- Ballota nigra
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- Note: Black horehound should not be confused with white horehound (Marrubium vulgare L.) or water horehound (Lycopus americanus, also known as bugleweed).
- Black horehound (Ballota nigra) is a three-foot, perennial herb of the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean and central Asia, and can be found throughout Europe and the eastern United States. Black horehound has a very strong smell, and can be recognized by its clusters of hairy, reddish-purple flowers. The aerial parts of the plant are used medicinally, either alone or in combination with other herbs. Usually, the aerial parts are prepared as an herbal extract.
- Black horehound has been used in traditional European herbalism for nervous dyspepsia (upset stomach), traveling sickness, morning sickness in pregnancy, arthritis, gout (foot inflammation), menstrual disorders, and bronchial complaints.
- Black horehound has been used for nausea and vomiting, and as a mild sedative. However, its popularity has waned due to the plant’s extremely foul odor. Although clinical data is lacking, laboratory studies indicate that black horehound may have some sedative, antioxidant, and antibiotic properties.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
*Key to grades:
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Adults (18 years and older)
- There is no proven safe or effective dose for black horehound. Traditionally, black horehound has been taken as a dried herb, tea, syrup or tincture. For instance, 2-4 grams of dried herb have been taken three times a day; 3 cups of tea (prepared using 2oz. fresh horehound leaves per 2.5 cups of fresh, non-chlorinated water) have been taken daily; 1 teaspoonful of syrup has been taken three times a day, or every two hours, for acute illness; and 10-15 drops of tincture (1:10, 45% ethanol) has also been taken three times daily.
Children (younger than 18 years)
- There is no proven safe or effective dose for black horehound in children.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
- Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to black horehound, its constituents, or related members of the Lamiaceae family.
Side Effects and Warnings
- Adverse effects information is based on traditional health practice patterns and expert opinion; there are no available reliable human trials demonstrating safety or efficacy of black horehound. Overdose may result in death.
- Black horehound is possibly unsafe when used in pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and patients taking iron supplements or sedating agents. It is also theoretically unsafe when used in patients with Parkinson’s disease, as black horehound may block the effects of dopamine in the brain.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Black horehound is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Interactions with Drugs
- Although not well studied in humans, black horehound may have antibiotic (antibacterial) and antioxidant effects. Use cautiously when taking black horehound with other agents with similar effects due to possible additive effects.
- Black horehound may inhibit LDL oxidation. Caution is advised when taking concomitantly with other cholesterol-lowering agents, including statins.
- Black horehound may decrease the efficacy of dopamine agonists.
- Black horehound may also have neurosedative effects, and may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (AtivanÂ®) or diazepam (ValiumÂ®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
- Although not well studied in humans, black horehound may have antibiotic (antibacterial) and antioxidant effects. Use cautiously when taking black horehound with other herbs or supplements with similar effects due to possible additive effects.
- Black horehound may inhibit LDL oxidation. Caution is advised when taking concomitantly with other cholesterol-lowering agents, such as red yeast rice.
- Black horehound may decrease the efficacy of dopamine agonists.
- When black horehound is taken internally, it may interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals.
- Black horehound may also have neurosedative effects, and may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
- This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().
- Citoglu GS, Coban T, Sever B, et al. Antioxidant properties of Ballota species growing in Turkey. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;92(2-3):275-280.
- Daels-Rakotoarison DA, Seidel V, Gressier B, et al. Neurosedative and antioxidant activities of phenylpropanoids from ballota nigra. Arzneimittelforschung 2000;50(1):16-23.
- Didry N, Seidel V, Dubreuil L, et al. Isolation and antibacterial activity of phenylpropanoid derivatives from Ballota nigra. J.Ethnopharmacol 11-1-1999;67(2):197-202.
- Pieroni A. Medicinal plants and food medicines in the folk traditions of the upper Lucca Province, Italy. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;70(3):235-273.
- Seidel V, Bailleul F, Libot F, et al. A phenylpropanoid glycoside from Ballota nigra. Phytochemistry 1997;44(4):691-693.
- Seidel V, Verholle M, Malard Y, et al. Phenylpropanoids from Ballota nigra L. inhibit in vitro LDL peroxidation. Phytother Res 2000;14(2):93-98.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.