Black Horehound

black horehound

Ballota nigra-Black Horehound

Family: Labiatae

Other names: Black Horehound, Marrubium nigrum. Black Stinking Horehound

The name ballote was given to this plant as early as the time of Dioscorides.

hazardsmallThe plant is poisonous in large doses. Large doses irritate nerve centres and may cause abortion. Gastrointestinal disturbances, hypotension, nausea, headaches. Not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Do not take with iron supplements.

Description of Black horehound:

Ballota nigra has a very strong smell, and can be recognised by its clusters of hairy, reddish-purple flowers. It can grow up to 3 feet in height. It has herbaceous ascending stems, wooden and branched at bottom, covered by down folded hairs. The plant has a taproot system. Leaves are opposite and decussate, and range from oval-lanceolate to heart-shaped, with crenate or dentate border. Leaves, dark green and usually pubescent, measure 3–8 cm per 2–6 cm, and have 1–3 cm petiole. Upper face is wrinkled, with a net-like vein pattern. Flowers are organized in verticillasters, subspherical to about one-sided, with 15 to 30 flowers. Each verticillaster consist of two condensed dichasial cymes at axils of normal leaves. Flower has an actinomorphic calyx (length 9–10 mm, width 7 mm), made up by five sepals fused together in a tube with five teeths; and a labiate corolla of 12–13 mm, ranging from pink to pale purple to withish. The corolla consist of a tube of about 6 mm and two lips; the upper one slightly concave (like a hood) and externally hairy; the lower one glabrous, with two minor lateral lobes and a major central bifid lobe. There are four didynamous stamens, running parallel under the upper lip, with glabrous filaments and yellow anthers. Ovary is superior, with a single white style and a 2-parted stigma. Below the calyx there are five filiform bracts, 8 mm long. Each fertilized flower produces a tetrad of black nutlets, cylindrical to ovoid, 2 mm long, partially or fully covered by the calyx. The basal end is flat and attached to the receptacle, while the top end is rounded or pointed.

black horehoundHabitat: Found growing wild throughout Europe, cultivated in Britain. Waste ground, hedgerows, woods and shady places, preferring nitrogen-rich, moist, rather loose soil.


Prefers a well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Avoids acid soils in the wild but tolerates a pH down to 5 in cultivation. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. This species is widely grown in herb gardens, but little employed because of its strong flavour. Its essential oil is used to adulterate the oil of white horehound (Marrubium vulgare). The leaves emit a most unpleasant smell when bruised, somewhat like stale perspiration. Plants can self-sow freely when well-sited. There is at least one named variety selected for its ornamental value. The whole plant has an offensive odour.


Seed – sow spring or autumn in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 6 weeks at 15°C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer or following autumn. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.

Collection: The herb should be gathered just as it begins to bloom in July.



No know culinary uses of this rather offensively pungent herb.


Medicinal uses of Black horehound:

Actions: Anti-emetic, nervine, astringent, emmenagogue, expectorant.

Part Used: Dried aerial parts.


Black Horehound – which should not be confused with WhiteHore hound – is an excellent remedy for the settling of nausea and vomiting where the cause lies within the nervous system rather than in the stomach. It may be used with safety in motion sickness for example, where the nausea is triggered through the inner ear and the central nervous system. This herb will also be of value in helping the vomiting of pregnancy or nausea and vomiting due to nervousness. This remedy has a reputation as a normalizer of menstrual function and also as a mild expectorant.

Preparations & Dosage of Black horehound:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day or as needed.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: For the relief of nausea and vomiting it may be combined with Meadowsweet, Peppermint and Chamomile or other aromatics.

Other uses:
black horehound fairyEsoteric uses of Black horehound:

Protection, Mental Powers, Exorcism, Healing.

The Chemistry:

Constituents: Diterpenoids, including marrubiin, ballonigrin, ballotinone (=7-oxomarrubiin), ballotenol and 7-acetoxymarrubiin.

Ballota nigra

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The species formerly classified as Marrubium nigrum (Black Horehound) is now placed in the genus Ballota . Marrubium species are used as