Weekly Herb Review #17 – Hyssop

I know, I am so far behind!! But, I am writing up some materia medica for a class. So, here is a new one…

Hyssop
“Purge me with Hyssop and I shall be clean”
psalm 51, verse 7

Common Names: Hyssop, Garden Hyssop

Scientific Name: Hyssopus officinalis (meaning “holy herb” “of the apothecary”)

Family: Lamiaceae (mint)

hyssop

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Harvesting: Native to the Mediterranean region, Hyssop was brought to the Americas by the early settlers and is very easy to grow. The herb is best harvested in the late summer, when it is in flower.

Qualities: Slightly bitter, aromatic (great for the bees), slightly pungent, neutral, dry

Constituents/Nutrition: Volatile oils, which are primarily responsible for the mucolytic and relaxing properties, tannins, flavonoids, bitters, triterpenes…

Properties/Actions: Expectorant, mild antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti fungal, anti viral, anti inflammatory, bitter tonic, diaphoretic (as a hot tea), carminative, cholagogue, vulnerary, nervine relaxant, emmenagogue

Uses/Indications: Used primarily for the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, Hyssop is fantastic for colds, flu, cough, bronchitis, laryngitis, asthma, under-active digestion, flatulence, and GI cramping. It has also been used for minor hypertension and fatigue. Hyssop combines well with sage as a throat gargle and has been used externally for skin inflammation, wounds and to decrease bruising. Hyssop, White Horehound and Coltsfoot make a nice cough and Upper Respiratory infection combination. Add to Boneset, Elder and Mint for colds with fever. Especially useful with children.

Folk History/Magical Uses:
Traditionally used for cleaning sacred spaces, Hyssop is believed to have been used on the vinegar soaked sponge that was given to Jesus at his crucifixion. The mold that produces Penicillin grows on Hyssop leaves and may have benefited the lepers who bathed in hyssop. In 1597, Hyssop was mentioned in “Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry”, by Thomas Tusser, as a good herb to spread on walks and floors to make the home smell better. The women of northern Europe are said to press the Hyssop flowers in their psalm books, because the odor keeps them from falling asleep during a boring sermon. Hyssop has also been used historically for purification and protection, as a compress for bruises, in honeys and syrups, wine, tea, soups, and sauces. Grow Hyssop near your cabbages to deter cabbage moths.

From Culpepper’s Herbal “Dioscorides saith, that Hyssop boiled with rue and honey, and drank, helps those that are troubled with coughs, shortness of breath, wheezing and rheumatic distillation upon the lungs; taken also with oxymel, it purges gross humours by stool; and with honey, kills worms in the belly; and with fresh and new figs bruised, helps to loosen the belly, and more forcibly if the root of Flower-de-luce and cresses be added thereto. It amends and cherishes the native colour of the body, spoiled by the yellow jaundice; and being taken with figs and nitre, helps the dropsy and spleen; being boiled with wine, it is good to wash inflammations, and takes away the black and blue spots and marks that come by strokes, bruises, or falls, being applied with warm water. It is an excellent medicine for the quinsy, or swellings in the throat, to wash and gargle it, being boiled in figs; it helps the toothache, being boiled in vinegar and gargled therewith. The hot vapours of the decoction taken by a funnel in at the ears, eases the inflammations and singing noise of them. Being bruised, and salt, honey, and cummin seed put to it, helps those that are stung by serpents. The oil thereof (the head being anointed) kills lice, and takes away itching of the head. It helps those that have the falling sickness, which way soever it be applied. It helps to expectorate tough phlegm, and is effectual in all cold griefs or diseases of the chests or lungs, being taken either in syrup or licking medicine. The green herb bruised and a little sugar put thereto, doth quickly heal any cut or green wounds, being thereunto applied.”

Research:
Inhibition of HIV replication by Hyssop officinalis extracts.
An interesting discussion on the constituents (caffeic acid, unidentified tannins, and possibly a third) that show anti-HIV virus activity.
Antiviral Res (1990 Dec) 14(6):323-37

I actually found a few HIV studies using constituents of Hyssop….. Interesting

Cautions/Side Effects: There are no known side effects or drug reactions, but Hyssop is not recommended in pregnancy because of its emmenogogue effects.

Preparation/Dosage:
-Tea-1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water, steep 20 minutes, TID
-Tincture- 1-4 ml TID (1:5, 45% EtOH) -Hoffman
-As a Pot Herb in salads, soups, and breads
–can be used effectively as a glycerite, infused honey, mead, or wine, as well as in smoking mixes
-BHP recommends 1.2 – 2.4 grams per day

Recipe:
Hyssop Cough Syrup
1 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons dry Hyssop
1 teaspoon Aniseeds

Pour the honey into a heavy saucepan and stir in the water slowly, until the consistency is like maple syrup. Dampen the dry hyssop with a little water and crush the aniseeds with a spoon. Stir both herbs into the honey and bring to a simmer, cover and simmer on very low heat for ~30 minutes. Uncover and let it cool enough to pour into a jar. Put the lid on the jar after the honey cools completely.

My Thoughts: I love using this herb when I have congestion. It really helps to break through the mucous. It also works wonderfully with children and tastes good enough that most kids will take it. I like to use it with Horehound in cough drops.

Bibliography:
Hyssop. Retrieved on August 1, 2006 from:
http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/66/113/frameset.htm

Hyssop. Retrieved on August 1, 2006 from:
http://www.ese.u-psud.fr/bases/flore_web/vignettes/images/hyssopus.jpg

Cunningham, S. (2000). Magical herbalism. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.

Herbs and herb lore of colonial america. (1995). New York, NY: Dover Publications.

Hoffman, D. (1990). The new holistic herbal. Second Edition.

McVicar, J. (1994). The complete herb book. London: Kyle Cathie Limited.

Onstad, D. (1996). Whole foods companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum. New Jersey: Herbacy Press.

Tilgner, S. (1999). Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth. Creswell, OR: Wise Acres Press.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Herb Review #17 – Hyssop

  1. Maria, thanks for the write up! I planted hyssop in my herb garden some time ago but never knew what to do with it. The congestion tid bit is interesting, especially considering I get congested very easily.

    You said you like hyssop in cough drops. Have you ever made cough drops?

    Also for the Syrup, can I use fresh Hyssop or does it have to be dried?

  2. I’ve got hyssop at home, and harvested some this summer. I was going to try making some cough syrup with it- a friend gave me a recipe- but I’d love to hear how you make it.

    One of the smaller plants has all but ‘dried’ up while the bigger plant is doing great. Both are getting the same amount of water and are planted in the same location- I wonder what’s up with it!

  3. Even though its unseasonably warm, i’ve been in the mood to prepare for winter… so i just made the syrup recipe. i was just wondering how much you reccomend taking for a cough/cold. thanks

  4. I’d probably start with one tsp. If that didn’t seem to have enough of an effect, the next time I might take one Tbsp.

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