Hyssop is a semi-evergreen aromatic shrub in the Lamiaceae family with square stems, lanceolate leaves, and spikes of blue or violet bilabiate flowers that bloom late summer and grows to about 2 feet in height. It’s native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the area surrounding the Caspian Sea. It tolerates most soils, and prefers dry climates in full sun. It’s useful in companion planting to distract cabbage butterflies from crops and has been thought to increase yields of cabbages and grapes. It attracts bees and other helpful pollinators to the garden. Hyssop can be grown from cuttings, root division, or seed, and like many others in the mint family, the flowers can be topped to encourage growth. The leaves can be harvested anytime of year in the mornings or early evenings.
Hyssop has strong antispasmodic and expectorant properties making it useful for treating coughs, bronchitis, and excess mucus, and combines well with horehound and coltsfoot. It can be used as a gargle, similar to how sage is used, to help with excess mucus. It is also a carminative, mild sedative, and diaphoretic, making it additionally useful for treating colds, gas, and nervous disorder. For the common cold, it combines well with boneset, elder flower, and peppermint. An infusion or poultice of the leaves can also be used to treat herpes sores, skin irritations, and minor burns and wounds, and the oil from the leaves applied to the scalp is said to expel lice and ease the itch. It can be prepared as a tincture or as an infusion, and is considered a heating herb in Chinese medicine.
The hyssop leaf was traditionally used in liqueurs and as in cooking to aid in the digestion of fatty meats. The antiseptic oil from the leaves was once used to bathe lepers and purify temples, as well as in the treatment of bruises, scars, and sores. It is known for its antiviral properties, which is interesting, because a mold that produces penicillin often grows on hyssop leaves. There is a long documented use of hyssop in many cultures, however, many plants were called by that name, so it’s hard to know if it was actually Hyssopus officinalis that was used, but it has been shown that the ancient Greeks, as well as physicians in 17th century Europe did prescribe hyssop for cough and bronchial troubles.
1-2 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of water, infused for 10-15 minutes, three times daily. For a tincture, 1-4 ml three times daily.
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