Horehound is known for its medicinal qualities and has been used as a folk remedy for centuries. Horehound candy is a hard candy that uses this furry plant and is believed to help soothe sore throats, relieve coughing, and even alleviate the symptoms of asthma.
What is Horehound Candy?
Horehound candy is a bittersweet hard brown candy made from the herb horehound. The hard candies are typically coated with powdered sugar.
Old-fashioned candy shops, historical museums, and some health food stores stock this traditional sweet. However, if you have access to horehound, it’s incredibly easy to make at home with both fresh and dried herb.
What is Horehound?
Horehound is a perennial plant in the Lamiaceae (i.e. mint) family. It was originally cultivated in the Mediterranean, but it can now be found growing worldwide.
The scientific name of this plant is Marrubium vulgare. It’s commonly called white horehound or common horehound.
Horehound grows like a weed in most places and has silvery-green leaves with a crinkled surface that are covered in fine hairs. The flowers are white and grow in clusters around the main stem.
The leaves and flowering tops of this plant have been used traditionally for digestive health, diabetes, and respiratory health. It’s still frequently used as a bitter tonic, expectorant, and diuretic.
While it has a long history of traditional medicine usage, modern research is just starting to prove out the health benefits of horehound.
What Are Health Benefits of Horehound?
Horehound is thought to relieve the symptoms of asthma, soothe sore throats, and ease coughing caused by colds and flu. It’s also used to help with digestive issues and is thought to stimulate the appetite and relieve gas.
Horehound is commonly used in lozenges, cough drops, and hard candy and is well tolerated in small doses. Beware that horehound is an extremely bitter plant, but if one can overlook that it’s well worth it for its medicinal benefits.
How To Make Horehound Candy
–glass of ice water
–measuring spoon or candy dropper
The first step is to harvest fresh horehound in spring when the plant is tender and before the flowers grow. Horehound is quite cold hardy and is one of the first plants to appear in spring.
It tolerates poor soil but thrives in rich soil, where it will grow in large patches. We had a huge patch of it that grew near the chicken coop.
The next step is to make a horehound tea. Cut up the fresh herb and place it in a pot.
Cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and steep it for 30 to 60 minutes. Keep the pot covered to prevent contamination with dust.
Strain the liquid to collect the tea and discard the leaves.
Return the strained liquid into the saucepan. Next, add the honey and sugar.
Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Place a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Boil over medium heat until the temperature reaches the hard crack stage at 300°F.
Note: the mixture will become very frothy during the boiling process. Keep a close eye on it and stir it as needed to prevent it from boiling over, being careful not to burn it (our yourself).
If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test for when the hard crack stage is achieved using a glass of ice water. Pour a small amount into the water periodically.
When it immediately hardens in ice water and breaks with a snap, you have achieved the hard crack stage.
Turn off the heat and while the mixture is still hot, pour it into a candy mold. Use a measuring spoon or candy dropper to make this process easier.
Another method is to pour the mixture into a buttered pan, allow it to cool until it’s semi-solid, then use a knife to cut the candy into strips.
Or, you can even use your hands to roll the cooling candy into shapes. Children love to help with this method!
Once the candy has hardened completely, remove them from the molds. Dust with powdered sugar if desired so they don’t stick to each other in storage.
Store horehound candy in an airtight container.
- 1 cup fresh horehound leaves or 1/3 cup dried horehound
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Powdered sugar to toss finished pieces
Chop the horehound and place in a pot with reasonably high sides. Add the water. Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and steep for 30-60 minutes.
Strain the liquid and discard the spent leaves. Return the infused tea into saucepan.
Add the sugar and honey and stir to mix.
Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until it reaches hard crack stage (300° F on a candy thermometer). Or test for hard crack stage by pouring a small amount into ice water with a spoon. When it hardens immediately and cracks when bent, hard crack stage has been achieved.
Pour into candy molds using a measuring spoon.
Allow the candy to cool and harden completely before removing from the candy molds.
Toss the finished pieces in powdered sugar to help prevent them from sticking to each other in storage.
Store in an airtight container.
Instead of candy molds, butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Pour the mixure into the pan. Allow to cool a bit, then use a knife to cut the candy into strips.