What Is Hyssop?
Let me introduce you to Hyssop officinalis, an herb used since Biblical times for cleansing and healing. Not only does it make a beautiful garden border and a good companion plant, it holds many medicinal qualities as well.
According to Penelope Ody in her book The Complete Medicinal Herbal, Hyssop has the following actions: expectorant, carminative (relieves flatulence), relaxes peripheral blood vessels, promotes sweating, reduces phlegm, topical anti-inflammatory, antiviral (Herpes simplex), antispasmodic.
I’ve tried growing it from seed with little luck, though if you’re diligent enough it can be done. I finally gave up and purchased several hyssop plants from The Grower’s Exchange. I planted them underneath our grape vines as I’ve read they make a good companion plant for grapes. Knowing they are medicinal made it worth the cost and space they required.
Hyssop is a member of the mint family, though I haven’t found them to spread as aggressively as mint. The woody plants will grow to be about 24″ tall with a spread of 24″ wide. A bushy evergreen that flowers during the summer months, they grow well in zones 3-11.
They thrive in full sun, but can handle partial shade; preferring hot, sunny afternoons. Hyssop is a hardy perennial, tolerating drier conditions and even rocky soil with a little sand worked in to loosen the ground. When I planted mine, I put down a layer of cardboard underneath our grapevines (to suppress the weeds), covered that with a few inches of Miracle Grow Garden Soil, and planted the hyssop seedlings directly into that. Although the vines do provide some dappled shade, so far the hyssop has grown well for us here in zone 7. I’m anxious to see how they do through the winter.
How To Use Hyssop
Traditionally hyssop blossoms are picked and used in cough syrups, but if you don’t have enough blossoms to harvest you can use all aerial parts of the plant (stems, leaves, blossoms).
Hyssop can be used fresh or dried, as a tea, tincture, or syrup. Drink a hot tea during the early stages of cold and flu. Combine it with other expectorant herbs for bronchitis and stubborn coughs. When making a syrup or oxymel, you can combine it with mullein flowers or licorice root for bad coughs and lung weakness.
Hyssop essential oil can be used as a chest rub for bronchitis and chesty colds: Dilute 10 drops hyssop oil in 20 ml almond oil and rub on chest as needed. Combines well with thyme and eucalyptus essential oils.
Precautions: “Not recommended while pregnant. Excessive use has been associated with causing seizures and should be avoided by people prone to seizure.” ~https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/hyssop/profile
Hyssop Oxymel Recipe
An oxymel is a traditional “sweet and sour” cough syrup, which combines herbs, honey, and vinegar. For this recipe I followed directions found at HerbMentor.com.
- fresh or dried hyssop
- good quality honey (preferably local)
- organic apple cider vinegar
- clean glass jar with a plastic lid (I’d recommend a pint jar)
First, fill your jar with hyssop. If you’re working with fresh herbs, chop the herbs and pour them into the jar. (I don’t wash my herbs first, but I try to avoid stems which have been in contact with dirt. You can spray them off if you like, but allow the water to dry before using. Oh, and watch for bugs.) Don’t press the herbs to compact them, but leave them loose. If you’re working with dried herbs, fill the jar half-way.
Next, fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with honey.
Pour vinegar over all to fill jar. Use a plastic or wooden spoon to mix together well.
Cover the jar with a plastic lid (vinegar reacts with metal), label the jar with the contents and date, and allow to sit for 2-4 weeks. I place my jar in a bathroom cabinet, and give it a shake every few days.
Strain off the herbs and pour the syrup into a clean bottle. Label and store. This mixture does not require refrigeration, but it won’t hurt it if you prefer to do so. It will stay good for several months.
It is recommended to take 1-2 tsp. every hour, or as needed for congested coughs.
Do you grow hyssop? What’s your favorite way to use it?