Horehound has been used as a medicinal herb for a long time. It goes by several different names including houndsbane and white horehound. Horehound’s name may have come from old English words that indicate a plant with fine hairs but it may also have originated with the name of Horus, an ancient Egyptian god. Many believe it to be one of the five bitter herbs consumed by ancient Jews. Horehound has been used for millennia and is best known as a medicine, though it has a few other creative applications as you will see from the list below.
You can use horehound to make a beverage called horehound beer. There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions of this drink, but the non-alcoholic version is more common. It’s called a beer in the same sense that root beer or birch beer are called beers. Horehound beer has one notable difference, which is that the easiest-to-find recipes include hops.
Hops are an ingredient found in alcoholic beers and that you won’t find in standard root beer or birch beer recipes. The main flavoring will still be the horehound herb, however. Horehound beer is popular in parts of the US and in Australia.
Arguably, the best-known application for horehound is as a flavor for candy. Not just any candy, but medicinal candies specifically. The horehound flavor is often described as medicinal primarily because people associate it with cough drops.
Horehound has long been a common flavoring in commercial cough drops such as Ricola brand cough drops. Horehound candies typically include other flavoring ingredients like vanilla and mint, along with a concentrated horehound infusion.
Like most other herbs in the mint family, horehound lends itself to mixed adult beverages. The most popular horehound cocktail is the rock and rye, which is most commonly made with dissolved horehound candies like the cough drops listed above. The rock in the name refers to rock candy. You can make the drink with an infusion of the horehound herb instead of the candy. Horehound cocktails are typically whiskey-based and similar to the rock and rye.
Horehound is viable as a salad green like many other members of the mint family including mint itself and basil. Experts recommend not using horehound as a regular part of your diet. You can add a small amount of it to a salad as a green. Aside from the potential unpleasant health effects, you will want to use it in small amounts because of its bitter flavor.
In stir-fried dishes
Horehound makes a good stir-fry vegetable, though you will want to use it in moderation just like in salads. You can stir-fry both the leaves and the flowers.
Meat and fish dishes
Along with the medicinal applications, horehound has value as a culinary herb for seasoning proteins. Use it to flavor chicken and fish dishes.
Next to cough drops, the most popular way to use horehound for its medicinal benefits is to make a tea with it. This may also be the simplest way to use the herb. Steep it in water for five minutes and then sweeten to taste with honey or sugar.
Horehound tea is used mostly for respiratory ailments like bronchitis as well as digestive complaints like acid reflux. Note that the herb does come with a longish list of potential side effects like hallucinations and irregular heartbeat, so talk to your doctor before consuming it.