Herb to Know: Hyssop

This easy-to-grow herb treats respiratory illnesses when put in teas.


| April/May 1995


Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a beautiful, well-behaved, easy-to-grow member of the mint family that deserves a place in any herb garden. Older plants form neat, rounded bushes 1 to 3 feet high; younger plants are looser in form. The stiff, erect, typically square stems bear opposite, linear, medium green leaves 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. Tufts of smaller leaves are borne in the leaf axils. Plants are evergreen where winters are mild. Clusters of six to fifteen violet-blue, pink, or white flowers in the upper leaf axils form dense spikes. The two-lipped, tubular corolla is 1/2 inch long and has four protruding stamens that match it in color. The calyx is tubular with five teeth. Plants bloom from summer to fall.

Some botanists recognize a subspecies, H. o. ssp. aristatus, which differs from the species in having bristlelike bracts instead of bladelike ones in the flower spike. The names nurserymen use are variable but generally do not conform to the botanical nomenclature. Cultivars offered for sale include H. o. ‘Rosea’ and ‘Pink Delight’ (pink), ‘Alba’ (white), and ‘Aristatus’ (dwarf). H. o. ‘Sissinghurst’ is a compact form (to 12 inches high) with blue flowers and slightly larger, brighter green leaves.

Native to southern Europe and Eurasia, hyssop came to North America with the early European colonists; the herb is listed among the seeds John Win­throp, Jr., brought to the New World in 1631. Over the years, it has escaped from gardens and is now naturalized at roadsides and in waste places here and there in North America from Quebec to Montana south to North Carolina. It is hardy in zones 3 to 10.

People perceive the odor of hyssop differently. It has been described variously as sweet, not sweet, skunky but not unpleasant, clean and aromatic with a hint of turpentine, medicinal, and minty/camphorous. Some European women are said to sniff hyssop flowers pressed in their psalm books to help them stay awake during church services.



In the “language of flowers”, hyssop symbolizes cleanliness and sacrifice, and it has been used since ancient times for ritual cleaning of holy places. (The hyssop referred to in the Bible, however, was most likely some other plant.)

Hyssop is a bee plant par excellence. Legend has it that beekeepers rubbed their hives with hyssop and other herbs to encourage bees to stay. Hyssop also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies; claims that it keeps cabbage butterflies away from crops or repels flea beetles have not been substantiated.







mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265