Common horehound is a flowering plant and herbal medicine used in the past to treat a variety of infections. You may have heard of horehound candy, a traditional folk remedy for the relief of cough and cold symptoms. If the results of a new study are correct, the age-old herbal remedy may also protect your heart.
What the Study Results Show
Like many studies, this one was conducted using lab rats. The scientists used a toxin to induce a heart attack in the rats to see what effect horehound extract might have. The results showed that horehound protected the heart muscle from damage and reduced swelling around the heart that could have caused even more damage.
The scientists are not sure exactly how the extract worked to protect the heart. They believe the effects were due to horehound’s antioxidant activity. Most people have heard of antioxidants. They include things like vitamin C and vitamin E. There are also many potent antioxidants produced in the body, things you might not have heard of like superoxide dismutase and glutathione.
All antioxidants, whether weak or strong, work to protect cells of the body from free radical damage. Free radicals are naturally present in the body but toxins, like the one used in the study, cause an increase in free radical production.
Large numbers of antioxidants are normally found in the heart, because the cells are very sensitive to free radical damage. As we age, the antioxidant concentration in the heart starts to decline. This may be one of the reasons that heart attacks are more common in older people.
This was not the first study to show that horehound is good for the heart. A study conducted in 2012 showed that horehound extracts normalize cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. As you’ll learn on other pages of this site, Inflammation in the blood vessel walls plays a major role in heart disease.
Should You Try Horehound For Its Heart Benefits?
It’s easy enough to try horehound if you’re interested. Many people keep the candies around to use for sore throat or just as an old-fashioned treat. The taste is something like licorice or root beer. Some people like it. Some people don’t.
Horehound drops, capsules and the dried herb are other options. You can find them online. If you’re in good health, it’s safe to try horehound in moderate amounts. If you have a heart condition, you might want to avoid it. Even though the herb may have positive heart effects, there is some concern that it could cause irregular heartbeat in people with existing heart problems.
What’s the Bottom Line on Horehound and Heart Disease?
We really don’t know enough about horehound yet to recommend it for the prevention of heart disease, especially since there are many other plant extracts and nutrients that have been well-studied for their benefits and their safety. At this time, it’s best to stick with the ingredients we know are safe.
For example, policosanol is known to safely normalize cholesterol levels and curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory activity. Glutathione supplements can prevent free radical damage and the amino acid cysteine may help protect the heart from toxins. So, there are many heart-healthy ingredients to choose from and you can find the ingredients in some of the better health supplements.
Horehound might be something to consider in the future. Today, your best move is to take a good supplement that contains a wide variety of antioxidants and a balanced supply of nutrients. We discuss some of these well-balanced supplements on other pages of our site.