Hyssop is an expectorant and antispasmodic herb, helping to suppress coughs and help clear the lungs of phlegm. Its expectorant qualities come from the active ingredient marubiin – which has been established to loosen phlegm, making it easier to cough up.
A 2019 double blind study of 46 children examined the influence of an herbal mixture including Hyssop (along with chamomile, marshmallow root, malva, liquorice, jujube date and maidenhair fern) on intermittent asthma. At the onset of cold symptoms, the children were either given the herbal blend for five days, or placebo. The herbal blend was found to reduce the onset of viral respiratory tract infection, reduced cough, and waking up in the middle of the night.1
Its fresh, minty properties also make Hyssop and excellent herb for clearing the stuffy head that so often accompanies the common cold.
There is a popular recipe for Hyssop Oxymel which is a blend of Hyssop, Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar. This can be used as a home made cough syrup and cold/flu remedy.
Hyssop is known to stimulate digestion by increasing the production of digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bile. A healthy digestive system is the key to optimum health. It is here that nutrients are assimilated or discarded, and the food that we eat converted into that all important energy to fuel the body through life.
By stimulating the production of the key compounds needed for healthy digestion, Hyssop also boosts nutrition uptake.
The antispasmodic properties of Hyssop are also effective at relieving digestive cramps and flatulence.
Classed as a “vermifuge”, Hyssop fights parasites such as tapeworms, hookworms, fleas and flukes. Cleansing parasites from the body is important as they feed off the host, disrupting nutrient absorption and can weaken the immune system.
Hyssop is often one of the key ingredients in a parasite cleanse and blends well with other anti-parasitic herbs.
Hyssop tea might offer blood sugar-lowering benefits, according to a test tube study published in the January 2004 issue of the journal "Phytochemistry". Researchers identified antioxidant compounds Hyssop leaves that inhibit activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks starch into sugar.
Another study published in the October 2003 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition Science and Vitaminology" found that Hyssop extract administered before a high-carbohydrate meal prevented a spike in blood sugar by inhibiting carbohydrate digestion. Researchers concluded that Hyssop may be useful as a supplement for managing elevated blood sugar levels.2
Folklore and history
The name Hyssop is of Greek origin, from azob (holy herb), derived from its use for cleansing sacred places. The Bible mentions Hyssop several times, mostly in the Old Testament. In Leviticus, God commanded his people to use Hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses.
The Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed the herb in tea for "cough, wheezing and shortness of breath" and the German abbess/herbalist St Hildegard of Bingen wrote that "Hyssop cleanses the lungs". 17th century herbalist and physician Nicholas Culpeper said of Hyssop that "it expelleth tough phlegm and is effectual for all griefs of the chest and lungs". He also states that "it killeth worms in the belly".
Jewish priests used Hyssop to clean their temples and other places of worship and for many centuries in Europe Hyssop leaves were a favoured "strewing herb". Strewing herbs were used to freshen the air at a time when people rarely bathed, and farm animals often shared human living quarters. When bathing became popular and strewing ceased Hyssop was still placed in scent-baskets in sickrooms.
Hyssop is a sweet-smelling herb that is a member of the mint family. Its beautiful blue, pink, purple and white flowers are often planted by gardeners to attract bees and butterflies.
As a medicinal herb, Hyssop has a long history of use and is mentioned as a purifying herb in the bible. The Romans drank Hyssop infused wine as a digestive aid and herbalists used it as a remedy for respiratory conditions, as an appetite stimulant and an anti-inflammatory.
An old country remedy that is still in use for rheumatism is to brew a tea out of the fresh green tops of Hyssop and drink several times a day.
The chief constituents of Hyssop include cineole, limonene, sabinene, camphene, alpha and beta pinene, thujone, myrcene, gamma terpineol and pinacamphone.