- For the biblical plant usually translated as hyssop, see Ezov.
|Herb Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis|
Hyssopus (Hyssop) is a genus of about 10–12 species of herbaceous or semi-woody plants in the family Lamiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to central Asia. They are aromatic, with erect branched stems up to 60 cm long covered with fine hairs at the tips. The leaves are narrow oblong, 2–5 cm long. The small blue flowers are borne on the upper part of the branches during summer. By far the best-known species is the Herb Hyssop (H. officinalis), widely cultivated outside its native area in the Mediterranean.
Note that anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum (also called blue giant hyssop), is a very different plant and not a close relation, although both are in the mint family. Anise hyssop is native to much of north-central and northern North America.
The name hyssop can be traced back almost unchanged through the Greek ύσσωπος (hyssopos). The name hyssop appears in some translations of the bible, but researchers have suggested that the Biblical accounts refer not to the plant currently known as hyssop but rather to one of a number of different herbs. The Septuagint translates the name as ὕσσωπος hyssop, and English translations of the Bible often follow this rendering. The Hebrew word אזוב (esov or esob) and the Greek word ὕσσωπος probably share a common (unknown) origin. The biblical plant is discussed further at ezov.
The seeds are sown in spring and the seedlings planted out 40–50 cm apart. Hyssop can also be propagated from cuttings or root division in spring or autumn. Hyssop should be grown in full sun on well-drained soil, and will benefit from occasional clipping. It is short-lived, and the plants must be replaced every few years. It is ideal for use as a low hedge or border within the herb garden.
Hyssop also has uses in the garden; it is said to be a good companion plant to cabbage because it will deter the Cabbage White butterfly. It has also "been found to improve the yield from grapevines if planted along the rows, in particular if the terrain is rocky or sandy, and the soil is not as easy to work as it might be." Hyssop is said to be antagonistic to radishes, and they should not be grown nearby. Hyssop also attracts bees, hoverflies, and butterflies, thus has a place in the wild garden as well as being useful in controlling pests and encouraging pollination without the use of unnatural methods.
Hyssop leaves can be preserved by drying. They should be harvested on a dry day at the peak of their maturity and the concentration of active ingredients is highest. They should be dried quickly, away from bright sunlight in order to preserve their aromatic ingredients and prevent oxidation of other chemicals. Good air circulation is required, such as an airing cupboard with the door left open, or a sunny room, aiming for a temperature of 20-32°C. Hyssop leaves should dry out in about six days, any longer and they will begin to discolor and lose their flavor. The dried leaves are stored in clean, dry, airtight containers, and will keep for 12–18 months.
Hyssop is used as an ingredient in eau de Cologne and the liqueur Chartreuse. It is also used to color the spirit Absinthe, along with Melissa and Roman wormwood. Hyssop is also used, usually in combination with other herbs such as liquorice, in herbal remedies, especially for lung conditions. The essential oils of hyssop can cause fatal convulsions in rats, and may not be as safe as most people believe.
Hyssop is also often used to fill the Catholic ceremonial Aspergillum, which the priest dips into a bowl of holy water, and sprinkles onto the congregation to bless them. To wit, the invocation in the Psalm Miserere states Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. However, the plant translated as hyssop in the bible is unlikely to have been Hyssopus.
Hyssop leaves have a slightly bitter minty flavour and can be added to soups, salads, or meats, although should be used sparingly, as the flavour is very strong.
- "Spotlight on Hyssop". Retrieved 2008-09-16.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1989, s.v. hyssop
- "Companion Gardening - compatible plants". Retrieved 2008-09-15.
- Hall, Dorothy (1976). The Book of Herbs. Macmillan. ISBN 0-330-24326-8.
- "How Absinthe is Made I - Absinthe Cultivation in Pontarlier". Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- "A history of the therapeutic use of liquorice in Europe". Retrieved 2008-09-15.
- "Herbs > Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)". Retrieved 2008-09-15.
- Millet Y, et al. (1979). "Experimental Study of the Toxic Convulsant Properties of Commercial Preparations of Essences of Sage and Hyssop". Rev Electroenceph Neurophys Clin 9 (1): 12.
- Millet Y, et al. (1980). "Study of the Toxicity of Essential Vegetable Oils: Hyssop oil and sage oil". Med Leg Toxicol 23: 9.
- Millet Y, et al. (1981). "Toxicity of Some Essential Plant Oils. Clinical and experimental study". Clin Toxicol 18 (12): 1485–98. doi:10.3109/15563658108990357. PMID 7333081.
- Hyssop, drugs.com
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hyssopus.|