Hyssop is a versatile perennial that has many uses.
You can prepare it as a tea or use it as a spice in various dishes.
Do you know what are its health benefits?
And how is it grown?
You will learn all this and much more in our article!
What is hyssop?
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is an evergreen perennial herb from the Lamiaceae family, cultivated for its aromatic leaves and flowers. It is used as a medicine, but it can also be used in the kitchen. Fresh or dried leaves are used, which have a distinct, slightly bitter, spicy taste and smell somewhat reminiscent of camphor.
Health benefits of hyssop
Hyssop has many positive effects on health. Its use includes the treatment of the following medical ailments:
- kills cancer cells
- helps with colds and sore throats
- supports digestion
- helps with liver problems
- fights against gall bladder disease
- cures ulcers
- helps with asthma treatment
- delays skin aging
- suppresses fat storage in the body
- it has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antiviral properties
- helps with intestinal pain
- has diuretic effects
- relieves menstrual cramps
- it also works locally for burns, bruises and frostbite
Adverse effects of hyssop
Even natural treatments can have unwanted side effects, and hyssop is no exception. This herb is believed to be relatively safe in normal amounts, but can cause some problems in high doses. Some people should avoid hyssop altogether.
Possible side effects include:
- allergic reactions
- vomiting at high doses
- it should not be consumed by people with epilepsy – it can increase the risk of seizures, especially at high doses
- pregnant women should also avoid it – it can cause uterine contractions and even miscarriage
Contraindications with drugs
Hyssop can interact negatively with some medications and dietary supplements. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using hyssop if you are taking any of the following medicines:
- anti-seizure medications or supplements
- diabetes medication
- supplements that alter blood sugar levels
- cholesterol-lowering medications or supplements
- antiviral drugs
- immunosuppressive drugs
What does hyssop look like?
Hyssop is a small perennial plant about 0.5 meters tall with thin woody square stems. Dotted narrow elliptical leaves are about 2 to 3 cm long and grow in pairs on the stem. Its flowers are blue, but hyssop with white flowers (Hyssopus officinalis Albus) and hyssop with pink flowers (Hysspus officinalis Roseus) have also been bred. The fruits later develop into small elongated achenes.
How to use hyssop in the kitchen?
Hyssop is most often used as a spice to flavor food and drinks, teas and liqueurs (such as absinthe). It has a strong taste, so it is recommended to use only a few fresh leaves and flowers in the dish.
Its leaves are added to vegetable salads, marinades for meat and also to soups, meat sauces or stuffing . A small amount of this fresh chopped herb or a pinch of dried hyssop goes well with peas, cabbage, red lentils, carrots, pumpkin and mushrooms and adds a unique flavor to fruit compotes, sauces, cakes, but also to desserts with a strong taste such as apricots, cherries, raspberries or peaches.
You can also sprinkle roasted vegetables, various dips, pasta dishes, lemon-roasted chicken or lamb with dried, crushed leaves. It also tastes great in combination with game .
Mix fresh, finely chopped hyssop leaves with butter and you have a great delicacy that can be served with meat and vegetables.
Hyssop flowers have a milder flavor than the leaves, so you can add them to salads as a pretty and tasty garnish .
This herb is one of 130 different herbs and flowers used by monks in Chartreuse, France to make a liqueur sold since 1840.
Hyssop has digestive properties and is often used as an ingredient in tonics .
You can also dry it and use it in the same way as its fresh version. Dried leaves and flowers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 18 months. Store fresh hyssop loosely wrapped in a bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
A strong tea made from the leaves and sweetened with honey is a traditional remedy for ailments of the nose, throat and lungs, and is sometimes applied externally to bruises. Honey made from hyssop pollen is considered particularly mild. The leaves contain an oil used by perfumers.
You will need:
- 1 tablespoon dried hyssop (or three tablespoons fresh)
- 230 ml of boiling water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of honey
How to do it?
- Pour boiling water over hyssop leaves and leave to infuse for 10 minutes in a covered container.
- Add lemon and honey.
- Drink slowly and inhale the steam from the tea deep into your lungs.
- You can repeat twice a day.
Using hyssop in recipes
Cultivation of hyssop
Hyssop grows in the Mediterranean, but also in the Caucasus and Siberia. It is only grown here. So let’s see together how to grow hyssop properly.
Where to plant hyssop?
Hyssop grows best in direct sunlight, but can also tolerate partial shade.
Plant hyssop in well-drained, compost-rich soil. Add aged compost or commercial organic potting mix. Hyssop grows best in soil with a pH of 7.0 to 8.0 – slightly alkaline.
When to plant hyssop?
Sow hyssop seeds indoors in early spring, just about a week before the last frost. Let it germinate under fluorescent lights – germination takes about 14 days. Then transplant it to the garden. You can place the seedling and container outside already in April, but leave it outside for whole days only in the second half of May. If you are planting hyssop directly outside in the flower bed, do it in the spring after the last frosts. Hyssop can be grown not only from seeds, but also by division or cuttings.
How to plant hyssop?
Sow the seeds about 0.6 cm deep and cover them lightly.
How to water and fertilize hyssop?
Allow the topsoil to dry out between waterings. Do not pour it over. Hyssop prefers dryness rather than excessive moisture. In the first year, water it more regularly so that it can take root well, in subsequent years, water it only when it is dry.
Fertilize hyssop early in the spring and then you can top it up a bit in the fall.
How to care for hyssop?
Remove spent flowers to extend bloom time and promote bushy growth. It is also worth cutting it to approx. 20 cm in the autumn so that it does not become woody.
How to harvest hyssop?
Harvest hyssop leaves whenever needed before the plant blooms. They can be collected even in winter, because hyssop is green even at this time of the year. Collect the flowers when they are three-quarters open. They are mostly collected in June and July. Collect the flowers in the morning when the dew has dried.
When harvesting a small number of leaves, cut off parts of the stem for immediate use, then remove the leaves from the stem. If you want to dry the leaves or flowers, cut off the whole branches.
History of hyssop
Native to the northern Mediterranean coast and parts of the Middle East, hyssop has been used since ancient times and was once considered a panacea for various ailments. As a natural medicine, it was prescribed by pharmacists to alleviate respiratory problems, digestive problems and rheumatism. The leaves were used for tinctures and ointments for wounds or bruises. It is said that European women sniffed dried hyssop flowers that they pressed into their psalm books to keep them awake in church. Hyssop was introduced to the New World by colonists in 1631.
Many believe that the name Hyssop was derived from the Hebrew word “Aesob” meaning holy herb and also from the Greek word “Hysoppus”. It is said that centuries ago the herb was used to purify sacred places.