Hyssop has been used for centuries as an antiseptic agent; one of its common uses as an essential oil is as a medicinal plant and aromatic herb. Hyssop oil spiritual uses date back thousands of years ago. There’s even a hyssop oil Bible reference — in verse 7 of Psalm 51, it states, “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.”
What is hyssop and what is it used for? For thousands of years, hyssop has been an herb used as a purifier and cleanser; the Romans even used hyssop because they believed it helped protect them against plagues. Its reputation as a protector has led people to hang dried hyssop at their homes in order to keep out the evil eye or negativity. It has also been left at grave sights to protect the dead.
Hyssop, or Hyssopus officinalis, is a herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus, and it’s native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Its name comes from the Hebrew word adobe or ezob, which literally means “holy herb.”
Today, hyssop is used for digestive and intestinal problems, including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain and loss of appetite. It’s also used for respiratory problems in various ways, such as eliminating coughs, helping to prevent the common cold and respiratory infections, soothing sore throats, and as one of the natural remedies for asthma.
The Hyssop Plant and Components
Is hyssop same as lavender? No, it’s certainly not even though both produce pretty purplish blooms. Hyssop is a shrub that ranges from 12 to 24 inches in height. It has a woody stem that serves as the base, from which grow the straight branches. The leaves are dark-green, and the flowers are fragrant and colorful; in the summer months, the plant produces purple-blue, pink and white flowers.
The stalks are cut twice a year, at the end of spring and beginning of fall. Once they are cut, they’re dried, which takes approximately six days. When it dries, the leaves and flowers are chopped finely, and the mixture can be stored for up to 18 months. The plant is also used to make an essential oil, extract and capsule.
Hyssop is part of the mint family, so it has a minty taste that can be rather intense when added to foods. It’s best to use the herb in smaller quantities when adding it to salads, broths or soups. The main components of hyssop oil include monoterpenes (cis-pinochamphone, trans-pinocamphone and beta-pinene) and sequiterpenes (germacrene and elemol); however, the chemical composition does vary depending on the plant’s growth stage when extracted.
The flavonoids present in hyssop oil provide beneficial antioxidant activity. An analysis published in the Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin was able to indicate that there are 20 compounds in hyssop oil, representing 99.9 percent of the oil’s makeup. Apigenin 7-O-β-D-glucuronide was isolated as the major flavonoid; myrtenylacetate, camphor, germacrene and spathulenol are the other main compounds that were found. The findings of this chemical breakdown revealed that hyssop possesses valuable high-antioxidant properties for culinary and medicinal use, especially because it serves as an antioxidant. (1)
8 Hyssop Benefits
What are the health benefits of hyssop? There are many!
1. Helps Respiratory Conditions
Hyssop is antispasmodic, meaning it relieves spasms in the respiratory system and soothes coughs. (2) It’s also an expectorant — it loosens phlegm that has been deposited in the respiratory tracts. (3) This property helps heal infections from the common cold, and it helps treat respiratory conditions, such as serving as a bronchitis natural remedy.
Coughing is a common reaction of the respiratory system trying to expel harmful microbes, dust or irritants, so hyssop’s antispasmodic and antiseptic properties make it a great natural treatment for coughs and other respiratory conditions.
Hyssop can also work as a remedy for sore throats, making it a great tool for people who use their voices throughout the day, like teachers, singers and lecturers. The best way to soothe the throat and respiratory system is to drink hyssop tea or add a few drops of oil to your throat and chest.
2. Fights Parasites
Hyssop has the ability to fight parasites, which are organisms that feed off the nutrients of other organisms. Some examples of parasites include tapeworm, fleas, hookworms and flukes. Because it’s a vermifuge, hyssop oil expels parasitic works, especially in the intestines. (4) When a parasite lives in and feed on its host, it disrupts nutrient absorption and causes weakness and disease. If the parasite is living in the intestines, it disrupts the digestive and immune systems.
Therefore, hyssop can be a key part of a parasite cleanse, as hyssop helps many systems in the body and ensures that your needed nutrients aren’t taken by these dangerous organisms.
3. Fights Infections
Hyssop prevents infections from developing in wounds and cuts. Because of its antiseptic properties, when it’s applied to an opening of the skin, it fights infection and kills bacteria. (5) Hyssop also helps in healing deep cuts, scars, insect bites and even can be one of the great home remedies for acne.
A study done at the Department of Virology, Hygiene Institute in Germany tested hyssop oil’s ability to fight genital herpes by testing plaque reduction. Genital herpes is a chronic, persistent infection that is spread efficiently and silently as a sexually transmitted disease. The study found that hyssop oil lowered plaque formation by more than 90 percent, proving that the oil interacted with the virus and serves as a therapeutic application for the treatment of herpes. (6)
4. Increases Circulation
An increase in blood flow or circulation in the body benefits the heart and the body’s muscles and arteries. Hyssop improves and promotes circulation because of its anti-rheumatic properties. (7) By increasing circulation, hyssop can work as a natural remedy for gout, rheumatism, arthritis and swelling. Your heart rate lowers when your blood circulates properly, and then your heart muscles relax and your blood pressure flows evenly throughout the body, affecting every organ.
So many people are looking for natural arthritis treatments because it can be a crippling condition. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs when cartilage between joints wears down, causing inflammation and pain. By increasing circulation, hyssop oil and tea inhibit swelling and inflammation, allowing the blood to flow through the body and relieve the pressure that builds up because of clogged arteries.
Because of its ability to improve circulation, hyssop oil is also a home remedy and treatment for hemorrhoids, which are experienced by 75 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are caused by an increase in pressure on the veins of the anus and rectum. The pressure on the veins causes swelling, pain and bleeding.
5. Relieves Muscle Pain and Spasms
Almost everybody has likely experienced discomfort in his or her muscles at some point. Because almost every part of the body has muscle tissue, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.
A study done at the Department of Pharmacology of Natural Substances and General Physiology in Italy found that hyssop oil had muscle-relaxing activity when it was tested on guinea pig and rabbit intestines. The hyssop oil treatment inhibited contractions and reduced the amplitude of spontaneous movements. (8)
Hyssop oil’s antispasmotic properties can help treat muscle aches, cramps and charley horses naturally.
6. Supports Healthy Immune Response
Hyssop improves circulation and digestion, while it kills bacteria and parasites — all of these benefits boost the immune system to work properly. By decreasing inflammation and allowing blood to run through our organs, hyssop oil maintains the function of the entire body.
One promising study done at the Department of Medicine, North Shore University Hospital in New York found that hyssop extracts contain caffeic acid, unidentified tannins and possibly a third class of unidentified higher molecular weight compounds that exhibit strong anti-HIV activity — thus, it may be useful in the treatment of patients with AIDS. (10)
7. Helps Digestion
Hyssop oil is a stimulant, so it increases the production of secretions, like bile, digestive enzymes and acid. These gastric juices are necessary in order to break down food as it makes its way to the stomach. We have digestive juices that contain enzymes in order to speed up the chemical reactions in the body and break down food into nutrients.
By facilitating digestion, hyssop oil helps with the decomposition of complex proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients. Because the digestive system interacts with all other body systems, including the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, the role that hyssop plays as a stimulant is very beneficial. Hyssop oil can also be helpful with intestinal gas, indigestion and loss of appetite. (12)
8. Promotes Skin Health
Hyssop oil can work as a natural treatment for acne. Because hyssop oil is antiseptic, it can kill bacteria on the skin and fight infections. Research also demonstrates that hyssop essential oil exhibits bacteriostatic activity, which means it can stop bacteria from reproducing. (13)
Typically, hyssop seeds are sown in the springtime; they can be propagated from the roots or cuttings in autumn and spring. When planting, make sure the seedling is 15–20 inches apart so they have enough space to grow. Hyssop does best with well-drained soil and full sun, and when it becomes too big, it needs to be clipped. The plant attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees, which encourages pollination naturally.
If you plan to pick or cut the leaves for drying, do it on a sunny day to ensure that you get the highest concentration of active ingredients. Let the leaves air-dry in a sunny place with plenty of air and circulation; it takes about six days before they’re completely dry. For storage, keep the dried herbs in an airtight container.
Before drying the plant, you can make your own essential oil. Cut the leaves and flowers of a mature hyssop plant early in the morning. Rinse them and let them dry completely, then chop them up into fine pieces. When you crush the chopped pieces, the oil begins to come out of the herb slowly. All you need is a few drops mixed with a carrier oil to take advantage of hyssop’s wound-healing and vaporizing capabilities.
How to Use Hyssop
Hyssop is most commonly used to fight throat and respiratory infections, fatigue, muscle aches, and arthritis. It’s traditionally used in teas, but it’s equally effective as a capsule, oil or extract. Here are some common hyssop uses:
- For aromatherapy, diffuse or inhale 3–5 drops of hyssop oil.
- When used topically to treat skin irritations, burns, bruising and frostbite, dilute 2–3 drops of hyssop with equal parts of a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba oil) before applying to skin.
- To heal scars and wounds, add 2–3 drops of hyssop oil with equal parts coconut or jojoba oil and apply the mixture to the specific area twice daily.
- Add 3–5 drops of hyssop oil to warm bath water to stimulate sweating and lower body temperature.
- To reduce fever, massage two drops of hyssop oil and a teaspoon of coconut oil into your feet.
- To clear clogged respiratory system, add 2–3 drops of hyssop oil to my Homemade Vapor Rub recipe.
- To treat a cough, add one drop of hyssop oil to my Homemade Cough Syrup.
- As a fragrance, hyssop oil can be added to soaps, lotions and body washes.
- Can you eat hyssop? The fresh herb is commonly used in cooking, but the flavor is very strong, so it’s often steamed when making broths or soups. It can be added to salads in small amounts. The leaves have a lightly bitter taste due to its tannins and an intense minty aroma.
- For internal use, add 1–2 drops of hyssop to water and mix it with a smoothie. Only use very high-quality oil brands when used for consumption.
- Hyssop flower tops and leaves are steeped in water to make infusions and medicinal tea.
- The plant is commonly used by beekeepers to produce a rich and aromatic honey.
- The hyssop herb is used to flavor liqueur and is part of the official formulation of Chartreuse.
- To kill bacteria in the mouth, gargle 1–2 drops of hyssop mixed with water.
- To increase blood circulation and repair damaged heart cells, add 1–2 drops of hyssop oil, or dried hyssop leaves, to my Hot Heart Health Juice.
- Hyssop essential oil blends well with other essential oils such as geranium, lemon, clary sage, grapefruit, lavender, rosemary and orange.
Hyssop Tea Recipe
To make your own hyssop tea, follow these directions.
- Start by boiling two cups of water.
- Add two tablespoons of fresh hyssop leaves to the water
- Let it steep for 30 minutes.
You can make a bigger batch of tea and reheat it when needed.
Hyssop tea is a great way to relieve respiratory infections, the common cold and sore throat. It also helps regulate your digestive system and supports the immune system. You can even dab hyssop tea on your wounds, cuts and bruises to speed up the recovery process and minimize the look of dark spots and scars.
Possible Hyssop Oil Side Effects and Precautions
Hyssop is considered safe for most people in the amounts commonly found in foods and in medicinal amounts. It’s not safe to use hyssop during pregnancy because it might cause the uterus to contract or start menstruation, and these effects could lead to a miscarriage.
It’s not known whether hyssop is safe to use during breastfeeding, so avoid using it or speak to your doctor first. Do not give hyssop to children; convulsions were reported in a child who took 2–3 drops of hyssop oil over several days.
If you have a history of seizures, do not use hyssop because it may trigger seizures or make them worse. When using hyssop oil, do not exceed 30 drops a day because it’s a convulsant and may increase your risk of having a seizure.
Hyssop is also known to increase blood pressure, which can be beneficial to people with low blood pressure, but problematic for people who are trying to lower their levels.
- Hyssop essential oil comes from the hyssop plant (Hyssopus officinalis), which is a member of the mint family.
- What is hyssop oil good for? Respiratory conditions, parasites, infections, digestive trouble, acne, muscle pain and muscle spasms are some problems that top the list of hyssop benefits.
- It’s not hard to grow hyssop in your home garden so you can use the herb in salads, teas, homemade health products like natural vapor rub and cough syrup.
- Look for hyssop essential oil that is 100 percent pure, organic and therapeutic grade, especially if you’re looking to use it internally.
- Hyssop oil is not recommended for use in people who have a history of seizures or high blood pressure, or who are pregnant or nursing.