The Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis L.) is a suffrutive, bushy, evergreen plant with erect branched stems used since remote times for its particular properties.
Origins and History –
Hyssop is a plant native to southern Europe and western Asia that grows spontaneously mainly in the mountain areas of northern Italy up to 1200 m above sea level.
Since ancient times it has always been considered a sacred plant. At the time of the ancient Romans it was used against the plague and as a disinfectant.
The plant is mentioned in the Bible in at least two cases: “..Purify me with the Hyssop and I will be a world, wash me and I will be whiter than the snow”. However, not all authors agree with the correspondence of this species mentioned, to Hyssopus officinalis.
In another passage of the Bible it is said that this plant was used to mark the doors of families with the blood of lamb that the exterminating angel had to save during the exodus from Egypt.
In the New Testament it is written that the plant was used to skewer a sponge soaked in vinegar with which to give Jesus a drink.
Hyssop therefore enjoys a very ancient reputation, as it was also used to purify sacred places, as well as as an aspersoria herb.
In past centuries, the hyssop, in addition to being used as a medicinal plant, was used to obtain a perfumed powder to be put in the linen.
In Persia distilled water, obtained from the plant, is used as a cosmetic, as it has the reputation of making the skin shiny.
The hyssop is an officinal herbaceous plant belonging to the Lamiaceae family with a bushy habit that grows spontaneously and can reach 50 cm in height.
It has leaves, without petiole, which can be glabrous or pubescent, opposite, small and lanceolate.
It has a collated root. The flowers are gathered in apical spicastri and, according to the types, they can be purple, pinkish-white, blue or pink. Hyssop blooms from June to August.
The fruit is a tetrachenium.
It is a milliferous plant, interesting for the abundant production of very aromatic nectar.
There are several varieties that differ from each other in the color of the flowers:
Hyssopus officinalis var. alba, with white flowers
Hyssopus officinalis var. rosea, with pink flowers
Hyssopus officinalis var. rubia, with red-violet flowers.
Hyssop is grown exclusively for its therapeutic properties. Harvesting takes place during the flowering period, usually in June.
Active principles –
Hyssop contains terpenoids with pharmaceutical properties such as ursolic acid and oleanolic acid. Other compounds present in the plant are pinene, geraniol, borneol, a bitter substance called marrubine, camphene, thujone, limonene and fellandrene.
Other compounds that have been identified are essential oil, caffeic acid, tannins, resins, linalool, alpha and beta-pinene.
Properties and Uses –
As mentioned, hyssop is attributed with balsamic, bronchodilator and expectorant properties; for this reason – although its use has not obtained official approval for any type of therapeutic indication – it is not uncommon for this plant to be included in the composition of food supplements recommended to promote the well-being and functionality of the airways.
In addition, stimulant, tonic and eupeptic properties are also ascribed to hyssop.
Most of the aforementioned activities are attributable to the essential oil contained in the plant; however, this oil must be used with caution as it contains neurotoxic ketones with epileptogenic and convulsant activity.
Finally, the extracts of the hyssop leaves have also shown to have antibacterial, antiviral (in particular, against Herpes simplex) and mildly spasmolytic activity.
The infusion or decoction prepared with hyssop flowers and leaves is used to bring benefits to lung problems and respiratory tract. Useful against colds, bronchitis, phlegm and asthma.
The plant has sweat properties. A compress made with leaves and flowers, placed directly on the chest, has expectorant properties on the phlegm.
When applied to wounds, essential oil prevents infections and speeds up healing.
Hyssop essential oil is useful for stimulating different parts of our body including the digestive system. This, thanks to hyssop, manages to better absorb nutrients.
Thanks to its sweat properties, the plant is also used to lower fever.
It can be used for the treatment of boils and acne but also to bring benefits in case of insect bites.
Traditionally this herb is used as herbal tea or infusion but it is also found in the form of capsules or extract.
It can also be used to bring benefits in case of menstrual pain.
Hyssop is used in homeopathy. The amount of homeopathic remedy to be taken can vary greatly from individual to individual, also according to the type of ailment that needs to be treated and according to the type of homeopathic preparation and dilution to be used.
Like all plants, hyssop can also cause allergic reactions. It is always better to try a small dose first to be able to observe its effects in advance. If skin rashes, swelling of the skin or tongue or difficulty in breathing are noted, medical advice should be sought immediately.
In some rare cases – following ingestion by adult patients of 10-30 drops of essential oil for several consecutive days – tonic-clonic crises have occurred.
In any case, it is good to avoid the use of hyssop in case of ascertained hypersensitivity to one or more components.
In addition, the use of hyssop and its preparations is also contraindicated in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
The essential oil, as mentioned, contains pinocanfone, a ketone that can cause seizures and convulsions if taken in excessive doses. It is therefore not recommended to take essential oil in high doses and for more than ten days. Not recommended in pregnancy.
In addition to its aromatic properties, hyssop is also used as a garden plant to create small hedges.
Its leaves are used in the kitchen, preferably those collected just before flowering.
These have better aromatic properties. Its taste is bitter and reminiscent of mint. It can be used to cook meat or it can be added to soups and salads.
It can be kept dry and, if closed tightly, maintains its properties for a year and a half. The leaves and the flowering tops are left to dry in ventilated rooms or in stoves at temperatures no higher than 40 ° C.
The dried parts are then subjected to beating, sieving and beating in order to obtain the right size for the herbal tea cut to be used inside herbal teas or infusions.
It is one of the ingredients of cologne.
Among the various preparations and most widespread uses, please note:
– Two drops of essential oil added to the hot bath water help to relax the body and mind.
– Three drops of hyssop oil, added to a carrier oil, can be used for massaging painful muscles. The same compound, rubbed on the stomach, brings benefits in case of gastrointestinal problems.
– Two drops added to a body cream make the scars less visible.
Essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and flowering tops.
The yield in essential oil is about 0.3% on green and 0.9% on dry matter. The essential oil content is higher in the basal leaves than in the apical ones.
A mother tincture can also be prepared with the hyssop. It is prepared by leaving the flowering tops of Hyssop to macerate inside a 65 ° alcoholic alcohol solution for about a month.
Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.