Black horehound (Ballota nigra)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Alpha-humulene, alpha-pinene, alpha-tocopherol, alyssonoside, angoroside A, arenarioside, arthritis, ballonigrin, Ballota, Ballota antalyense, Ballota glandulosissima, Ballota larendana, Ballota macrodonta, Ballota nigra, Ballota nigra subsp. Anatolica, Ballota pseudodictamnus, Ballota rotundifolia, Ballota saxatilis, ballotenol, ballotetroside, ballotinone, beta-pinene, black horehound, black stinking horehound, bronchial complaints, caffeoyl-L-malic acid, caffeoyl malic acid, caryophyllene, copaene, delta-cadinene, diterpene, forsythoside B, germacrene-D, gout, lactoylate flavonoids, Lamiaceae (family), lavandulifolioside, linalool, lipid peroxidation, marrubiin, phenylpropanoid, phenylpropanoid glycosides, polyphenols, sabinene, superoxide anion formation, verbascoside.
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 (joint 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.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. 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 health care professional.
Animal bites (dog), antibacterial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, anxiety, arthritis, astringent, blood purifier, bronchial irritation, cleansing, convulsions, depression, diuretic, emmenagogue (stimulates menstruation), expectorant, genital warts, gout (joint inflammation), high cholesterol, hysteria, insect bites, insomnia, intestinal worms, menopause, menstrual disorders, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting, nervous disorders, nervous stomach, nutrition, resolvent, scrapes, sedative, snake bite, stimulant, stomach disorders, sunburn, travel sickness, uterotonic.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), 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.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
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 www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Citoglu GS, Coban T, Sever B, et al. Antioxidant properties of Ballota species growing in Turkey. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;92(2-3):275-280. View Abstract
Daels-Rakotoarison DA, Seidel V, Gressier B, et al. Neurosedative and antioxidant activities of phenylpropanoids from ballota nigra. Arzneimittelforschung 2000;50(1):16-23. View Abstract
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. View Abstract
Pieroni A. Medicinal plants and food medicines in the folk traditions of the upper Lucca Province, Italy. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;70(3):235-273. View Abstract
Seidel V, Bailleul F, Libot F, et al. A phenylpropanoid glycoside from Ballota nigra. Phytochemistry 1997;44(4):691-693. View Abstract
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. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017