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How to Make Horehound Candy & Why You Should Love This Bitter Herb

devon 11 Comments

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horehound candy aerial

How to Make Horehound Candy & Why You Should Love This Bitter Herb

Devon 11 Comments

Not everything in life is perfectly sweet.  Sometimes things are a little bit bitter.  Or a lotta bit bitter.  As is the case with the horehound herb.  This attractive herb is a carefree perennial with great medicinal value, if one can overcome the bracingly bitter flavor. By creating horehound candy, one can make the “medicine go down” much easier.

Latin Name: Marrubium vulgare

Herbal Energetics: cool/dry

Therapeutic Actions: analgesic, antispasmodic, antitussive, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, cholagogue, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, hypoglycemic, stimulant, vulnerary

Horehound Herb Medicinal Uses

Horehound is a classic herb often associated with a variety of therapeutic actions. It has a particular affinity for both the digestive and respiratory system.  This herb helps to stimulant the secretion of digestive juices, increase appetite, lower blood glucose, aid in the digestion of fats, and has even demonstrated an ability to protect the stomach lining and help heal eroded tissues or ulcers. Cold infusions of the herb have also been used to help expel intestinal parasites.  As a stimulating expectorant, horehound acts to relax the bronchial muscles and promote mucus membrane secretion. As such, horehound is particularly useful in the instances of tight, persistent congestion without drainage and thick but unproductive cough.  Think of horehound when you feel like you head is twice the size it should be and your sinuses won’t drain.

A little research into horehound herb tradition and folklore, sheds light on past uses.  Interestingly, the herb was often used as an antidote to poisoning – I suppose owing to its liver protective qualities, while storied herbalists, such as Culpepper, establish horehound as digestive and aid and respiratory stimulant.

FDA Disclosure

I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.


How to Identify & Harvest Horehound Herb

Horehound is a free wheeling perennial from the mint family.  It can often be found growing along fence lines and in areas of well drained but moderately rich soils.  It is fairly drought tolerant and spread readily.  It can be identified by its square stem, green, prominently veined and opposite leaves.  The stems and leaves are pubescent, which means that they are covered in small white hair that nod to the respiratory uses of the horehound herb when considering the doctrine of signatures (mullein is another great example of this herbal notion.. During late spring to early summer white flower pom-poms are born on the tall stems.

I harvest horehound while it is in flower and hang large bunches to dry in an area with great air flow.

How to Make Bittersweet Horehound Candy

But back to the problem with the horehound…  It is just so, eye-crossing-ly, bitter.  While I do appreciate a good bitter remedy, horehound as a tea or infusion is almost too much for me to tolerate, even sweetened.  I suppose that tincture or infused honey may deliver many of the medicinal benefits of the herb, but I have been particularly interested in trying the fabled horehound candy.  “They” say you either love it or you hate it.  I am of neither unflappable camp.  While I wouldn’t exactly say that I “love” this candy, I found the results of my candy making adventure as a remarkably pleasant surprise.  There is no disguising the bitter character of horehound – and not that one should, after all, those bitter principles are at the heart of its therapeutic value.  Instead the sugar balances the bitter quotient, not unlike how sugar balances the bitterness in chocolate.  The flavor is not surprisingly bittersweet, with a very slight medicinal, camphor-y undertone that I can best liken to rosemary or eucalyptus.  Just the ideal flavor set when the “crud” is creeping in.  These horehound candies are perfect for stowing away in a tin or jar to take as a lozenge for times of indigestion, congestion or sore throat.

horehound candy aerial

I encourage you to give these horehound candies a try!  Stick to the instructions, as there is little margin for error in candy making.  Make sure you have adequate time and a distraction free environment, as molten sugar is a dangerous thing to turn away from, for even a second!  Make sure you have a high quality candy/fry thermometer for best results. I prefer to use silicone molds to form my candies (like these cute coffee bean shaped molds).  This recipe could easily fill four mini molds, and perhaps more. To clean my candy making paraphernalia, I use boiled water to dilute away any leftover residue in pot or utensils.  Also, probably like you, I am not a fan of corn syrup, but the addition is small and in the recesses of my brain a memory is telling me that it is necessary to prevent a “crystalline” texture.   If you are interested in experimenting with a corn syrup free recipe you might consider this recipe, substituting the prepared horehound tea for the elderberry infusion.  It is also important to note that most commercially available corn syrups no longer contain high fructose corn syrup, and that organic, non-GMO corn syrups are available.  you can read more about corn syrup here. I choose to use organic cane sugar over honey here as it is heated to such extraordinary temperatures, thus mitigating raw honey benefits…

Interested in learning more about common wild medicinal plants?  Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!

Horehound Candy Recipe

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Horehound Candy

Candy medicine with a bittersweet character. Old fashioned horehound candy is wonderful respiratory and digestive ally!
Author: Devon


  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup dried horehound packed firmly
  • 2 ¼ cups organic cane sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup


  • Bring water to a boil, add dried horehound a remove from heat. Steep for 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, prepare silicone molds by greasing slightly with coconut oil. Alternatively, line a shallow sided baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone mat
  • Into a medium saucepan, with reasonably high sides, strain the horehound infusion through a fine mesh sieve (discarding or composting spent herbs). Add sugar and light corn syrup.
  • Over medium high heat and stirring constantly, boil the mixture until hard crack stage is achieved (300 degrees on a candy thermometer or when a ribbon of “syrup” immediately hardens in ice water and breaks with a snap). Note: The mixture will become very frothy at some point during boiling, keep stirring and be careful not to burn.
  • When hard crack stage is achieved, pour mixture into prepared molds or dish. If using molds, scrape the top with a spatula to remove excess, then allow to cool completely before removal. If using a lined baking sheet, pour, cool slightly, score, cut, and shape with hands quickly, as soon as the candy can be handled.
  • If desired, roll finished candies in powdered sugar and or slippery elm root powder to prevent “stickage”. Store is a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

Not interested making candy?  These old fashioned horehound candies look pretty good.

How to Make Bittersweet Horehound Candies a respiratory and digestive ally


Horehound, White. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2016, from

Herbal Energetics. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2016, from

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Petersen, D. (2015). HERB101.


Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, was published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of can be seen at,,, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, The Herbalist's Healing Kitchen, will be published Fall 2019.

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  • Joy August 9, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    Hi, Is there anything else to use to substitute for the corn syrup? I have tried some made by a friend who used maple syrup and they helped my cough but were not as smooth as I imagine corn syrup would make.

    • Devon August 10, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Ugh… The corn syrup dilemma is awful… I seriously hate using it myself. From what I gather, corn syrup is what prevents that “crystalline” texture and ensures a really smooth end result. Maple syrup and honey are wonderful for flavor and are wonderful non-GMO options, but may result in a slightly gritty texture. If and when I find a substitute for corn syrup that prevent the crystalline texture I will be singing it from the mountain tops… I am wondering about organic vegetable glycerin – I will have to do so experiments!

      • Missy September 30, 2018 at 2:29 am

        Did you ever try the recipe with glycerin instead?

      • Carol November 27, 2019 at 11:06 pm

        So, have. You been able to experiment using something other than the corn syrup?

        • Devon December 15, 2019 at 5:26 pm

          I haven’t yet for this particular recipe

      • Kristine August 25, 2023 at 11:42 pm

        Could you substitute golden syrup instead? I’m deathly allergic to corn but I remember these fondly from childhood.

  • Deanna October 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

    Did you ever find a suitable substitute? I see you used cream of tartar in the elderberry lollipops. I have a ton of horehound to harvest 🙂

  • Lorrie December 6, 2018 at 2:16 am

    5 stars
    Is that a 1/4 measurements being shown? It’s so small I can’t tell. This sounds like fun and challenging recipe to try, thanks for sharing!

    • Devon December 6, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      Hi Lorrie! Yes, those are 1/4 measurements. I just updated my recipe card technology yesterday — those measurements are TINY!!! I don’t recall them being so small before!!!
      Ugh, if it is not one thing it is another…
      It is a more challenging recipe — candy making always is, but it is definitely not the hardest recipe I have up here! The two most important items to ensure success are a good heavy bottomed saucepan and a high quality thermometer. They is jst a matter of being prepared and focused!

  • Lana Sajaja November 18, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Hi Lorrie! Can I use other herbs like Thyme, peppermint etc.. with the same recipe? What do you think about Molasses instead of corn syrup?

    • Devon December 15, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      You absolutely could use other herbs and I love that idea! I am not sure how the molasses would hold up in the process though — as the high temps are needed to caramelize AND set the candy — it might render the molasses to bitter and give it a burnt flavor.

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    Meet the Nitty Gritty Mama, Devon!

    I am an herbalist, farmer, cook, and forager. I get my hands dirty and am not afraid to do things the "hard way". Sharing my Nitty Gritty Life with you! Read More



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