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Herblore and the Magick of Horehound

Horehound, White - Marrubium vulgare
White Horehound is a perennial herbaceous plant, found all over Europe and indigenous to Britain. Like many other plants of the Labiate tribe, it flourishes in waste places and by roadsides, particularly in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, where it is also cultivated in the corners of cottage gardens for making tea and candy for use in coughs and colds. It is also brewed and made into Horehound Ale, an appetizing and healthful beverage, much drunk in Norfolk and other country districts
The plant is bushy, producing numerous annual, quadrangular and branching stems, a foot or more in height, on which the whitish flowers are borne in crowded, axillary, woolly whorls. The leaves are much wrinkled, opposite, petiolate, about 1 inch long, covered with white, felted hairs, which give them a woolly appearance. They have a curious, musky smell, which is diminished by drying and lost on keeping. Horehound flowers from June to September.
The Romans esteemed Horehound for its medicinal properties, and its Latin name of Marrubium is said to be derived from Maria urbs, an ancient town of Italy. Other authors derive its name from the Hebrew marrob (a bitter juice), and state that it was one of the bitter herbs which the Jews were ordered to take for the Feast of Passover.
The Egyptian Priests called this plant the 'Seed of Horus,' or the 'Bull's Blood,' and the 'Eye of the Star.' It was a principal ingredient in the negro Caesar's antidote for vegetable poisons.
It was once regarded as an anti-magical herb.
White Horehound is a hardy plant, easily grown, and flourishes best in a dry, poor soil. It can be propagated from seeds sown in spring, cuttings, or by dividing the roots (the most usual method). If raised from seed, the seedlings should be planted out in the spring, in rows, with a space of about 9 inches or more between each plant. No further culture will be needed than weeding. It does not blossom until it is two years old.
Until recently, it was chiefly collected in Southern France, where it is much cultivated. It is in steady demand, and it would probably pay to cultivate it more in this country.
White Horehound is distinguished from other species by its woolly stem, the densely felted hairs on the leaves, and the tentoothed teeth of the calyx. The chief constituent is a bitter principle known as Marrubium, with a little volatile oil, resin, tannin, wax, fat, sugar, etc.
Horehound is used magickally for its powers of exorcism, protection, healing and for its ability to increase mental focus and acuity. Carried, the herb wards off any sorcerous influences.
According to John Michael Greer, its “temperature” is “Fiery, warm in the 2nd degree”. Horehound goes well as an ingredient in various amulets, baths, washes, oils, powders, potions and incorporates well in tinctures.
Drunk as a potion, Horehound increases focus of the mind, giving the ability to think quickly. Scattered about a place, it exorcises evil Spirits.
To keep wild animals off one’s land, sprinkle Horehound around the property boundaries. It is one of the important “bitter herbs” of the Jewish, Passover feast. Associated with the fixed, Behenian star, Capella, the “little she goat”, who will bestow wealth and blessings.
Medicinal Action and Uses White Horehound has long been noted for its efficacy in lung troubles and coughs. Gerard says of this plant:
'Syrup made of the greene fresh leaves and sugar is a most singular remedie against the cough and wheezing of the lungs . . . and doth wonderfully and above credit ease such as have been long sicke of any consumption of the lungs, as hath beene often proved by the learned physitions of our London College.'
And Culpepper says:
'It helpeth to expectorate tough phlegm from the chest, being taken with the roots of Irris or Orris.... There is a syrup made of this plant which I would recommend as an excellent help to evacuate tough phlegm and cold rheum from the lungs of aged persons, especially those who are asthmatic and short winded.'
Preparations of Horehound are still largely used as expectorants and tonics. It may be considered one of the most popular pectoral remedies, being given with benefit for chronic cough, asthma, and other cases of respiratory distress.
Horehound is sometimes combined with Hyssop, Rue, Licorice root and Marshmallow root, 1/2 oz. of each boiled in 2 pints of water, to 1 1/2 pint, strained and given in 1/2 teacupful doses, every two to three hours.
For cough, it is helpful in the form of syrup and can be used as an aid for stomach upset. When combined with the herbs listed above, it has quite a pleasant taste.
The powdered leaves have also been employed as a smudge and the green leaves, bruised and boiled in oil, are made into an ointment which is good for wounds.
For ordinary cold, a simple infusion of Horehound (Horehound Tea) is generally sufficient in itself. The tea may be made by pouring boiling water on the fresh or dried leaves, 1 OZ. of the herb to the pint. 6oz may be taken three or four times a day. Candied Horehound is best made from the fresh plant by boiling it down until the juice is extracted, then adding sugar before boiling this again, until it has become thick enough in consistence to pour into a paper case and be cut into squares when cool.
Two or three tsp of the expressed juice of the herb may also be given as a dose in severe colds.
Preparations and Dosages Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Syrup, 2 to 4 drachms. Solid extract, 5 to 15 grains.
Sources: | A Modern Herbal

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