Monday, February 21, 2011

Hyssopus officinalis - Hyssop...Magical Purifier?

Hyssopus officinalis - Hyssop, The name is of Greek origin. The Hyssopos of Dioscorides was named from azob (a holy herb), because it was used for cleaning sacred places. It is alluded to in the Scriptures: 'Purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be clean.'  In religious paintings, Hyssop represents humility, it is also believed to be the plant used to sprinkle holy water during  Hebrew purification ceremonies

This is an herb of great antiquity.  It was frequently mentioned in the Bible from Moses through John.  It is also mentioned in Arab literature. The Greeks used it as a cough remedy.  The herb was cultivated in Europe mainly for its essential oil. It was also grown in gardens for ornament.  It was used as flavouring for salads and soups and Hyssop oil was used in bitters and tonics, especially in French liqueurs of the Chartreuse and Benedictine type.  It's oil was also used in making perfumes with a spicy odor.

It is a bushy evergreen herb, native to Southern Europe. It grows 1 to 2 feet high with a square stem that is woody at the base, from which grow a number of straight branches. Its leaves are lanceolate, dark green in color and it produces spikes of small pink, blue, and more rarely, white fragrant flowers.

The plant has a sweet scent and a warm, bitter taste. A strong tea made of the leaves and sweetened with honey is a traditional remedy for nose, throat, and lung afflictions and is sometimes applied externally to bruises.

In the European Middle Ages Hyssop was a stewing herb; its modern uses are for flavouring meats, fish, vegetables, salads, sweets, and liqueurs such as absinthe. Honey made from hyssop pollen is considered especially fine.

Historically, lepers were required to cleanse themselves with hyssop before they were allowed to receive visits from healthier relatives. More recently, it has been discovered that hyssop leaves can sometimes grow the type of mold which produces penicillin, making it an effective antibiotic.

CAUTION:  Diabetics should not take hyssop internally.

Hyssop is used in the treatment of lung inflammation, sore throats and laryngitis. It can be particularly beneficial to individuals who are required to use their voice, such as lecturers, public speakers or singers, as it also soothes tired vocal cords.

Hyssop is used as an expectorant, diaphoretic, stimulant, pectoral, and carminative. The healing virtues of the plant are due to a particular volatile oil, which is stimulative, carminative and sudorific. It promotes expectoration, and in chronic catarrh its diaphoretic and the stimulant properties combine to render it of great value. It is usually given as a warm infusion, taken frequently and mixed with Horehound. 

Hyssop Tea, brewed with the green tops of the herb, is also a great tonic that improves the tone of a weak stomach. The tops are also boiled in soup to help with asthma. An infusion of the leaves is used externally for the relief of muscular rheumatism, and also for bruises and discoloured contusions, and the green herb, bruised and applied, will heal cuts promptly.

Hyssop grows from seed, which should be planted in spring. It grows very quickly, and requires very few special conditions. Its only real requirement is plenty of sunshine, without which it will not flower.

The small white butterflies which eat cabbages in the garden can be lured away by a few hyssop plants growing nearby. The butterflies will always choose the hyssop over the cabbages, particularly if the Hyssop is in flower.

In addition, Hyssop flowers will coax bees into the garden, and its roots cleanse the soil and discourage soil pests. It should not be planted near radishes, however, as the two are incompatible and the hyssop will cause the radishes to have little flavour.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am looking for a hyssop plant and can't seem to find anyone that sells them except from the UK. Do you know where I can buy a plant in the next week or so.
Thanks so much!!!