Hyssop

Scientific names: Hyssopus officinalis

Common names: It should be noted that there are a number of other common plants found in North America that go by a variation of the name “hyssop.” These include giant hyssop (Agastache sp.), hedge hyssop (Gratiola officinalis), and water hyssop (Bacopa sp.). None of these plants are members of the genus Hyssopus.

Efficacy-safety rating:

Ò...Little or no evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Hyssop?

Hyssop is a perennial plant which is native to the Mediterranean region and has been imported and naturalized in the US and Canada. It grows along roadsides and is sometimes found as a garden herb. Hyssop is quite similar in appearance to other members of the mint family. Its volatile oil possesses a highly aromatic camphor-like smell.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Hyssop has been noted for centuries in herbal medicine. In addition, there are a number of references in the Bible to plants called “hyssop,” although there is considerable controversy regarding the actual identity of these plants. There is little evidence that the plant mentioned in Bible was actually “H. officinalis.”

The ancient use of this plant was an insecticide, insect repellent, and pediculicide (lice eradicator). Extracts of plant have been used as a fragrance in soaps and perfumes, and to flavor liqueurs, sauces, puddings, and candies.

Miscellaneous uses

The plant has been used in herbal medicine for the treatment of sore throats, colds, hoarseness, and as an expectorant. Some herbalists also believe that hyssop has beneficial effects for asthma, urinary tract inflammation, and appetite stimulation. Its effectiveness in relieving gas and colic also are listed under its medicinal uses. None of these uses have been studied clinically.

Although an extract of the leaves has been suggested for the treatment of wounds, there does not appear to be strong evidence for its effectiveness as an antibacterial.

Still used today by herbalists for its beneficial effects, hyssop's volatile oil represents the most important fraction of this plant. It may have some small beneficial effect in the treatment of sore throats and as an expectorant. However, clinical studies are lacking for any medicinal use of hyssop.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no clinical evidence for hyssop upon which dosing recommendations can be based.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Avoid use. Documented adverse effects. Hyssop has emmenagogue (to stimulate menstrual flow) and abortive effects.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

No data.

Toxicities

Hyssop is classified among plants “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” by the FDA; however, 3 recent studies demonstrate convulsant actions associated with the plant's use in rats.

References

  1. Hyssop. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 17, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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