Does anyone remember horehound candy?


When I was young I remember eating this strange hard candy. A few of my elderly newspaper customers usually had it around. Whenever I had a cough, this one lady always gave me some. You’re supposed to suck on the candy, but I usually chewed them, so I doubt they helped my cough much.

That candy was called horehound, and it had a unique flavor. I characterize it as a cross between sassafras and Moxie soda, which is made from gentian root. I’m from Maine, so I always get my fill of Moxie whenever I go back there.

Some people describe horehound candy as some variation of licorice and root beer. I don’t know, but horehound is clearly different than most hard candies.

Most folks under sixty might not have even heard of horehound candy, much less eaten it. It used to be in every candy store, but now only novelty or health food places carry it. I haven’t checked, but I bet Cracker Barrel sells it. They usually stock stuff like that.

Horehound is a perennial herb in the mint family. It spreads by seed. Actually, there are several species of it. White horehound is the most common, and it gets its name from the foliage, which is covered with hair like material. This herb looks a little like catmint.

Plants grow up to two feet tall and tolerate poor soils. They thrive in sandy soils with full sun. Since horehound is in the mint family, one would expect it would be an aggressive plant. It is. However, long periods of wet winter weather can depress hardiness.

Horehound is no stranger to folks into herbal medicine. It has a long history of medicinal use. Years ago, many cough medicines contained horehound. It also has antimicrobial qualities and has been used as a component of mouthwashes and toothpastes, too.

Horehound is also used to lower blood sugar and blood pressure. It also contains several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals. For this reason, some people take preparations for respiratory inflammation and menstrual pain.

Remedies to countless other maladies are attributed to the use of this herb. Among them are: cancer treatment, muscle spasms, fluid retention, appetite loss, high cholesterol, bloating and liver and gallbladder problems. It’s even prescribed for control of both diarrhea and constipation. That seems like a stretch.

With all the information on the internet nowadays, herbal medicines can be scary. Anyone can post anything they want. Always check out several sources and often you will spot parroting of each other.

I think holistic medicine has merit, but I like to get several opinions. I also think it is important to talk to your medical professional before taking any holistic medicine. Accurate dosage is difficult to attain. This is particularly important if you are already taking prescription medication.

That said, horehound candy, unless eaten in large amounts should not pose a problem. Large doses usually result from taking extracts of some kind. Many plants in the mint family have medicinal properties. They also can be eaten in small quantities or used to spice food with no ill effects.

 

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (tmanzer@ecpps.k12.nc.us).

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com). I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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One Response to Does anyone remember horehound candy?

  1. tonytomeo says:

    I am not quite old enough to remember the candy, but I have heard of it. My uncle in Long Beach liked it, and when he came through the area, he would purchase it from a store in San Jose that sold such oddities. In the same neighborhood, there was an Italian market that sold other classic candies that he would bring us for holidays. The Italian market is still there, but I do not think that they have horehound candy.

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