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Hyssopus officinalis

In modern herbal medicine, the use of Hyssop has fallen out of fashion, though the ancients swore by it. Hyssop is a perennial herb of the mint family, but in northern climes it is not hardy and can be considered an annual. In Tudor times, Hyssop was a fashionable hedging plant, much used in the designs of knotted gardens. In those days it was highly appreciated for its fragrance, flavour and medicinal virtues. It became an important ingredient of Chartreuse and similar herbal liqueurs and is also one of the most important ingredients of 'Eau de Cologne'. But Hyssop's greatest claim to fame is the fact that it is frequently mentioned in the Bible, where its purifying virtues are highly praised. However, opinions differ as to the true identity of the biblical Hyssop. Some authorities believe there to have been a mistranslation of the word 'azob' (Greek) or 'azaf' (Arab), both of which simply mean 'Holy Herb', but which in the English translation became identified with Hyssop. Heated theological arguments prevail. Meanwhile, other myths spring forth: it is said that Hyssop was the sacred herb that was used to pass the vinegar soaked sponge to Christ at the crucifixion. Whatever the case may be, Hyssop is a powerful and valuable healing plant in its own right, whether or not it is indeed the biblical herb so revered by the ancients.

Hyssop is particularly recommended for treating conditions of the upper respiratory tract - to open a tight chest and make a cough more productive. It is a tonic for the pulmonary system and can be usefully employed to treat asthma, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and other conditions where deep seated and tough phlegm is hard to expectorate. Hyssop loosens the phlegm and liquefies it so it can be more easily expelled. Hildegard of Bingen mentions that it is stimulating for the liver and describes its use almost as a vegetable to benefit liver and stomach. It is sometimes used externally as a wash fro eczema and as an application for rheumatic joints. Most of Hyssop's power lies in its essential oil, which can be used medicinally for the same purposes. See essential oil of Hyssop. However, the oil is highly concentrated and should be avoided by those who have a feeble nervous system.

Hyssop oil can be used in cleansing waters to purify temple or ritual spaces. It is a powerful protection herb that keeps negative energies at bay. It can be used for aura cleansing and to consecrate magical tools.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.