Horehound is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia but it can also be found growing in North America where it was intentionally introduced. The most common horehound variety is also sometimes called white horehound or houndsbane. There is another even more aromatic version referred to as black horehound. The name’s origin is in two old English words, har and hune. Har and hune refer to a plant with fine hairs. Horehound belongs to the mint family and has long been used for its medicinal value; in particular, it has been used throughout history as a cough medicine.
Horehound has been documented among medicines used by the Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Hebrews as well as by the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans. Horehound is believed to have been among the bitter herbs used in the Passover rituals of the Hebrews. Dioscorides the Greek physician recommended its use for respiratory illnesses and the Romans used it as a poison antidote. The first reported use of horehound in Ancient Rome was by Galen, the physician.
The 16th-century herbalist John Gerard was a proponent of using horehound as a cough remedy. In the 17th century, the botanist Nicholas Culpeper recommended horehound as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as asthma. He also considered it a good remedy for menstrual problems.