Civil War: Confederate Remedy for Chills

As a writer of historical novels, I love to run across remedies used in past centuries. A wonderful book, Confederate Receipt Book, contains a few cures from the Civil War era.

A common cure for chills was horehound, spelled hoarhound in the book. The soldiers believed that horehound, boiled in water and drunk as tea, was a “certain cure.”

People are usually running a fever when chilling. This leads me to believe that Confederate soldiers used the tea to reduce fever.

Is the herb still used medicinally today? Did the soldiers boil the leaves to make tea? The roots? The recipe does not say so I began researching.

Horehound is a bitter herb from the mint family. According to Mountain Rose Herbs, the part of the plant that is above the ground is dried and cut for use in teas and tinctures.

An article from supports this. Home remedies use the flower tops and leaves in bitter tonics to relieve the common cold.

The FDA ruled in 1989 that it didn’t find horehound, among others, to be useful in cough and cold medicines so products containing these ingredients had to be removed from the market.

Ricola, a cough suppressant made outside the United States, contains the herb and is sold in the US.

In modern times, horehound may be found in candies, liqueurs, and cough drops.

The articles I read suggest that more research is required to evaluate the safety of horehound and is not recommended for pregnant and nursing women. Physicians should be consulted before using this medicinally.

I love to find these old cures so that I can use them in my writing. Those who volunteer as Civil War reenactors may also enjoy this information. I have not tried this tea as a cure for cold or fever and I’m not recommending it. This is merely meant to be fun and educational.

-Sandra Merville Hart



A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“Horehound,”, 2017/03/11

“Horehound,” Mountain Rose Herbs, 2017/03/11

“Horehound Herb,”, 2017/03/11





2 thoughts on “Civil War: Confederate Remedy for Chills

  1. regarding horehound, there is a certain company that sells a ‘candy’ product under the name horehound. it can be found in a white paper bag with bold colored print stating the name. i don’t want to mention it’s name, let it be removed from the market, but that major nationwide store from Arkansas and the ‘country store’ restaurant found nationally also sell it. maybe it’s ok to be sold as a candy rather than a curative. i don’t know if it’s the herb or the way it’s made as a lozenge type “candy” but i’ve always found that it is soothing to my sore throat and calming to my coughs.


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