Hyssopus officinalis

This article is about the species of plant usually known as hyssop. For other species in the same genus, sometimes called hyssop, see Hyssopus (plant). For the plant in the Hebrew Bible usually called hyssop, see Ezov.
1885 illustration[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Subfamily: Nepetoideae
Tribe: Mentheae
Genus: Hyssopus
Species: H. officinalis
Binomial name
Hyssopus officinalis
  • Hyssopus alopecuroides Fisch. ex Benth.
  • Hyssopus altissimus Mill.
  • Hyssopus angustifolius M.Bieb.
  • Hyssopus aristatus Godr.
  • Hyssopus beugesiacus Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus canescens (DC.) Nyman nom. inval.
  • Hyssopus caucasicus Spreng. ex Steud.
  • Hyssopus cinerascens Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus cinereus Pau
  • Hyssopus cretaceus Dubj.
  • Hyssopus decumbens Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus fischeri Steud.
  • Hyssopus hirsutus Hill
  • Hyssopus judaeorum Sennen
  • Hyssopus montanus Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus myrtifolius Desf.
  • Hyssopus orientalis Adam ex Willd.
  • Hyssopus passionis Sennen & Elias
  • Hyssopus polycladus Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus pubescens Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus recticaulis Jord. & Fourr.
  • Hyssopus ruber Mill.
  • Hyssopus schleicheri G.Don ex Loudon
  • Hyssopus torresii Sennen
  • Hyssopus vulgaris Bubani
  • Thymus hyssopus E.H.L.Krause
Hyssopus officinalis

Hyssopus officinalis or hyssop is a(n) herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Due to its properties as an antiseptic, cough reliever, and expectorant, it is commonly used as a medicinal plant.


Hyssop is a brightly coloured shrub or subshrub that ranges from 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in) in height. The stem is woody at the base, from which grow a number of straight branches. Its leaves are lanceolate, dark green in colour, and from 2 to 2.5 cm (0.79 to 0.98 in) long.[3]

During the summer, the plant produces bunches of pink, blue, or, more rarely, white fragrant flowers. These give rise to small oblong achenes.


Main article: Ezov

A plant called hyssop has been in use since classical antiquity. Its name is a direct adaptation from the Greek ὕσσωπος (hyssopos). The Hebrew word אזוב (ezov, esov, or esob) and the Greek word ὕσσωπος probably share a common (but unknown) origin.[4] The name hyssop appears as a translation of ezov in some translations of the Bible, notably in verse 7 of Psalm 51: "Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" (King James 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, including Origanum syriacum (Syrian oregano, commonly referred to as "bible hyssop").[5][6][7] I Kings iv. 33 mentions that 'ezov' was a small plant. It was burned with the Red Heifer (Num. xix. 6) and used for purification of lepers (Lev. xiv. 4, 6, 49, 51; comp. Num. xix. 18; Ps. li. 9), and at Passover it was used to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the doorposts(Ex. xii. 22).[8]

Hyssop was also used for purgation (religious purification) in Egypt, where, according to Chaeremon the Stoic, the priests used to eat it with bread in order to purify this type of food and make it suitable for their austere diet.[9]


The species as a whole is resistant to drought, and tolerant of chalky, sandy soils. It thrives in full sun and warm climates.

Cultivars include 'Blue Flower'.


Under optimal weather conditions, herb hyssop is harvested twice yearly, once at the end of spring and once more at the beginning of the fall. The plants are preferably harvested when flowering in order to collect the flowering tips.

Once the stalks are cut, they are collected and dried either stacked on pallets to allow for draining or hung to dry. The actual drying process takes place in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, where the materials are mixed several times to ensure even drying. Drying herbs are kept from exposure to the sun to prevent discoloration and oxidation. The drying process takes approximately six days in its entirety. Once dried, the leaves are removed and both components, leaves and flowers, are chopped finely. The final dried product weighs a third of the initial fresh weight and can be stored for up to 18 months.

Essential oil

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) essential oil

The essential oil includes the chemicals thujone and phenol, which give it antiseptic properties.[10] Its high concentrations of thujone and chemicals that stimulate the central nervous system, including pinocamphone and cineole, can provoke epileptic reactions.[11] The oil of hyssop can cause seizures and even low doses (2–3 drops) can cause convulsions in children.[12]


The fresh herb is commonly used in cooking. Essence of hyssop can be obtained by steaming, and is used in cooking to a lesser extent.

The plant is commonly used by beekeepers to produce a rich and aromatic honey.

Herb hyssop leaves are used as an aromatic condiment. The leaves have a lightly bitter taste due to its tannins, and an intense minty aroma. Due to its intensity, it is used moderately in cooking. The herb is also used to flavor liqueur, and is part of the official formulation of Chartreuse.

Herbal medicine

In herbal medicine hyssop is believed to have soothing, expectorant, and cough suppressant properties.[13] Hyssop can stimulate the gastrointestinal system.[14]


  1. Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany
  2. "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  3. Pérez Maté, P. (2002). Especies aromáticas y medicinales (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: INTA. .
  4. Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1989, s.v. hyssop
  5. Fleisher, A.; Fleisher, Z. (1988). "Identification of biblical hyssop and origin of the traditional use of oregano-group herbs in the Mediterranean region". Economic Botany. 42 (2): 232–241. doi:10.1007/bf02858924.
  6. R.K. Harrison (1954). "The Biblical Problem of Hyssop" (PDF). The Evangelical Quarterly. 26 (4): 218–224.
  7. http://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Origanum+syriacum
  8. "HYSSOP - JewishEncyclopedia.com". www.jewishencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-05-28.
  9. From Chaeremon's History of Egypt, as quoted by Porphyry, De Abstinentia IV.6.9.
  10. van Wyk, Ben-Erik; Wink, Michael (2004). Medicinal Plants of the World (1 ed.). Timber Press, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-88192-602-6., p 177.
  11. Pierre R. Burkhard; Karim Burkhardt; Charles-Antoine Haenggeli; Theodor Landis (1999). "Plant-induced seizures: reappearance of an old problem". J Neurol. 246: 667–670. PMID 10460442.
  12. Hyssop, WebMD
  13. Grieve, M. "Hyssop: A Modern Herbal". Botanical.com.
  14. Crellin, John; Philpott, Jane (1997). A Reference Guide to Medicinal Plants: Herbal Medicine Past and Present. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-1019-8.
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