What is Horehound Candy?

Kris Roudebush

Horehound candy is a dark brown hard candy with a distinctly bittersweet taste. It is commonly sold in 5 inch (12.7 cm) long sticks or lozenges, which are often sugar coated. This candy can often be found in old fashioned candy shops, living history museums, and other specialty shops. It can also be made at home by people with access to fresh or dried leaves from the white horehound plant.

Horehound candy.
Horehound candy.


Many people describe horehound as bitter, and not everyone enjoys the taste. It is a member of the mint family, and some tasters say that it has a flavor like a combination of mint, licorice, and root beer.

People have long used horehound candy to alleviate coughing and other symptoms of the flu.
People have long used horehound candy to alleviate coughing and other symptoms of the flu.

Making Horehound Candy

Hard candy, cough drops, and herbal tea can all be made from white or common horehound (Marrubium vulgare). To make it at home, a cook will first need to make horehound tea or extract by boiling the leaves and flowers of the plant in water. Sugar — and sometimes corn syrup — is then added and the mixture is boiled until it reaches 300°F (148.8°C), or the "hard crack" stage of candy making.

Horehound is believed to help calm sore throats and lessen coughing.
Horehound is believed to help calm sore throats and lessen coughing.

The cook should then pour the liquid onto a buttered sheet pan or shallow baking dish and allow it to cool for about four minutes, or until it is just solid enough to be rolled into a ball or stick, pressed into a candy mold, or scored so that it can be broken into lozenges. Often, the candy molds are coated with sugar or corn starch to allow the hard candy to be easily removed once it has completely cooled down. Cooled pieces can also be rolled in powdered or fine sugar and wrapped in wax paper.

Horehound candy is sometimes used by people experiencing digestive issues.
Horehound candy is sometimes used by people experiencing digestive issues.

Natural Remedy

White horehound is used as a traditional folk medicine ingredient and administered in tea and lozenge form. It is thought to relieve asthma symptoms, calm sore throats, and lessen coughing caused by a cold or influenza. Many people use it to relieve digestive issues as well, as it is also thought to stimulate the appetite and to relieve gas. When used as a natural remedy, horehound candy is generally believed to be well tolerated in small doses, although hard candy is a choking hazard for small children.

Pregnant woman, lactating women, and children under two should not use horehound. The natural volatile oils of the plant can prevent the absorption of iron and other minerals, and may cause complications during pregnancy.

Growing the Plant

Although white horehound is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, it thrives in most climate zones, especially those found in the United States and Canada. In fact, it's considered by many to be an invasive species and a weed. The plant grows well in poor, sandy soils, and it is very tolerant of drought. It prefers full sun and drier conditions. Like other mint plants, it can spread easily.

When used to make candy, it's best for gardeners to wait until the second year to harvest the leaves and small, white flowers. A few leaves — no more than one-third — can be removed during the first year of growth, but harvesting too many can damage the plant. Once the horehound is well established, however, the leaves and flowers can be picked when they are at their peak, dried, and stored in an airtight container for up to one year.

Horehound candy is thought to be helpful in relieving asthma symptoms.
Horehound candy is thought to be helpful in relieving asthma symptoms.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Got some at Walmart yesterday! What a blast from the past!


Cracker Barrel is discontinuing it.


Columbia State Park in California has an Old-Fashioned Candy Store with fresh horehound candy. Store it properly and you will be pleased. Do not allow it to get damp.


I'd been wanting to try horehound candy ever since I read about it in one of the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid. Never thought I'd have the chance until a vintage/import candy store opened up in Portland which carries Claey's horehound candy (and another flavor that I forget). Still, I didn't try it right away as I wasn't sure whether I'd like it. Finally bought a bag of it this past Friday and ended up liking it a lot.

I can definitely taste the root beer and licorice (ironically, I hate licorice) but I don't taste mint; rather to me it's more of a molasses flavor maybe? It also doesn't seem that bitter to me (a little but not much). I don't know if it's the brand or if I just can't really taste the bitterness (I don't taste the "bitter" chemicals in, say, broccoli either).


posted 8-30-11, our Goodwill stores sell Claeys Old Fashioned Hard Candies. They have about six flavors, one of them being horehound.


The Coeur d'Alene Casino's gift shop, just north of Worley, Idaho, has horehound hard candies, as well as sassafras and several other "old time"candies. They're up by the registers.


Just picked up a bunch of bags at the Dollar Tree in North Utica NY.


Cracker barrel has horehound candy.


check your local dollar store or intermountain farmers store for horehound candy.


to anon123100: Where in Utah did you find a candy store that sells horehound? I'm in dire need of some. My Dad gave it too us kids to ward off bronchitis! Keeping my job depends on getting it fast!


I remember horehound candy from being a kid. I just moved to northern Utah for school, and the town is really old. I found an old candy shoppe that sells horehound candy for cheap, it's amazing!


@cmsmith10: I love horehound candy! Every time that I go to a Cracker Barrel, I buy some. My kids love it too. I can remember being a small child eating it.


I have eaten horehound candy for many years. My grandparents always had some around. I use it to soothe a sore throat. It has a bittersweet taste but it is similar to the size and texture of a cough drop.


England is in Europe.

Post your comments
Forgot password?