for the cure of biliousness, bilious colic, and sour belchings, which ought to render it an indispensable agent to every herbal practitioner. In the above complaints it is as near a specific as any remedy can well be. The relief it affords is both prompt and certain, for if only a leaf or a piece of the stem be chewed in the mouth, and the juice swallowed, it will be found to have acted as if a current of electricity had passed into the stomach, and all symptoms will in that moment be allayed. In coughs, bronchitis, and asthma, it will be found exceedingly useful; also in chronic coughs, accompanied by spitting of blood, it will be found most excellent, either of itself or combined with other reliable remedies, such as Lobelia, Marshmallow, Hyssop, etc. Its action is most reliable, as it resolves the viscidity of the mucous secretions, and acts as an alterative tonic upon the mucous follicles, deterges and heals the diseased membranes, and corrects the acrimony of the discharges. In all cases of consumption it will be found a most useful remedv, as it not only corrects the acrimony of the mucous discharges, but soothes the irritation of the nerves caused by the fit of coughing, thereby making it easier for the patient in nervous affections. In the pains of travail during the time of carrying, combined with Motherwort, it will be found an excellent remedy; in amenorrhoea, and also in menorrhagia, it will act in a most wonderful manner. But it may seem a little out of place to the ordinary reader to say that it may be prescribed in what are generally conceived as opposite conditions of the system. Thus amenorrhoea and menorrhagia are supposed to indicate the necessity of remedies possessing dissimilar therapeutic properties, but let us look at the condition of the two cases. In each instance there is admitted to be a deranged action. This disturbance of the physiological condition in either case is simply a loss of equilibrium. In the one case the functions are suppressed, and there is no secretion; in the other there is a relaxed or enfeebled condition, and the secretion is profuse. We say secretion, but that is not the proper term. The act of secretion is purely a physiological phenomenon accompanying, preserving, or restoring a normal condition. Profuse and active discharges are scarcely to be looked upon in the light of secretions, but rather as a sort of leakage, an indiscriminate outpouring of the constituents of animal fluidity. Secretion is the act of separating as applied to the animal economy. It implies the process whereby a separation is effected between the vital and the morbid materials of the organism, that is, the retention of the former and expulsion of the latter. It is not to be supposed that the system would reject any materials not yet become effete or useless, as such a proceeding would argue a prodigality and disposition to waste not at all in harmony with the wisdom displayed in organisation. Yet we find that these profuse secretions—so called—are a mixture of both the healthy and vitiated constituents of the body, and that the escape or flow is followed by exhaustion, impoverishment, and debility. This would certainly not be the case were the morbid materials only separated and expelled. Perspiration induced by exercise or vegetable diaphoretics is neither exhausting nor debilitating, but night sweats—so called—are both depleting and impoverishing in their effect; for the latter are not the result of increased secretion, but transudations resulting from a relaxed and enfeebled condition of the capillary vessels of the surface. The power to secrete is wanting, hence both the good and bad materials of the blood are allowed to run to waste through the unguarded portions of the skin. So in amenorrhoea and menorrhagia. In both cases the power to secrete is wanting. In the one case it is suppressed in consequence of the interposition of certain obstructions. In the other we have an illustration of that condition which has been designated by the term of vis inertia, or a complete passivity of the vital forces. Now it is evident that in either condition it is necessary to restore the secreting power, simply to recall and re-establish the functional equilibrium of the organs. No matter in which direction the scale may be turned, if we can but restore and equalise the functional activity of the parts we shall effect a cure, and for this purpose Black Horehound may be employed, simply because it possesses the power of recalling or restoring lost or healthful action. We would advise our readers to use it extensively in any or all of the above cases, as I have caused it to be used in the districts where I live for the last 35 years, and always with good results. Therefore I say that I believe Black Horehound to be far better than the White.


Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.



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