As I continue to familiarize myself with my new bioregion (coastal California, just above the desert region), I love coming across naturalized and invasive plants that are both plentiful and ethical to harvest (as they are not native plants that are threatened or endangered). Invasive plant medicine is some of my favorite kind for this reason!
Back in March of this year, I came across horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a member of the Mint family. It’s one of the many European herbs that the Spanish brought over when colonizing the California coast. You can find this all around the Mission and along the trails. It loves to grow on hardened, well-worn earth along hiking trails and foot paths.
Here is a summary of its actions:
Carminative. Expectorant. Digestive Bitter. Anti-spasmodic. Anti-microbial. Topical vulnerary. Anti-parasitic. A cold and flu season herbal ally, it helps move lodged phlegm in the chest. Can be tonic to the lungs; helpful for children dealing with coughs and for elderly with depleted lung function. Michael Moore finds it helpful for asthmatic children/youth. Take as a syrup, decoction, lozenge, or powdered herb in honey.
Let’s just say that horehound is generally used to help get lodged phlegm out of your weary, worn out lungs (anti-spasmodic and tonic to the lungs).
So, back in March, I posted some information about horehound on Facebook and one of my friends chimed in that it reminded her of reading Little House on the Prairie. In the series, horehound candies are regularly mentioned.
I thought I’d give this herbal preparation a try. A had a little spare time on my hands, so why not?
I found this post on making them with honey instead of sugar and I decided to add some thyme from the farmer’s market as well. You will need a candy thermometer, by the way. Everything else…you should have in your kitchen already.
So, after making them and using them during this last cold & flu season, here are my thoughts.
Horehound Thyme Honey Lozenges.
There are pros and cons to this preparation.
Pros – Tastes Good. Looks Cool. Stores for a long time. The bitterness of the horehound is actually quite palatable this way (my 2 year old would even suck on them).
Cons – High heat process almost roasted/burned the honey (sugar would be better as it can stand high heat like that). Takes a long time to prepare. Uses a lot of energy.
* SIDE NOTE – I didn’t heat my honey-horehound mixture long enough and the candy didn’t harden completely when fully cooled. It did harden, but not hard like candy. So, I wrapped up each piece in a bit of parchment and stored them in the fridge.
I must admit. I’ve never used a candy thermometer before. It was intense. My husband, the chemist, coached me through it. I mean, it’s good that I experimented, but I don’t really know if I’ll get around to doing this again! A syrup is much easier to make.
However, now that we have gone through all the lozenges, I do miss having them available to us. With the recent flu that went around our community this past fall, it was really helpful to have them ready…as the virus seemed to linger in the lungs resulting in a hacking cough that lasted for 1-2 weeks in most folks. These lozenges were quite good at easing the pain of the hacking and helping with the expectoration of the phlegm!
Update — 1/15/2020 — Because we were out of our horehound lozenges…and our family got that nasty bug going around over the Winter holidays…I went out and harvested more, local horehound to make a syrup.
Yes. Of course, much easier than making the lozenges. And, my little one loved it as well (even though my husband complained about how bitter it was!)… I preserved the syrup with mucous membrane healing, plantain (Plantago spp).