How does it feel?
It is a true education in the power of turmeric to taste it on its own, not integrated into a complex spicy meal. This is clearly a medicine for the gut, that also warms up the rest of our being.
What can I use it for?
Hyssop is useful internally for upper and lower respiratory tract infections characterised by congestion and coughs. Used in feverish illnesses in children and as a carminative for a sluggish digestion, wind and colic. It is useful for a tonic action where there is exhaustion.
It is often given in combination with other herbs providing a well-rounded remedy for the specific issue in question, whether it be bronchitis, nasopharyngeal catarrh, anxiety states or as a digestive tonic.
Externally as a poultice it can be used to help reduce bruising and heal cuts.
Into the heart of Hyssop
Hyssop has a long history of use as a prime remedy for respiratory conditions. However, the active constituents within it afford a range of uses, being as they are anti-inflammatory, expectorant, bitter, calming and antimicrobial.
It is a peripheral vasodilator and promotes perspiration, thereby cooling down in feverish conditions.
Useful for perking up the digestion and easing cramping and bloating, in Ayurvedic medicine it is sometimes given in the form of a fresh juice for such presentations.
Hyssop has a long history of use, both as a kitchen herb, flavouring food and drink, and within the medicine chest. Commonly used for conditions of the respiratory system in such presentations as coughs, chronic catarrh, asthma and bronchitis.
It is diaphoretic, (promoting perspiration), especially when taken as a hot tea, so has often been used for feverish colds.
Along with these applications it has a reputation as a tonic herb on other areas, such as the urinary tract, digestive and nervous systems. Grieve describes Hyssop tea as a “Grateful drink, well adapted to improve the tone of a feeble stomach” (4).
The green tops of the plant were given as a tea or within soup given to asthma sufferers (4) and It has also been prescribed for anxiety states and hysteria (5).
What practitioners say
Respiratory system: Hyssop combines well with mullein or liquorice for stubborn coughs. Taken in combination with more antimicrobial lung herbs such as thyme, garlic or elecampane it is excellent in cases of bronchitis. It is a herb that fell out of favour in some traditions, however, it deserves to be back in the limelight for its excellent ability to induce sweating in fevers, provide a powerful expectorant activity and act as a tonic assisting in convalescence.
For the common cold it combines well in tea form with elderflower, boneset, peppermint and yarrow and it can be beneficial for asthma, being anti-inflammatory and relaxing smooth muscle constriction.
Digestive system: The bitter terpenoid marrubiin has a stimulating effect on the digestive tract, increasing motility and secretions, including those of the liver. The oils contribute to the carminative activity helping in bloating, wind and lack of appetite. It has a tonic activity which has a beneficial effect on the whole body.
Skin: The flowering tops have been made into poultices or infused in oil and used for cuts and bruises. This application can also be of use for joint and muscle pain.
In children: Hyssop can be given for feverish colds and persistent coughs in children in combination with other appropriate herbs such as lime blossom, elderflower, calendula and chamomile. It has a calming action which adds to its use here.
In vitro, whole extract of Hyssop has shown antimicrobial activity against gram positive and gram negative bacteria along with an antioxidant activity (2).
Extracts of the essential oils of hyssop have been evaluated for their antimicrobial activities and findings showed the pink-flowered form as having equal amounts of the essential oils pinocamphone and isopinocamphone and demonstrating more activity against gram positive bacteria than the white-flowered form, which has primarily pinocamphone (6).
The essential oils have also demonstrated antifungal properties against drug-resistant strains of fungi from Candida and Aspergillus species (7,8).
Antiviral activity against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (SF strain) in HUT78 T cell line and primary cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells has been observed using an isolated polysaccharide extract from Hyssop (MAR-10) (9).
There are currently no human studies on the whole plant extract.
Did you know?
The name hyssop appears as a translation of the Hebrew word Ezov in some translations of the Bible, and refers to its use in ritual cleansing, ‘Purge me with Hyssop and I shall be clean’, however researchers have suggested that it is not likely to be Hyssopus officinalis, which is not native to Palestine, rather it may have been a species of oregano or the caper plant.
Dried hyssop is sometimes used in the herb blend Za’atar. The leaves and young shoots can be eaten raw in salads or used as flavouring in soups and stews, but use sparingly as they are strong in taste!
Used to flavour liqueurs such as Chartreuse and Absinthe, it is key in providing the green colouring in many version of the latter.
The essential oil of hyssop is highly valued by perfumers and the honey produced from hyssop flowers is considered to be of excellent quality with a wonderful aroma.
Not to be confused with hedge hyssop (Gratiola officinalis) or anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Hyssopus officinalis is a perennial herb, native to central and Southern Europe, Western Asia and northern Africa. It grows up to a height of around 2 feet with a similar spread. A member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family, it possesses the characteristic tubular, lipped flowers and square stems. It responds well to trimming and may flower twice in a year if this is timed well. It has small, dark-green, slender pointed leaves and dense spikes of flowers. It is usual to see beautiful deep purple-blue flowers, however there are plants which produce white or pink flowers. It is an excellent attractor of bees and butterflies, tolerates droughty conditions well and likes scrubby, sunny, well-drained soils.
Harvested when in flower, the whole plant has a pleasant scent, the leaves as well as the flowers being richly aromatic.
- Jupha (Hindi)
- Zufa (Arabic)
Hyssop is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation. It is advisable to avoid its use in those suffering from epileptic fits.
It is important to stress the difference between taking a medicine made using the whole herb as opposed to the extracted volatile (essential) oils, which are much stronger when isolated from the myriad other beneficial constituents within the whole plant.
The essential oil is subject to legal restrictions in some countries. It is neurotoxic at a dose that can vary amongst individuals when given internally, this is owing to the high levels of volatile oils such as thujone, pinocamphone and isopinocamphone. Excessive doses can cause epileptic fits and death (10).
The whole-herb use is much safer and the more usual way for hyssop to be taken.
Dried dose for tea: 2-4 g three times daily
1:5 tincture: 2-4 ml three times daily
- Flavonoids: apigenin, quercetin, diosmin, luteolin
- Terpinoids: marrubiin, oleanolic and ursolic acids
- Phenolic compounds: chlorogenic, protocatechuic, ferulic, syringic and caffeic acids
- Volatile oils: pinocamphone, isopinocamphone, pinocarvone, beta-pinene, camphor, thujone
- Resin and tannins
Hyssop and white horehound cough lozenges
This recipe calls for quite a bit of sweetening due to the bitterness of both the herbs, but the white horehound in particular.
- Fresh hyssop
- Fresh white horehound
- Sugar (or honey)
- Butter or coconut oil
- hyssop/horehound infusion
- Pop a good handful of equal parts fresh hyssop and white horehound into a pan with a cup of boiling water. Bring to the boil and then remove from the stove.
- Let the herbs Infuse for ten minutes.
- In a large pan put: 2 cups of sugar or 1 and a half cups of honey, 25 g of butter or coconut oil, half a cup of the hyssop/horehound infusion.
- Stir well as it comes to the boil and boil for five minutes or until you can drop a small amount into cold water and it forms a hard ball.
- Pour into a greased baking tray or onto grease-proof paper and as it sets, cut into squares or lozenge-shapes and store in a jar until needed for coughs and colds.
- Fathiazad, F et al (2011) A review of Hyssopus officinalis L: Composition and Biological activities. African journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 5(8): 1959-1966.
- Fathiazad, F et al (2011) Phytochemical analysis and antioxidant activity of Hyssopus officinalis L from Iran. Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin 1(2): 63-67
- Merck plant profiler.https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/life-science/nutrition-research/learning-center/plant-profiler/hyssopus-officinalis.html. Accessed 31.3.21
- Grieve, M (1931) A Modern Herbal. Tiger press. Ed 1992. ISBN 1-83-5501-249-9
- British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1983) British Herbal Medicine Association’s Scientific Committee. ISBN0 903032 07 4
- Baj, T et al (2018) Chemical composition and microbiological evaluation of essential oil from Hyssopus officinalis with white and pink flowers. Open Chemistry 16: 317-323
- Karpinski, T (2020) Essential oils of Lamiaceae Family plants as Antifungals. Biomolecules 10(1): 103
- Hristova, Y et al (2015) Chemical composition and antifungal activity of essential oil of Hyssopus officinalis L from Bulgaria against clinical isolates of Candida species. Biotechnology and Biotechnological Equipment. 29(3): 529-601
- Gollapudi, S et al (1995) Isolation of a previously unidentified polysaccharide (MAR-10) from Hyssopus officinalis that exhibits strong activity against human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.210, (1): 145-151
- Aromatherapy Science (2006) The safety issue in aromatherapy. Pharmaceutical Press. ISBN: 0 85369 578 4. p 84-85
- Fleisher, A and Fleisher, Z (1988) Identification of biblical hyssop and origin of the traditional use of oregano-group herbs in the Mediterranean region.