Call it white horehound, bull’s blood, Gotteshilfe if you’re German, or herbe vierge if you’re French. In South Africa, if we’ve heard of it at all, we simply call it marrubium. And Marrubium vulgare is a herbal remedy that deserves to be better known…

The Flora Force family has recognised the health benefits of Marrubium for decades. As any business should do, we look out for what is new or trending. Then we came across this surprising fact: ‘Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a herb commonly found in natural cough drops and lozenges, ranked first in total mainstream US retail sales for the fourth consecutive year.’
Jürgen, our executive director comments: ‘Why? We know of just about no one who uses it. Just us, and a few select medical herbalists or homeopaths – people who really specialise in herbal products. Even to us it is like the guy who did not get past round one in a talent competition. Marrubi-who?!’

Because Marrubium, when used in formulas to relieve congestion and dry coughs (such as in cases of acute or chronic bronchitis), is a fast and effective treatment. ‘Our herbal cough mixture, which has been used in Dr Florrie Kerschbaumer’s practice for decades, has always contained Marrubium. Since we grew up with the formula, we’ve always taken it for granted,’ says Jurgen. ‘It’s been an “AHA!” moment for me. We’ve got this really amazing product, but we’re missing the opportunity to tell people just how good it is. It’s surprising that it is so well known on the other side of the world but not in South Africa.’ The time has come to change this.

What is Marrubium?

Let’s get back to basics. Marrubium vulgare is a low-growing, fuzzy-leaved member of the mint family, with a taste that’s decidedly more bitter than minty. The plant originated in southern Europe and Asia, but is now found throughout the world – as a common roadside ‘weed’. Marrubium has been used as a medicine since at least the first century, when a Roman physician recorded prescribing it to treat respiratory conditions. Today, some of the top makers of herbal cough drops and cough syrup include Marrubium in their formulations.

What makes Marrubium a medicinal herb?

The primary parts of the plant used in remedies are the dried leaves, stems and flowers. The expectorant constituents include vitamin C (always useful when treating coughs and colds); volatile oils (camphene, limonene and others that give the plant its aroma); flavonoids, tannins, phenolic acids, monoterpenes and diterpenes – plant compounds that benefit health.

Marrubium’s health benefits

  • As an expectorant, it helps get rid of mucus in the airways when you have a dry cough. Most people know what it feels like when an irritating cough simply won’t go away because they cannot get rid of the mucus.
  • It can help ease congestion caused by bronchitis. It also acts as a vasodilator – dilating the blood vessels and helping to transport oxygenated blood to the lungs.
  • Horehound acts as an antispasmodic and helps relieve pain – also useful when you have a cough.
  • It’s long been known that bitter herbs stimulate appetite. Marrubium encourages saliva, gastric juice and bile secretion.
  • Horehound’s extreme bitterness may support liver function.

Side-effects of Marrubium

You can safely use Marrubium in prescribed doses. People with a peptic ulcer or gastritis should use it with caution, as it increases stomach acid. High doses may affect heart function and stimulate uterine contractions – so don’t take products containing Marrubium if you’re pregnant. Consult your healthcare practitioner before taking herbal remedies.

In South Africa, Marrubium is used in cough remedies. So if your dry cough is driving you and your loved ones crazy, look for a cough syrup containing Marrubium vulgare. According to Facebook follower Dina Van Lente, Flora Force Herbal Cough Mix is the ‘best product ever’. It’s free from sugar, preservatives and colourants, and is safe for children, diabetics and sportsmen. Read more about it here.

When asked what the single fact is that the Flora Force team would like to share with the world, here’s what they say: ‘Some people are surprised when they taste something like our Herbal Cough Mixture. They often report that it tastes like *$^%#, but it works like a bomb! Many people are not used to the taste of herbs. But medicine is not a dessert; it is medicine. And for that we make no excuses. In fact we are really proud of it.’

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.


  1. Horehound. University of Michigan Medicine website.
  2. White horehound. Sygma-Aldrich. 2010.

Photo credits

  1. Broth photo courtesy of silviarita