Friday, March 25, 2011

Ballota nigra - Black Horehound, Phew!

Ballota nigra - Black Horehound, also called Marrubium nigrum, Black Stinking Horehound, Stinking Roger and Fetid Hoarhound. 

Black Horehound is native to the Mediterranean region and to central Asia, and can be found throughout Europe and the Eastern United States.  The name Ballota comes from the greek ballo (to throw away or get rid of), because of the strong offensive odor of the plant.  Nigrais  Latin for "black"  This plant should not be confused with White Horehound, which acts differently.

Black Horehound is a strong smelling perennial, the entire plant has an offensive odor and the leaves emit an unpleasant smell when bruised, smelling like stale perspiration.

Black Horehound is an excellent remedy for settling nausea and vomiting when the cause comes from the nervous system rather than the stomach.  It can be used for motion sickness, or nausea and vomiting due to nervousness.  It has a reputation as a normalizer of menstrual function and also as a mild expectorant, and is thought to be mildly sedative and antispasmodic and is occasionally taken for arthritis and gout.  It was also believed to be a cure for rabies in ancient herbals, and was recommended to be eaten with salt to "cure the bites of mad dogs."

The fresh herb is sometimes used to make a syrup.  The herb should be gathered just as it begins to bloom.  Black horehound is traditionally used as a tea or tincture.  Approximately two teaspoons of the leaves are added to one cup of hot water and allowed to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.  One cup is drunk three times per day.  Black horehound is rarely used alone, and is frequently combined with chamomile, meadowsweet, peppermint or ginger for relief of nausea.

Ballota nigra possesses a woody and fibrous root. The leaves are arranged in pairs on the stem, each pair being at right angles to the pair it succeeds. They are stalked, with margins coarsely serrate and dull green in color.  Its flowers are arranged in dense whorls at the axils of  the leaves and are reddish-purple in color.  It will freely self-sow and can grow up to 3 feet in height.

It is a hardy plant and flowers from June to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. The plant will grow in moist, well-drained, nutritionally poor soil and can grow in sun or shade. 

Sow seed in spring or autumn in a indoors. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 6 weeks. 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. 

University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Freckmann Herbarium:
 Plants for a Future:

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