Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a semi-evergreen, shrubby perennial native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family with characteristic flowers and stems and is very aromatic as many members of its family tend to be.
Hyssop in the Garden
Hyssop likes a sunny site with well-drained soil. It does not tolerate excessive moisture. Other than that, hyssop is not a picky plant and is quite easy to grow in zones 4-9. This is a low maintenance plant, ideal for cottage gardens and butterfly gardens.
Hyssop can be grown from cuttings, division or from seed. The seed germinates quite quickly. Hyssop can be successfully grown in large containers.
Hyssop is a tall plant with an upright, somewhat untidy habit that tops with impressive flowers, usually blue or purple. If you cut the flowers that bloom in summer, you (and your honeybees) will be treated to a second round in the fall. After its final fall flowering, feel free to cut it back severely. It will return in spring.
Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love hyssop, which lends a nice flavor to honey if grown near a hive. As it has a long flowering season, it is a good plant to grow near fruit trees to keep the pollinators nearby between your fruit trees bloom.
Varieties of Hyssop
Related plants anise hyssop is an unrelated plant worth knowing.
Hyssop in History and Folklore
Some Alternative / Folk Names for Hyssop: Hyssop Herb, Isopo, Ysopo, Yssop
The name hyssop comes from the Greek ύσσωπος hyssopos which means, hyssop. The name has remained unchanged from ancient times. Its origin in unknown.
Hyssop has historically been used as a fragrant strewing herb to freshen homes, particularly in kitchens and sick rooms to repel pests. It was believe to protect against the plague, and perhaps it did.
Hyssop has also been used to purify sacred space and for sacrificial and purification rites and is mentioned in the Bible several times in this capacity, although there has been some doubt as to whether the Biblical hyssop is indeed the same as the plant we now know as hyssop.
“Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” – Psalm 51
“And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip [it] in the blood that [is] in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that [is] in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.” -Exodus 12:22
“Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive [and] clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:” – Leviticus 14:4
In ancient Egypt, priests used hyssop to purify their food.
Hyssop in Healing
Hyssop flowers should be collected for healing use within a few days of opening on a warm day, early in the morning, just after the dew has dried. Cut them and spread them on a screen or hang upside down to dry.
These flowers make a pleasant tea that stimulates and aids digestion and can be used as a cough suppressant and expectorant to treat upper respiratory infections.
Hyssop can also be used as a mouth wash or eyewash. It has mildly antibacterial properties.
Hyssop Around the House
Hyssop is a wonderful, fragrant addition to bath teas with healing and purifying properties.
Hyssop is also a wonderful addition to potpourri.
Hyssop in the Kitchen
Fresh leaves of hyssop can be used as a culinary herb.
Its strong, minty flavor and aroma make it a valuable addition to liquors. It is part of the formula for Chartreuse and can be found in some absinthe recipes.
Hyssop in Magick and Ceremony
Branches of hyssop can be used to sprinkle water when asperging people or sacred space or to sprinkle water around an area as part of a protective ritual. Try using it to sprinkle holy water around your home during your home cleansing ritual. Alternatively, it can be burned as a fumigant for this purpose, if you prefer.
Hearth Witches may wish to infuse hyssop into your wash water to cleanse your floors, windows, and door jams to clear away negative energy and curses and to prevent more negativity from entering.
Hyssop can be carried or worn to protect from negativity. It can be added to protective sachets for this purpose or infused into a liquid and applied to the skin.
Hyssop is associated with dragons and it is said that burning it will assist your interactions with them.
Toxicity and Warnings for Hyssop
Hight doses of hyssop can cause convulsions in adults. In children, very low doses can cause convulsions.
People should not take hyssop with epilepsy or any history of seizures. Hyssop should not be used while pregnant (may cause miscarriage) or breastfeeding (to be safe).
(Small amounts of hyssop used in seasoning foods are considered safe.)
Other Great Sources of Information
Bible Plants from Old Dominion University’s Plant Site