Scientific Name(s): Hyssopus officinalis L.
Common Name(s): Ezov, Hyssop, Hyssopus
Hyssop is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean that has been imported to and naturalized in the United States and Canada. It grows along roadsides and is sometimes found as a garden herb, growing to about 0.6 m in height. Its thin pointed leaves extend onto a central herbaceous stem that is sessile in form. The small blue tubular flowers grow from the upper leaf axils and bloom from July to October. The fruit contains 4 nutlets, each having one seed, and the plant has an aromatic camphor-like scent.1, 2, 3
A number of other common plants found in North America go by a variation of the name "hyssop." These include giant hyssop (Agastache spp.), hedge hyssop (Gratiola officinalis L.), and water hyssop (Bacopa spp.); none of these plants are members of the genus Hyssopus, nor are they all members of the family Laminaceae.1
In ancient times, the hyssop plant was used as an insecticide, insect repellent, and pediculicide,3 and also in religious rituals; however, there is little evidence that mentions of "hyssop" in the Bible actually refer to H. officinalis.4, 5 The plant has been used in herbal medicine for the treatment of sore throats, colds, hoarseness, and as an expectorant.2, 3 Some herbalists also believe that hyssop has beneficial effects in asthma, urinary tract inflammation, lack of appetite, gas, and colic. Extracts of the plant have been used in perfumes and soaps, and to flavor liqueurs, sauces, puddings, and candies.2, 3
As a member of the mint family, hyssop contains a number of fragrant, volatile components. The plant contains up to 2% of a volatile oil,2 primarily composed of pinocamphone, isopinocamphone, alpha- and beta-pinene, camphene, and alpha-terpinene.6
Other constituents of the plant include glycosides (hyssopin as well as the flavonoid glycosides, hesperidin, and diosmine), tannin 5% to 8%, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, beta-sitosterol, marrubiin, and resins. Crude hyssop also contains rosmarinic acid 0.5% and total hydroxycinnamic derivatives 2.2%.2, 6 Flavonoids with antioxidant activity have been identified.7
Uses and Pharmacology
Antibacterial and antiviral activity has been described for leaf extracts and the essential oil of hyssop. In vitro studies showed antibacterial activity against several human pathogens6; however, the preservative effect of hyssop added to ground beef was limited.8
In vitro antiviral activity has been investigated against herpes simplex viruses 1 and 29, 10 and HIV,11 with some studies suggesting the effect is limited to the viral envelope10 and hence ineffective against nonenveloped viruses such as human norovirus.12
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of hyssop oil for antimicrobial effects.
Asthmatic mice treated with hyssop extract (0.04 g per 10 g) had decreased airway remodeling and fewer symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, anxiety, and cyanosis.13 A decrease in symptoms and changes in various disease marker proteins were similar to the group treated with dexamethasone. The same research group used the same treatments to examine immune effects and noted that hyssop-treated asthmatic mice had significant reductions in mucus secretion and reductions in immunoglobulin E (IgE) and IgG similar to the improvements seen in the dexamethasone group.14
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of hyssop oil for antiasthmatic effects.
Inhalation of hyssop essential oil was sedative in agitated (caffeine-stimulated) mice.15 Commercial preparations of hyssop essential oils produced convulsions in rats at 0.13 g/kg and death at 1.25 g/kg.16
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of hyssop for CNS effects, and case reports of seizures due to consumption of hyssop essential oil exist (see Toxicology).
Limited experiments suggest an extract of the dried leaves of hyssop contains glucopyranosides that appear to have alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity capable of reducing postprandial hyperglycemia.17, 18
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of hyssop for diabetes.
No clinical evidence is available to determine hyssop dosing recommendations.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Reports are lacking.
Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with hyssop use.
In rats, commercial preparations of hyssop essential oils produced convulsions at 0.13 g/kg and death at 1.25 g/kg, and case reports of seizures in adults and children exist.16, 21 The neurotoxicity of hyssop appears to be related to 2 terpene ketones, pinocamphone and isopinocamphone; although, other monoterpenes with similar chemical structures, such as camphor, thujone, and cineole, are known to have epileptogenic properties.14, 21
A study using hyssop in combination with other herbs in the feed of horses showed no differences in hematologic or biochemical parameters compared with placebo feed.22
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