Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Overview

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) other names: Ballota, Ballota nigra, Ballote Fétide, Ballote Noire, Ballote Puante, Ballote Vulgaire, Black Stinking Horehound, Marrube Fétide, Marrube Noir, Marrubio Negro.

Black horehound (botanical name Ballota nigra) belongs to the family Lamiaceae. Black horehound tree is indigenous to the Mediterranean region as well as central Asia and usually grows up to a height of three feet. Black horehound can be found growing all over Europe and the eastern regions of the United States. The flowering season of black horehound lasts from May to August.

Black horehound has a wood-like and fibroid root. The leaves of black horehound appear on the stem in pairs, each pair arranged perpendicularly to the preceding pair. The pale green leaves are stalked and have coarsely serrated margins. The blooms of black horehound appear in crowded or compact whorls at the leaf axils and they have a reddish-purple hue. 

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) flower

Black horehound is an extremely resilient herb. The flowers of black horehound are hermaphrodite (having male as well as female organs). They are mainly pollinated by bees. Black horehound plants thrive well in moist, nutritionally poor and well-drained soil. Black horehound possess the aptitude to grow well in sunlight as well as shade.

The generic name of the plant Ballota has been derived from geek ballo, which denotes getting rid of or throwing away. The name seems to be apt for the herb, as black horehound emits a very potently disagreeable smell - repulsing people and animals. The specific name ‘nigra’ has been derived from the Latin term ‘nigrais’, meaning “black”. It is important to note that you should not confuse this plant with another species called white horehound, whose actions are dissimilar.

Precisely speaking, the black horehound is a perennial plant having a potently offensive smell. The whole plant has an unpleasant odour and its leaves release a horrible smell when they are bruised or crushed. The odour is similar to that of stale sweat.

Black horehound plants have a preference for growing in areas receiving full sunlight or those in partial shade. While growing in the wild, black horehound keeps away from acidic soils, but, when cultivated, black horehound possesses the aptitude to endure low pH levels up to 5. Although the black horehound is a very resilient plant, black horehound is not so hardy when grown in colder regions. However, black horehound can endure temperatures as low as -5ºC to -10ºC. While black horehound is cultivated extensively in herb gardens, black horehound is rarely used, as black horehound has a potently disagreeable flavour and odour.

The essential oil obtained from black horehound plants is used for adulterating the oil extracted from another horehound species called white horehound (botanical name Marrubium vulgare). The leaves of black horehound release a horrible smell when they are crushed or bruised - an odour akin to stale sweat. In fact, the entire black horehound emits a potently disagreeable smell. Plants belonging to this species possess the ability self-sow readily, provided the growth conditions are suitable. Often, gardeners cultivate a particular named variety for its ornamental worth.

Black horehound is generally propagated by its seeds, which are sown in a greenhouse either in spring or autumn. Normally, the seeds begin to germinate within three to six weeks from the day of sowing, provided the temperature is maintained at 15ºC. When the seedlings have grown to a reasonable height, they need to be pricked individually and transplanted into separate containers or pots. They can be planted outdoors into their permanent place either during the summer or in the next autumn.

Plants of this species may also be propagated by root division, ideally undertaken during spring. While you can directly plant the comparatively large divisions outdoors in their permanent place of growth, the smaller divisions or clumps should preferably be grown in pots in a cold frame till they are established.

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Health Benefits

Black horehound is a plant. The parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine.

People take black horehound for treating nausea, vomiting, spasms, cough, and whooping cough. They also take it for relieving symptoms of nervous disorders, especially mild sleep problems. Black horehound is also used for increasing bile flow.

Some people apply black horehound to the skin as a mild drying agent (astringent) and as a treatment for gout.

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) plant

Black horehound has a number of therapeutic uses. It is an effective herbal remedy for curing vomiting and nausea, especially when they are attributed to the nervous system and not the stomach. Black horehound can also be used to treat motion sickness or vomiting and nausea caused by nervousness. Black horehound is also useful for treating various menstrual disorders. Black horehound possesses gentle expectorant properties, and is also believed to be mildly antispasmodic and sedative. Sometimes, herbal medicine practitioners recommend people with arthritis and gout to take black horehound orally. In ancient times, people believed that black horehound was also useful in treating rabies. People bitten by mad dogs were advised to take black horehound orally along with salt to cure them of the effects of the canine’s venom.

For several centuries now, black horehound has been used as an herbal remedy for various health problems. However, contemporary herbalists rarely use black horehound because of its horrible flavour and smell. Nevertheless, black horehound has a wide variety of therapeutic properties, and is particularly effective as an antiemetic (a medicine that suppresses vomiting and nausea). There was a time when black horehound was widely used to treat menopause, convulsions, low spirits and problems related to the respiratory system. Contemporary practitioners of herbal medicine, however, differ on whether the herb is useful for treating these conditions.

The entire black horehound plant possesses antispasmodic, antiemetic, stimulant, expectorant and vermifuge properties. Black horehound is used internally to treat conditions like gout, arthritis, morning sickness in pregnant women, travelling sickness, bronchial problems, nervous dyspepsia and menstrual disorders. The plants are harvested immediately after they begin to bloom and are dried up in the sun for use when needed. It is important to note that dried black horehound should never be stored in excess of a year. Although black horehound is generally used dried after it is harvested just at the onset of the flowering season, sometimes the fresh plant is also used to prepare syrup.

Rectally, black horehound is used as an enema against intestinal worms.

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Side effects

Not much information regarding the use of black horehound plant is available. Therefore, it is advisable that in case you experience tightness of the throat or chest, breathing troubles, chest pain, hives or skin rash, you should contact your physician immediately.

Using products containing black horehound may also interact with specific drugs and supplements, counting sedatives and iron supplements. In fact, it can also hinder your body’s aptitude to absorb iron. When used in combination with other sedatives, black horehound may not only have additive consequences, but also intensify the tranquilizing effect.

Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Black Horehound (Ballota Nigra) image

People having any known allergy to black horehound or if they have allergic reactions to any constituent of the black horehound products, they should avoid them totally.

Moreover, black horehound should never be given to pregnant women, nursing mothers and children.

Black horehound has the potential to influence the menstrual cycle, which, in turn, may pose risks for pregnancy. Nursing mothers should not use black horehound, as scientists are yet to ascertain the potential side effects of black horehound on breast-feeding infants.

People suffering from Parkinson’s disease should also never take black horehound or any product containing black horehound, as black horehound has the potential to obstruct the dopamine’s actions in the brain. It is important to note that lack or insufficiency of this brain chemical is said to be responsible for the symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.

Black horehound encloses a chemical compound that has an adverse impact on the brain. Scientists are concerned that using black horehound may have an effect on Parkinson’s disease treatment. In addition, there is some concern that the use of black horehound may also be harmful for people suffering from psychotic disorder and schizophrenia.

It is important that you should consult your physician, pharmacist or a healthcare professional prior to starting treatment with any new medicine, counting supplements and health products. You should tell them about all the medicines, including herbal products, you are already taking.

Not much information regarding the safety of using black horehound, especially when it is applied to the skin directly or employed rectally, is available till date.