Scientific Name(s): Hyssopus officinalis L.
Common Name(s): Ezov, Hyssop, Hyssopus
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 1, 2021.
Toxic effects of hyssop essential oil limit therapeutic applications. Hyssop has many traditional uses, but there are no clinical trial data supporting such uses.
No clinical evidence is available to determine hyssop dosing recommendations.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Avoid use. Adverse effects have been documented.
None well documented.
Information is limited; case reports of seizures exist.
- Labiatae (mint)
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 approximately 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.(Duke 2002, Khan 2010, USDA 2021)
A number of other common plants found in North America go by variations of the name "hyssop." These include giant hyssop (Agastache spp.), hedgehyssop (Gratiola officinalis L.), and waterhyssop (Bacopa spp.); none of these plants are members of the genus Hyssopus, nor are they all members of the family Lamiaceae.(USDA 2021)
In ancient times, the hyssop plant was used in religious rituals and as an insecticide, insect repellent, and pediculicide; however, there is little evidence that mentions of "hyssop" in the Bible actually refer to H. officinalis.(De Luca 2011, Duke 2002, Harrison 1954) The plant has been used in herbal medicine as an expectorant and for the treatment of sore throats, colds, and hoarseness. 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.(Duke 2002, Khan 2010)
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,(Khan 2010) primarily composed of pinocamphone, isopinocamphone, alpha- and beta-pinene, camphene, and alpha-terpinene.(De Martino 2009)
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%.(De Martino 2009, Khan 2010) Flavonoids with antioxidant activity have been identified.(Fathiazad 2011)
Uses and Pharmacology
Antibacterial and antiviral activities have been described for leaf extracts and the essential oil of hyssop. In vitro studies showed antibacterial activity against several human pathogens(De Martino 2009); however, the preservative effect of hyssop added to ground beef was limited.(Michalczyk 2012)
In vitro antiviral activity has been investigated against herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2(Koch 2008, Schnitzler 2007) and HIV,(Kreis 1990) with some studies suggesting the effect is limited to the viral envelope(Koch 2008) and hence ineffective against nonenveloped viruses such as human norovirus.(Kovač 2012)
In vitro and experimental data
The genoprotective activity of hyssop aerial parts suggests potential use as a possible functional food for oxidative stress–induced disease prevention.(Borrelli 2019)
H. officinalis has demonstrated good antioxidant activity; use as an alternative to nitrites as curing agents for pork products has been suggested.(Zając 2020)
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.(Ma 2014) 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 asthmatic mice treated with hyssop had reductions in mucus secretion and reductions in immunoglobulin E (IgE) and IgG similar to the improvements observed in the dexamethasone group.(Ma 2014)
Inhalation of hyssop essential oil demonstrated sedative effects in agitated (caffeine-stimulated) mice.(Lim 2005) Commercial preparations of hyssop essential oils produced convulsions in rats at 0.13 g/kg and death at 1.25 g/kg.(Millet 1981) In another rat model of pentylenetetrazole-induced tonic-clonic seizures, hyssop extract 100 mg/kg intraperitoneally was found to have anticonvulsant activity.(Gholami 2020)
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.(Matsuura 2004, Miyazaki 2003) A study of diabetic rats determined that H. officinalis exerts hypoglycemic potential via modulating C-fos, GSK-3beta, NF-kappa B, TNF-alpha, ABCA1, and ABCG1 gene expression and signaling pathways, suggesting a possible role in type 2 diabetes mellitus treatment.(Abdel-Megeed 2020)
Potential chemopreventive and immunostimulant in vitro effects are worthy of further investigations.(Venditti 2015)
No clinical evidence is available to determine hyssop dosing recommendations.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Hyssop has emmenagogue and abortifacient effects.Ernst 2002, Quattrocchi 2012
Reports are lacking.
Research reveals little information regarding adverse reactions with hyssop use. Hyssop oil was nonirritating to the skin in animal and human studies.(Khan 2010) Older case reports of seizures related to consumption of hyssop and sage oils exist.(Burkhard 1999, Millet 1981)
In rats, commercial preparations of hyssop essential oils produced convulsions at 0.13 g/kg and death at 1.25 g/kg. Case reports of seizures in adults and children exist. The neurotoxicity of hyssop appears to be related to 2 terpene ketones, pinocamphone and isopinocamphone; other monoterpenes with similar chemical structures, such as camphor, thujone, and cineole, are known to have epileptogenic properties.(Burkhard 1999, Millet 1981)
A study using hyssop in combination with other herbs in horse feed showed no differences in hematologic or biochemical parameters compared with placebo feed.(Pearson 2007)
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