Hyssopus officinalis


At Blessed Maine Herb Farm we have a beautiful central garden dedicated to hyssop, about 9 long beds full. By mid-July this area is a mass of purple flowering spikes. The earthy, woodsy, camphorous aroma is heavenly, and the pollinators are buzzing all over it! Hyssop is a favorite herb and one of my dearest allies. Hyssop's rugged energy makes it one of the most important herbs for our rapidly changing times.

Hyssop has ancient origins. Its genus name is derived from the Greek  azob, which means holy herb. It is written in the Bible: "purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean."

Add a quart of hyssop infusion to your fine linens' rinse water and they will come out especially white. During ceremony, I burn dried hyssop to clear and shift the energy. The flowering stems form a fine holy-water sprinkler. It’s been considered an herb of exorcism since ancient times.

Wise and wild hearted grandmothers have long used hyssop as a nourishing medicinal tea for those dealing with any type of pulmonary distress, lung or sinus congestion. It contains several warming, stimulating, camphor-like constituents that help loosen phlegm, and an expectorant, marrubium. A syrup made from flowering tops of hyssop is especially soothing and healing to sore throats.

First Nations drink an infusion made from hyssop leaves and flowers to relieve asthma. Cherokee employ hyssop to treat those with coughs and colds, to bring down fever and to bring on, establish and regulate menstruation.

Called issopu in Southern Italia, hyssop was an important remedy for treating the intermittent fevers caused by malaria which was rampant throughout the southern part of the peninsula until the early 20th century.

Grandmothers also used hyssop as a stomach tonic, an aid to digestion and to alleviate gas. After meals, slowly sipping a cup of hyssop infusion, or a glass of water with 20 drops of fresh plant tincture, offers relief for digestive woes.

A standard dose is 2-4 cups of dried hyssop infusion daily, or 20 drops of fresh plant tincture two to four times daily.

Hyssop is a blood nourisher. And, it strengthens the immune system and has very strong antiviral properties, even against herpes and HIV. Old wives used it as a soak to relieve the pain of rheumatism. I infuse fresh hyssop in oil to rub it into inflamed or painful areas.

Hyssop helps calm, steady and relax the nerves. Its effect is that of a mild sedative as well as a nerve-strengthening tonic. I use it to relieve tension and help balance emotional swings.

The leaves, flowers and stems of hyssop all possess an essential oil that has a powerful effect on the mind, clearing it of confusion and imparting a feeling of alertness. I also like to anoint head, heart, hands and feet with hyssop oil. Hyssop essential oil is also used in making the liqueur chartreuse, and is one of the hundreds of additives in cigarettes.

Eating hyssop is a great way to make use of its nourishing and medicinal qualities. We chop a few sprigs of hyssop into salads all summer and use it as a spice, fresh or dried, on other dishes. A student of mine contributed the most incredible pesto to a potluck feast, made entirely of hyssop.

Hildegard von Bingen calls hyssop a "happy making spice" and advises "if one eats hyssop often, one cleans the sick-makers and stinkiness out of the foamy juices." She recommended cooking hyssop with chicken and drinking it in wine, believing both in combination to activate and tone the liver.

Flower Essence Hyssop flower essence helps us to forgive and to accept forgiveness from others.

Magical Lore Hyssop's deep spiritual resonance offers nourishment and protection. I hang a  bunch in our home for the beneficial effect and the pleasant aroma! Hyssop is most magical when gathered during a new moon. To make a ritual broom for healings, cut a handle from willow or birch, and tie a bunch of hyssop onto it with pretty ribbon.

Culture Hyssop is very easy to grow in any ordinary garden soil. We start new plants inside in early spring and set them out in small clumps when they are sturdy enough to be handled. I keep hyssop plants well weeded the first year. By the second year, they are large enough to completely shade out the weeds: a beautiful, thick, green and purple hedge, two to three feet high, bursting with incredible healing energy and an abundance of honeybees. I’ve heard hyssop honey (from honeybees collecting large amounts of hyssop pollen) is delicious. Hummingbirds love hyssop too!

I harvest hyssop's beautiful bluish-purple flowering tips, including leaves and stems, at the peak of their bloom and lay them out on screens or hang them in bunches to dry, then store them whole in double paper bags for later use as infusions or washes. I also tincture fresh hyssop in alcohol, put up some in vinegar, infuse it in honey (excellent for sore throat), and put some in oil.

Searching for a plant ally as you journey into the new millennium? Open your wild heart to humble, rugged, ageless hyssop to improve strength, stamina, energy, attitude and outlook.

“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” Hildegard von Bingen

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