Water Horehounds – Lycopus SPP.: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Culvert Mint of Wild Plants

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In Chippewa, ande’gopin meaning “crow plant” refers to rough bugleweed, a lycopus you can find in parts of Ontario. Also known as water horehounds, these edible and medicinal plants are one of the least minty of the mint family.

Water horehounds (lycopus spp.) can be found, as the name suggests, in wetlands, damp meadows and stream banks. There are two found around Haliburton, Ontario. The most common is American bugleweed (lycopus americanus), also called cut-leaved water-horehound. It is native to Ontario and can be found in damp to wet areas, especially in sandy soil. I often find it around culverts here.

Water Horehounds - Lycopus SPP.
Water Horehounds – Lycopus SPP.

Another bugleweed, northern bugleweed (lycopus uniflorus) is common here on sandy shorelines and sometimes in the muck in boggy and marshy areas.

There’s an nonnative invasive “bugleweed” (ajuga spp.) that looks nothing like these, so beware the name confusion. Between that and Haliburton Flora referring to the plant as water horehounds, I went with horehounds for our title. It’s our umpteenth plant from the mint family. And visually, it could be confused for other mints like motherwort.

Water Horehounds - Lycopus SPP.
Water Horehounds – Lycopus SPP.

Edible Uses of Water Horehounds

Bugleweed roots and tubers can be eaten raw or cooked before the plant sprouts. They have a mild sweet radish taste. They can be dried for long term storage. L. uniflorus has tubers, l. americanus does not.

While it’s a mint, the bitter foliage doesn’t have much mintiness to it.

Medicinal Uses of Water Horehounds

Water horehound is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive

Medicinal tags include Astringent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes L. americanus for stomach cramps. However, sweet bugle (L. virginicus) gets the most attention in herbalism. It’s not found in the wild around Haliburton and is mostly south of the border. It’s a powerful herb and requires supervision else one could disrupt thyroid or cardiac function.

Our water horehounds are not the horehound (marrubium vulgare) you may have had cough drops or herbal cold medicines from, although they are both mints!

Alternative Uses of Bugleweed

The juice makes a black dye.

Growing Lycopus SPP.

Mammals aren’t so fussy about this bitter mint, but a great many kinds of insects love its nectar. The caterpillars of the hermit sphinx (sphinx eremitus) feed on the foliage of horehound and other mints.


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs

The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

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