Plant Profiler

White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

White horehound (Marrubium vulgare) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Acylated flavonoid, alkaloids, almindelig kransburre (Danish), andorn (German, Swedish), Andornkraut (German), antioxidants, bitter lactone, blanc rubi (French), bonhomme (French), borremynte (Norwegian), bouenriblé (French), bull's blood, common hoarhound, diterpene alcohols, diterpene marrubiin, diterpenoid, eye of the star, flavonoids, Gemeiner Andorn (German), Gewöhnlicher Andorn (German), glycosides, Gotteshilfe (German), grand bon-homme (French), grand-bonhomme (French), haran haran, herbe aux crocs (French), herbe vierge (French), hoarhound, horehound, Horus frø (Danish), hound-bane, houndsbane, Hvit andorn (Norwegian), Hvit marrau (Norwegian), jablecník obecný (Czech), kransborre (Swedish), kransburre (Dutch), labdane, Labiatae (family), Lamiaceae (family), lectins, Llwyd y cwn (Welsh), maltrasté (Spanish), mapiochin (French), mapoichin mont blancmariblé (French), mariblé, Mariennessel (German), marinclin, marrochemin (French), marroio (Brazilian Portuguese), marroio-branco (Brazilian Portuguese), marromba, marrube (Danish), marrube blanc (French), marrube commun (French), marrube des champs (French), marrube officinal, marrube vulgaire (French), marrubenol, marrubii herba, marrubiin, marrubinic acid, marrubio (Spanish), marrubio commune (Italian), marrubium, Marrubium vulgare, marruboside, maruil, marvel, mastranzo (Spanish), monoterpenes, mont blanc (French), okseblod (Danish), orvosi pemetefu (Hungarian), phenylethanoid glycosides, phenylpropanoid esters, premarrubiin, Ricola®, saponin, seed of Horus, sesquiterpene, soldier's tea, sterol, stjernens øye (Danish), szanta zwyczajna (Polish), tannins, ürt-penimünt (Estonian), vitamin C, Weisser Andorn (German), Weisser Dorant (German), wild horehound, witte malrove (Dutch), woolly horehound.

Note: White horehound is not to be confused with blackhorehound (Ballota nigra) or water horehound (Lycopus americanus, also known as bugleweed).

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: The medicinally used parts of white horehound (Marrubium vulgare L.) are the dried leaves and flowering tops. Processed white horehound contains 0.3-1% of the bitter principle marrubiin, diterpene alcohols, alkaloids, bitter lactone, flavonoids, saponin, sterols, tannins, and vitamin C, and 0.06% of a volatile oil.9,10,11,12 The volatile oil of Marrubium vulgare also contains monoterpenes.13 Marrubiin does not exist in the fresh plant but is formed from premarrubiin during processing.14,7. White horehound also contains glycosides8,15,16 Phenylpropanoid glycosides such as acteoside 1, forsythoside B 2, arenarioside 3, and ballotetroside 4 have been isolated from the aerial parts of Marrubium vulgare L.17 White horehound may also contain phytoestrogenic chemicals. Although the chemical aspects of various compounds of white horehound have been documented, the pharmacologically active constituents remain to be determined.
  • Analgesic/antispasmodic effects: In vivo models of pain in mice report significant analgesic activity of the hydroalcoholic extract of Marrubium vulgare, and antinociceptive effects as well as an anti-inflammatory effects of marrubiin.6 A hydroalcoholic extract of Marrubium vulgare has also been shown to exhibit antispasmodic and antinociceptive effects in animals.7 The exact mechanisms remain to be determined but appear not to involve the inhibition of cyclooxygenase or opioid receptors. Based on animal study, nociceptive action is not reversed by naloxone.7 An in vitro study of white horehound demonstrated noncompetitive antagonism and a concentration-dependent manner of muscle contractions induced by several agonists of smooth muscle tissue.18
  • Biliary effects: Animal research from 1959 suggests that marrubinic acid may stimulate bile secretion.5
  • Cardiovascular effects: Hypotensive activity has been ascribed to the herb based on animal data.3 Pharmacologically, white horehound (Marrubium vulgare) may exert hypotensive action through vascular relaxation3 or vasodilation13. Theoretically, white horehound may have aldosterone-enhancing properties. Phenylpropanoid glycosides such as acteoside 1, forsythoside B 2, arenarioside 3, and ballotetroside 4 (which can be isolated from the aerial parts of Marrubium vulgare L.) have been implicated as the active constituents involved in inhibition of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation.17
  • Central nervous system effects: In vitro research demonstrates that the aqueous extract of white horehound exhibits an antagonistic effect on serotonin1
  • Expectorant effects: Monoterpenes from the volatile oil of Marrubium vulgare have exhibited expectorant activity13, which may result from direct stimulation of bronchial mucosal secretions.
  • Endocrine effects: White horehound significantly decreased hyperglycemia in rabbits compared to control (water ingestion).2 In a human trial, white horehound decreased blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes.4 In anecdotal reports, white horehound has been noted to possess aldosterone-enhancing properties.
  • Hematological effects: In patients with type 2 diabetes treated with Marrubium vulgare, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were lowered by 4.16% and 5.78%, respectively.4 The exact mechanism of action is unclear.


  • White horehound administered to mice had a maximum duration of action for analgesia of four hours.6
  • The LD50 of oral marrubiin has been reported as 370mg/kg in an animal model.5


  1. Cahen, R. [Pharmacologic spectrum of Marrubium vulgare L]. C R Seances Soc Biol Fil  1970;164(7):1467-1472. 4251922
  2. Roman, Ramos R., Alarcon-Aguilar, F., Lara-Lemus, A., and Flores-Saenz, J. L. Hypoglycemic effect of plants used in Mexico as antidiabetics. Arch Med Res  1992;23(1):59-64. 1308793
  3. El Bardai, S., Lyoussi, B., Wibo, M., and Morel, N. Pharmacological evidence of hypotensive activity of Marrubium vulgare and Foeniculum vulgare in spontaneously hypertensive rat. Clin Exp Hypertens  2001;23(4):329-343. 11349824
  4. Herrera-Arellano, A., Aguilar-Santamaria, L., Garcia-Hernandez, B., Nicasio-Torres, P., and Tortoriello, J. Clinical trial of Cecropia obtusifolia and Marrubium vulgare leaf extracts on blood glucose and serum lipids in type 2 diabetics. Phytomedicine  2004;11(7-8):561-566. 15636168
  5. Krejci I and Zadina R. Die Gallentreibende Wirkung von Marrubiin und Marrabinsäure. Planta Med 1959;7:1-7.
  6. de Souza MM, De Jesus RA, Cechinel-Filho V, and et al. Analgesic profile of hydroalcoholic extract obtained from Marrubium vulgare. Phytomedicine 1998;5(2):103-107.
  7. De Jesus, R. A., Cechinel-Filho, V., Oliveira, A. E., and Schlemper, V. Analysis of the antinociceptive properties of marrubiin isolated from Marrubium vulgare. Phytomedicine 2000;7(2):111-115. 10839213
  8. El Bardai, S., Lyoussi, B., Wibo, M., and Morel, N. Comparative study of the antihypertensive activity of Marrubium vulgare and of the dihydropyridine calcium antagonist amlodipine in spontaneously hypertensive rat. Clin Exp Hypertens  2004;26(6):465-474. 15554450
  10. Karriyvev MO, Bairiyev CB, and Atayeva AS. [On the curative properties and phytochemistry of Marribum vulgare]. Izvestiia Akademii Nauk Turkmenskoi SSR, Seriia Biol Nauk 1976;3:86-88.
  11. Knoss, W., Reuter, B., and Zapp, J. Biosynthesis of the labdane diterpene marrubiin in Marrubium vulgare via a non-mevalonate pathway. Biochem J 9-1-1997;326 ( Pt 2):449-454. 9291117
  12. Takeda, Y., Yanagihara, K., Masuda, T., Otsuka, H., Honda, G., Takaishi, Y., Sezik, E., and Yesilada, E. Labdane diterpenoids from Marrubium globosum ssp. globosum. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 2000;48(8):1234-1235. 10959597
  13. Karryvev MO, Bairyev CB, and Ataeva AS. Some therapeutic properties of common horehound. Chem Abstr 1977;86:2355.
  14. Henderson MS and McCrindle R. Premarrubiin. A diterpernoid from marrubium vulgare L. J Chem Soc 1969;C:2014-2015.
  15. Sahpaz, S., Garbacki, N., Tits, M., and Bailleul, F. Isolation and pharmacological activity of phenylpropanoid esters from Marrubium vulgare. J Ethnopharmacol  2002;79(3):389-392. 11849848
  16. Sahpaz, S., Hennebelle, T., and Bailleul, F. Marruboside, a new phenylethanoid glycoside from Marrubium vulgare L. Nat Prod Lett  2002;16(3):195-199. 12049220
  17. Martin-Nizard, F., Sahpaz, S., Kandoussi, A., Carpentier, M., Fruchart, J. C., Duriez, P., and Bailleul, F. Natural phenylpropanoids inhibit lipoprotein-induced endothelin-1 secretion by endothelial cells. J Pharm Pharmacol  2004;56(12):1607-1611. 15563769
  18. Schlemper V, Ribas A, Nicolau M, and et al. Antispasmodic effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Marrubium vulgareon isolated tissues. Phytomedicine 1996;3(2):211-216.

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