Hyssop – characteristics, cultivation and use

purple hyssop flower
purple hyssop flower

The hyssop, a close relative of thyme, sage and other members of the mint family, is known mainly as an aromatic herb. But it is also a valuable medicinal plant with a wide range of uses. The plant is experiencing a renaissance as a spice and medicinal herb in recent years. It contains many active ingredients that are especially helpful for stomach and circulatory problems.

Profile of hyssop:

Scientific name: Hyssopus officinalis

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: June – August

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots

Location: sunny; sheltered from the wind

Soil quality: nutrient rich, calcareous and permeable soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: stomach and intestinal diseases, gingivitis, flu infections, nervousness

Use as aromatic herb: sauces, soups, fish dishes, game meat, poultry

Plant characteristics and classification of hyssop

Origin and occurrence of hyssop

The hyssop is native to southern and eastern Europe and was lastly introduced to Western Europe. However, it was already known in the early Middle Ages with the Teutons, where it was used as medicinal and condiment herb. The herbalist Hildegard von Bingen (12th century) also mentioned the herb, gave it great healing power and planted it in the monastic herb garden.

In the wild, you will find hyssop especially on dry, slightly calcareous soils on a sunny location.

Plant order of hyssop

Like many Mediterranean herbs, hyssop belongs to the mint family. The genus Hyssopus currently count about six species. In addition to the common hyssop, there are still some species that are found mainly in southern and eastern Russia.

Look and characteristics of hyssop

Plant

Hyssop is a perennial small subshrub with woody shoot axis that smells strongly aromatic. The popular herbs usually reach stature heights between 50 and 80 cm (20 and 32 in) and grows very bushy.

Leaves

The leaves are small, pointed, dark green and opposite each other. The blade length is rarely more than 5 cm (2 in). Its hollow, four-edged stems are occupied in contrast to the leaves with short glandular hairs.

Flowering

The flowers resemble the flowers of other member of the mint family such as thyme or savory. The heyday of is between June and September. The flowers are blue to purple and form so-called pseudospiklet (false ears). Most of the hyssop is recognizable by its characteristic, very aromatic or spicy fragrance.

Ripening

From the flowers form nut fruits. Each nut fruit is up to 3 mm (0.12 in) long and strikingly brownish.

Hyssop – cultivation and care

Location

Hyssop is relatively undemanding as a herb. It prefers a sunny spot, protected from the wind, also with other herbs in the herb bed or at the top of the herbal spiral. The herb is in good neighborhood with perennials such as bloody cranesbill and red coneflower and is a bee pasture.

Soil

Hyssop is a light feeder and grows on dry, well-loosened and slightly calcareous soil.

Cultivation and sowing

You can either sow hyssop or plant pre-cultured seedlings. From April, you can sow seeds with potting soil on the windowsill. They should be covered with soil only about half a centimeter (0.2 in). After germination, it is important to prick out the seedlings and plant in May at a distance of 25 x 25 cm (10 x 10 in) in the bed. Alternatively, you can also buy pre-cultured plants and put them directly into the bed.

Care

The hyssop needs almost no care, adding some compost is sufficient throughout the year. If the soil is low in lime, then some garden lime should be re-fertilized. As far as the plant is in the same location for several years, it is necessary to fertilize the soil a little more. Since the perennials are frost tolerant, they can be overwintered outdoors. However, the plant tolerates a vigorous pruning in the second half of spring or immediately after flowering, keeping the plant compact and in shape.

Harvesting

From hyssop, you can continuously harvest young shoots, the leaves as well as the flowers. The slightly bitter leaves can be used freshed to season salads, soups and meat, fish and potato dishes. They taste bitter and remind of camphor and sage. Do not cook the leaves, just add them just before serving, and use them sparingly – hyssop is very intense.

If not freshly used, the harvested plant parts should be dried slowly and gently.

Diseases ad pests

Due to its essential oils and fragrance, hyssop naturally repels pests and is resistant to disease. The herb can also be planted near plants that are often damaged by insectivore. The plant can naturally fight off pests. Especially caterpillars do not like the intense scent.

A hyssop plant
A hyssop plant

Hyssop and its use

For the hyssop there are a number of possibilities in the application. It can be used as a culinary herb for many dishes, as its flavor is versatile. It is also popular as a medicinal herb or aromatic herb.

Hyssop in the kitchen

For the kitchen both fresh and dried leaves can be used. In terms of taste, however, fresh herbs are preferable because they have more flavor and taste. Hyssop has a slightly bitter, camphor-like and spicy taste, which is usually reminiscent of a blend of oregano, rosemary and sage.

Hyssop should be used sparingly as it has a pretty strong taste. It is important that the herb is never cooked, as when heated, the flavors evaporate almost completely. It is recommended that the herbs be added to the dish after cooking and allowed to settle for a short time.

Hyssop herbs are ideal for salads, sauces and soups. Thus, potato dishes, mushroom dishes or fatty meat dishes can receive a refined touch. Often it is used for game meat and for fish dishes.

Hyssop harmonizes perfectly with wild garlic or garlic and spring onions, which can be mixed, for example, in home-made herb butter or seasoning mix for pasta recipes.

However, women should refrain from using hyssop during pregnancy as it is cramp-promoting in high doses due to the containing camphor.

Hyssop as a medicinal herb

Hyssop has been used for several complaints in the past. It has antispasmodic, appetizing, expectorant, antiperspirant and digestive properties. Hildegard von Bingen had described the herb as energizing and purifying. It is still used occasionally for gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation of the gums and in the mouth and throat. Likewise, it may relieve complaints of colds, such as runny nose or cough.

In the late Middle Ages and early modern times, the plant was a commonly used medicinal plant. It was used for stomach and intestinal complaints, against worm infestation, for cough, epilepsy or dropsy. Hyssop was mostly used as a broth, boiled in wine, as a tea or as a natural plaster.

Hyssop can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • bloating
  • bronchial asthma
  • chronic bronchitis
  • cold
  • gastrointestinal catarrh

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiperspirant
  • antispasmodic
  • appetizing
  • expectorant
  • menstruation promoting
  • promoting bile
  • slightly laxative

Hyssop as a medicinal herb is now used in the form of teas, ointments or spice in food.

Preparation of a hyssop tea

Time needed: 5 minutes

This is how to prepare a hyssop tea by yourself.

  1. put 1 teaspoon of the herb in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let steep for 5 minutes

  4. drink 1-3 cups a day

Side effects

Pregnant women, people with epilepsy and infants should not use hyssop. As a whole, hyssop, despite its promising potential, has not been sufficiently scientifically studied as a medicinal herb.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Hyssop – What to pay attention to?

Hyssop can be purchased as a plant, as a seed, as fresh and dried herb, as an oil and as an additive in some cosmetic products. Ready to go perennials can sometimes be found in large plant centers and of course online. If possible, only plants should be purchased, where the stem is already lignified. The price per plant is about 2 to 4 EUR/ $.

If you are looking for seed, you will find it at almost everywhere. The plant is not considered a rarity. The prices for 50 to 300 seeds are around 1.50 to 2.50 EUR / $.

You can buy dried hyssop powder from many herbalists and from some organic markets. The quality of these herbs is considered very good. For unknown brands, as usual, care should be taken to ensure that the herbs are stored in aroma-safe packaging.

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