Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Hyssopus officinalis L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis L., is a perennial subshrub native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean region, and temperate Asia and naturalized in the United States. Sometimes classified as Hyssopus aristata Godr. or Hyssopus vulgaris Bubani, hyssop is produced commercially in France and several other European countries. The plant reaches a height of 0.5 to 1 meter and bears small blue flowers on a terminal spike.

The reported life zone of hyssop is 7 to 21 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.6 to 1.5 meters (4.1-31). The plant grows on dry, rocky, calcareous soils. Traditionally, hyssop seedlings are transplanted into the field with the first harvest occurring two years later, immediately after bloom.

The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation. The oil contains pinocamphone, isopinocamphone, -pinene, -pinene, camphene, -terpinene, pinocampheol, 1,8-cineole, linalool, terpineol and other compounds (1.2-56, 2.1-68). Hyssop oil may be adulterated with spike, lavandin, lavender, rosemary, and camphor oils (14.1-8).

The flowering tops and leaves of hyssop are used as flavoring agents in such beverages as teas, tonics, and bitters, and to a limited extent in vegetable dishes, soups, salads, and candied products. The essential oil is used in liqueurs, perfumes, soaps, creams, and other cosmetics. The erect growth habit and showy flowers make hyssop a favorite ornamental plant which is also attractive to bees.

As a medicinal plant, hyssop has been used as a carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic, and tonic. Leaves have been used as a poultice to remove discoloration around bruised eyes and as a remedy for asthma, rheumatism, sore throats, wounds, ulcers, and tumors (11.1-96, 14.1-16).

Several varieties, differing in flower color and leaf shape, exist; alba (white flowers), grandiflora (large flowers), rosea (rose flowers), and rubia (red flowers) are commercially available (14.1-4). Hedge hyssop refers to the perennial Gratiola officinalis L., a medicinal and potentially poisonous plant of the Scrophulariaceae family. Giant hyssop refers to several perennial Agastache species of the Lamiaceae family (14.1-4).

Hyssop is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a natural flavoring and plant extract/essential oil (21 CRI sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997