Hyssop Has a History

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Psalms 51.7

The fact that herbs have been used for hundreds, or even thousands, of years always reassures me and there are mentions of hyssop (hyssopsus officinalis) in plenty of historical writings, including the bible.  I have a pretty hyssop plant in my garden but admit that I only use it for making liqueurs (one of my favourite hobbies if you haven’t already guessed!) And I’m not alone in this. The Roman writer, Pliny, made a herbal liqueur called hyssopites, and Benedictine monks used the herb extensively in their liqueur making.  Today it is one of the herbs used in the secret recipe for Chartreuse.  I don’t have the Chartreuse recipe but do have this one which is pretty good served with soda water.

Hyssop has always been associated with lepers, as they rubbed the herb onto their skins to cleanse themselves of their disease and to protect others from being infected.  Research has since shown that a mould, which produces penicillin, grows on hyssop leaves explaining why hyssop was so effective.

The antibiotic effects are also well known to farm workers in the Mediterranean. Still today, injuries in the fields are treated with a poultice of crushed hyssop leaves and sugar to protect against tetanus and reduce swellings.

I planted my hyssop in a flower bed as it really is pretty.  It loves full sun and sandy soil.  In spring I cut it back by about a third to stop it becoming woody and to encourage new growth.  Apparently it can be used for cooking and the flowers can be added to salads.  I find the taste pretty awful, so try it before using!

It is a good respiratory herb and this hyssop syrup is worth making for coughs.

Cautions: Do not take in medicinal doses is pregnant or suffering from epilepsy

Botanical Name:  Hyssopus officinalis

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