Hyssop is an herb that has been extensively used in traditional medicinal preparations for treating upper respiratory tract disorders. The following article deals with Hyssop and its many herbal health benefits.
What Is Hyssop?
Hyssop is a perennial plant with the botanical name of Hyssopus officinalis. Other popular names of this herb include the following – Hisopo, Jufa, yanagi-hakka, Rabo De Gato, Ysop, hastipippili, curdukotu, Hysope etc. The herb belongs to the Laminacea or mint family that has about 10 to12 related species. Many believe that the name Hyssop has been derived from the Hebrew word “Aesob” which means holy herb, and also from the Greek word “Hysoppus”. It is said that centuries ago the herb was used in cleaning and purifying sacred places.
Additionally, during ancient times the herb was also used in humans to ‘clean’ the yellow colored illness (jaundice). In general, the cleansing properties of Hyssop are attributed to the fact that the herb is not affected by pests or diseases. Hyssop is an herbaceous, evergreen, bushy and aromatic plant. The herb can reach up to a height of 60 cm and has 2-5 cm long narrow leaves with small purple-blue colored flowers.
Hyssop originated in the East Mediterranean region and now can also be found in central Asia and other parts of Europe. The herb was also used by the Roman army and can be still found in the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey. In France and Britain, Hyssop is currently used as a decorative plant in gardens and hedges, and is generally planted along with rosemary and lavender.
The plant usually flowers by late summer and during early spring. Most of the aerial parts of this herb are used for medicinal purposes and sometimes the leaves are also used in food preparations. Hyssop oil is used as a flavoring agent and is used in soaps & cosmetics. Specifically, Hyssop is used in popular products such as eau de Cologne and Chartreuse. It must be noted that Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) and Anise Hyssop(Agastache foeniculum) are entirely different plants.
How Does It Work?
The leaves and green stems of this herb contain the following compounds – romarinic acid, caffeic acids, pinanones, marrubin, glycosides, flavonoids, beta-pinene, limonene, pinocamphone, tannin, isopinocamphone etc. These chemicals in the herb offer anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
Health Benefits Of Hyssop
Hyssop has been made popular for its beneficial effects in treating respiratory infections as it has anti-spasmodic, expectorant and sweat inducing properties. The herb helps in treating cough, asthma, bronchitis, hoarseness, rheumatic distillations upon the lungs and chronic catarrh.
The herb works by loosening phlegm and relieving congestion. Traditionally, the leaves of the herb are used in making medicinal tea, soup and also are popularly mixed with honey and rue for treating asthma. The herbal preparations made using Hyssop are known to relieve chest congestion and respiratory problems.
Cold & Fever
The herb is anti-viral in nature and has the ability to expel toxins from the body that are accumulated due to viral infections. Hyssop is used mainly to reduce fever, flu and cold infections. The herb reduces fever by inducing sweatingand therefore was traditionally mixed in bathing water.
Stomach & Digestion
The leaves of Hyssop are also used in treating feeble stomach and in relieving some of the symptoms of indigestion such as gas, intestinal cramping, colic etc. The infusion made using Hyssop acts as an excellent tonic for the digestive system and helps in treating weak digestions. Many believe that the herb also helps in the functioning of the liverand gall bladder.
For Pain & Bruises
Hyssop was also historically used in treating muscular rheumatism and bruises. It is said that when the herb is applied to wounds and skin cuts it helps in prompt healing.
Ancient Greeks and Indians used poultices made using hyssop to treat bruises, scar, frostbite, conjunctivitis, insect bites, muscle pain and dental cavities. The leaves of the plant were used in cleansing rituals during the biblical times due to its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Some say Hyssop is also a good remedy for treating nervousness, anxiety and depression. It was also used in treating urinary tract infections, infections due to roundworms and tapeworms, and poor circulation problems. Another popular use of this herb is in treating premenstrual symptoms and menstrual cramps. Many believe that the herb is diuretic in nature and can lower high blood pressure. When used in a certain combination along with ginger, thyme and pepper, hyssop shows aphrodisiac effects too.
There is no standard or recommended dosage level for this herb. Traditionally, the herb was used to prepare medicinal tea, decoction and was used in poultice form for treating some of the above mentioned conditions. Fresh or dried leaves of the herb can be used for making poultices or tea. For treating minor skin irritations, crushed fresh leavesof the plant can be applied to the skin.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Hyssop is considered a safe herb as it is popularly used in food preparations across the world. However, when taken internally at high dosage levels (more than 10 drops per day) and for a long duration, Hyssop oil can cause seizures in some as it contains a chemical known as pino-camphone. This side effect has been also proved in many animal studies. The herb may also trigger allergic reactions in those who are prone to allergies.
The herb is not safe for use in pregnant women as it may cause miscarriage. Its effect on lactating mothers and children are not known. However, to be on the safer side it is better to avoid using this herb in such individuals. The herb also has high Iodine content and should be avoided by those who suffer from iodine related health conditions.
The herb Hyssop is widely cultivated in many parts of the world for its medicinal properties. The flower tops and leaves of the plant are generally used in solving many health related disorders. Hyssop is a known anti-spasmodic, stimulant, tonic, diuretic, expectorant and emmenagogue herb.
Hyssop is popularly used in treating cough, asthma, chest congestion and bronchitis. It also positively affects the digestive and urinary systems of the human body. To ease ear inflammationand to remove chest/ nose congestion, herbalists recommend steaming and inhaling hot vapors from hyssop decoction.