“Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.”
Ancient Native Proverb
As I write about the different herbs in our garden, my hope is that I commit some of this information to memory or, at least, create a reference for beginning herb enthusiasts.
The information written here is collated from a number of sources (listed below) and is intended for reference and information purposes only. Consult a physician before taking or using herbs to treat any condition.
This herb has a long and interesting history as well as a reputation for being a ‘protector’. Found in the Mediterranean, it has been cultivated in gardens for over 600 years. It’s antibiotic properties and astringent properties may have been the reason why lepers were bathed in hyssop and why the Persians used distilled hyssop water as a body lotion to give a fine color to their skin. Hippocrates recommended hyssop for chest complaints. The Romans even used hyssop because they believed it helped protect them against plagues. It’s popularity as a powerful essential oil, medicinal plant and aromatic herb and is even mentioned in the Bible.
Native Americans found many uses for this plant. They included it in their medicine bundles and burned it as incense for protection. Its uplifting fragrance was also used to treat depression.
Hyssop, or hyssopus officinalis, is a herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus, and it’s native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Its name comes from the Hebrew word adobe or ezob, which literally means “holy herb.”
Anise Hyssop (different from hyssopus officinalis) is a blessing to any gardener. The foliage of Anise Hyssop actually smells like licorice with complex notes of lemon, pine, sage, black pepper and camphor. There is no floral scent. Leaves and flowers are edible and may be baked in breads or added to salads. It is a feast for the senses and well deserving of its place in the wild garden. Deer avoid eating this plant but rabbits love it. Hummingbirds also find it attractive and goldfinches eat its seeds.
The findings of this chemical breakdown revealed that hyssop possesses valuable high-antioxidant properties for culinary and medicinal use, especially because it serves as an antioxidant.
Today, hyssop is used for digestive and intestinal problems, including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain, and loss of appetite. It’s also used for respiratory problems in various ways, such as eliminating coughs, helping to prevent the common cold and respiratory infections, soothing sore throats, and as one of the natural remedies for asthma.
The Hyssop Plant and Components
Hyssop is a woody shrub with dark-green leaves, and the flowers are fragrant and colorful; in the summer months, the plant produces blue, pink and white flowers.
The stalks are cut twice a year, at the end of spring and beginning of fall. Once they are cut, they’re dried, which takes approximately six days. When it dry, the leaves and flowers are chopped finely, and the mixture can be stored for up to 18 months. The plant can also be used to make an essential oil, extract and capsule.
Hyssop is part of the mint family, so it has a minty taste that can be intense when added to foods. It’s best to use the herb in smaller quantities when adding it to salads, broths or soups.
1. Heals Respiratory Conditions
Hyssop is antispasmodic, meaning it relieves spasms in the respiratory system and soothes coughs. It loosens phlegm that has been deposited in the respiratory tracts. This property helps heal infections from the common cold, and it helps treat respiratory conditions.
Hyssop can also work as a remedy for sore throats and lung inflammation, making it a great tool for people who use their voices throughout the day, like teachers, singers and lecturers. The best way to soothe the throat and respiratory system is to drink hyssop tea or add a few drops of oil to your throat and chest.
2. Fights Parasites
Hyssop has the ability to fight parasites, which are organisms that feed off the nutrients of other organisms. Some examples of parasites include tapeworm, fleas, hookworms and flukes.
3. Fights Infections
Hyssop prevents infections from developing in wounds and cuts. Because of its antiseptic properties, when it’s applied to an opening of the skin, it fights infection and kills bacteria. Hyssop also helps in healing deep cuts, scars, insect bites and even can be one of the great home remedies for acne. Hyssop has antibiotic properties from the plant’s volatile oils. While the antibiotic properties are generally strong, they show the best results on shallow wounds and fungus infections.
4. Increases Circulation
An increase in blood flow or circulation in the body benefits the heart and the body’s muscles and arteries. Hyssop improves and promotes circulation because of its anti-rheumatic properties. By increasing circulation, hyssop can work as a natural remedy for gout, rheumatism, arthritis and swelling. Your heart rate lowers when your blood circulates properly, and then your heart muscles relax and your blood pressure flows evenly throughout the body, affecting every organ.
So many people are looking for natural arthritis cures because it can be a crippling condition. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs when cartilage between joints wears down, causing inflammation and pain. By increasing circulation, hyssop oil and tea inhibit swelling and inflammation, allowing the blood to flow through the body and relieve the pressure that builds up because of clogged arteries.
Because of its ability to improve circulation, hyssop oil is also a home remedy and treatment for hemorrhoids, which are experienced by 75 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are caused by an increase in pressure on the veins of the anus and rectum. The pressure on the veins causes swelling, pain and bleeding.
5. Relieves Muscle Pain and Spasms
Almost everybody has likely experienced discomfort in his or her muscles at some point. Because almost every part of the body has muscle tissue, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.
In addition, hyssop oil helps the body rid itself of excessive salts, fluids, sodium and other toxic substances through urine. As a natural diuretic, hyssop oil reduces inflammation, swelling and rheumatic pain.
6. Supports Healthy Immune Response
Hyssop improves circulation and digestion, while it kills bacteria and parasites — all of these benefits boost the immune system to work properly. By decreasing inflammation and allowing blood to run through our organs, hyssop oil maintains the function of the entire body.
7. Helps Digestion
Hyssop oil is a stimulant, so it increases the production of secretions, like bile, digestive enzymes and acid. These gastric juices are necessary in order to break down food as it makes its way to the stomach. We have digestive juices that contain enzymes in order to speed up the chemical reactions in the body and break down food into nutrients.
By facilitating digestion, hyssop oil helps with the decomposition of complex proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients. Because the digestive system interacts with all other body systems, including the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, the role that hyssop plays as a stimulant is very beneficial. Hyssop oil can also be helpful with releasing gas and indigestion.
8. Promotes Skin Health
Hyssop oil has the power to diminish the look of scars and work as a natural treatment for acne, pox, boils, stretch marks or wounds. It also promotes cellular regeneration, and the growth of new skin makes old marks fade away. Because hyssop oil is antiseptic, it can kill bacteria on the skin and fight infections. Applying a few drops of this beneficial oil to your skin keeps you looking younger and healthier.
Hyssop does best with well-drained soil and full sun, and when it becomes too big, it needs to be clipped. The plant attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees, which encourages pollination naturally. It also makes an excellent companion plant to cabbage to keep away cabbage whiteflies.
If you plan to pick or cut the leaves for drying, do it on a sunny day to ensure that you get the highest concentration of active ingredients. Let the leaves air-dry in a sunny place with plenty of air and circulation; it takes about six days before they’re completely dry. For storage, keep the dried herbs in an airtight container.
Make Your Own Essential Oil
Before drying the plant, you can make your own essential oil. Cut the leaves and flowers of a mature hyssop plant early in the morning. Rinse them and let them dry completely, then chop them up into fine pieces. When you crush the chopped pieces, the oil begins to come out of the herb slowly. All you need is a few drops mixed with a carrier oil to take advantage of hyssop’s wound-healing and vaporizing capabilities.
- For aromatherapy, diffuse or inhale 3–5 drops of hyssop oil.
Hyssop Tea Recipe
To make your own hyssop tea, start by boiling two cups of water. Add two tablespoons of fresh hyssop leaves to the water and let it steep for 30 minutes. It is also recommended that you brew the hyssop tea in a closed container. This prevents the beneficial essences of the tea from escaping. After preparing the tea, you can enjoy hyssop tea two or three times per day.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions
Hyssop is considered safe for most people in the amounts commonly found in foods and in medicinal amounts. It’s not safe to use hyssop during pregnancy because it might cause the uterus to contract or start menstruation, and these effects could lead to a miscarriage. It’s not known whether hyssop is safe to use during breastfeeding, so avoid using it or speak to your doctor first. Do not give hyssop to children; convulsions were reported in a child who took 2–3 drops of hyssop oil over several days.
If you have a history of seizures, do not use hyssop because it may trigger seizures or make them worse. When using hyssop oil, do not exceed 30 drops a day because it’s a convulsant and may increase your risk of having a seizure. Hyssop is also known to increase blood pressure, which can be beneficial to people with low blood pressure, but problematic for people who are trying to lower their levels.
- McVicar, Jekka. (2010). Grow Herbs: An inspiring guide to growing and using herbs. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
- McVicar, Jekka. (2006). Jekka’s Complete Herb Book. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
- Website: Wise Woman Herbal Ezine: Nourish Yourself…Anise Hyssop: A Perennial Native by Thea Summer Deer
- Website: Dr. Josh Axe
Featured photograph of Hyssop by Jane Grueber
Other photographs courtesy of Pexels.com