Hailed since the days of old, this member of the mint family holds significant healing wisdom. Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis, has long been used as a disinfectant in the Middle East to cleanse temples, and even people. It was a favorite of Roman Emperor Charles I, who mandated that hyssop be planted in all medicinal gardens after his positive experience with the herb. The plant is mentioned in the Bible, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean” (Psalm 51:7). Due to the unreliability of plant common names, the passage may refer to other botanicals, but the impact of this plant prevails.

Hyssop is native to Europe, but has popped up along roads throughout the world. It shares certain terpenoids with cannabis such as camphor, phellandrene, limonene, pinene, and geraniol. The plant is used for herbal libations and is a main ingredient in Chartreuse, the famous french liquor. It is also a prized ingredient in the infamous absinthe, along with its friend, wormwood (Artemisia abstinthum). The common Middle Eastern spice blend Za'atar sometimes includes dried Hyssop leaves. Studies have found that the chemical composition of hyssop and its oil can vary depending on the plant’s growth cycle.

Hyssop is a botanical garden ally, as it a valuable source of pollen which attracts many bees. It can also be increasingly helpful in areas with fire season due to its use as a lung soother. While this herb has many lovely features, both used traditionally and studied by modern science, its use for lung health is one of its best known attributes.

Hyssop attracts bees in the garden (photo by Leslie Carrow)

Lung Health

Hyssops’s antispasmodic properties help clear the lungs from a wet cough by getting phlegm up and out of the body. At the same time, it can soothe dry, irritating hacking that keeps one up at night. Some of the most promising investigations for hyssop have been on its applications for asthma. Hyssop has long been used as an asthma treatment in traditional Persian medicine, along with a blend of other herbs. In animal models, the plant has been shown to counteract the narrowing of the air passageways and decreased shortness of breath, itchy nose, and fatigue sometimes associated with allergy related asthma. The results of a 2014 animal study indicated that hyssop has an immune regulating effect for allergy induced asthma.

A recent double blind study of 46 children examined the influence of an herbal mixture including hyssop (along with chamomile, marshmallow root, malva, licorice, and jujube date, and maidenhair fern) on intermittent asthma. At the onset of cold symptoms, the kids were either given the herbal blend for five days, or placebo. The herbal blend was found to reduce the onset of viral respiratory tract infection, reduced cough, and waking up in the middle of the night.

Supportive Diuretic & Digestive Aid

Hyssop can promote the movement of fluids within the body and bring moisture to the surface of the lungs. Hyssop is a natural diuretic, which can help the body get rid of excessive fluids, salts, and toxic substances via the urine. This can also help combat inflammation, rheumatic pain, and swelling. The plant is taken at the onset of a cold to bring the illness to the surface and can expel a fever by encouraging perspiration. Hyssop stimulates circulation and increases blood flow, which is beneficial for the heart, muscles, and arteries. When blood pressure is healthy, it allows the heart to keep every organ running smoothly.

Like other members of the mint family, hyssop is adept at encouraging the secretion of bile which can help jumpstart sluggish digestion. These digestive herbs act as a reminder to your body, encouraging it to support its own digestive abilities. It may also alleviate cramping, bloating, and other gut complaints.

Antimicrobial action

A number of members of the mint family have been shown to have antiviral activity, and hyssop has been investigated in vitro for such abilities. A water based extraction of hyssop was tested against HIV-1, and was found to inhibit the replication of the virus and had no negative impact on healthy T-cell count. More investigation is needed in humans in order to discern if it would be a viable treatment option. A study also found that hyssop essential oil was able to combat genital herpes. Researchers found that treatment with the oil lowered the formation of sores by over 90%.

Hyssop oils may be useful against food-borne pathogens, and may inhibit food spoilage and extend shelf life. Additionally, Hyssop essential oil has shown antibacterial and anti-fungal activity against certain strains of bacteria and yeasts, such as Staph, E. coli and Candida albicans. Its essential oil has been found to expel parasites within the intestines. This is beneficial as these unfriendly freeloaders can disrupt digestion, decrease nutrient absorption, and negatively impact the immune system.  

Conditions the herb may be used for: Respiratory conditions, parasites, infections, digestive trouble, acne, inflammation, colic, high blood pressure, wounds, muscle pain and spasms, common cold, bronchitis, catarrh, asthma, fevers, cuts, bruises, rashes, boils, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, irregular menstrual cycles, menopause, chronic lung infections, sore throat, hemorrhoids

Recipe created by Emerald Pharms- do not use without citing original source

By Sarah Russo

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