Hyssop is one of the bitter herbs mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. It was used to purify the temples. And the Romans used it to disinfect the houses of the sick, and to protect themselves against the plague.
Botanically named Hyssopus Officinalis, this brightly colored shrub ranges from roughly one to two feet tall. The base of the stem is woody and has many branches growing from it. The leaves are dark green in color and in the Spring they produce bunches of pink, blue, or (rarely) white, fragrant flowers. Under optimal weather conditions the herb hyssop is harvested twice yearly, at the end of Spring and again in the beginning of the Fall. The plants are usually flowering when harvested so that the flowing tips can be gathered. Once the stalks are cut and collected they are either hung for drying, or are stacked on pallets [to allow for drainage] and dried. After they are completely dried, about 6 days, the leaves are removed and the flowers and leaves are finely chopped. Once in this dehydrated form, the herb remains good for 18 months. The Hyssop plant is often planted by beekeepers to produce a rich and aromatic honey. The fresh herb, as well as its dried form, is commonly used in cooking. It has an intensely minty aroma and the leaves are used as an aromatic condiment. It is also used to flavor liqueur and is, in fact, part of the formulation for chartreuse. Essence of Hyssop can be obtained by steaming, and is used in cooking too, albeit to a much lesser extent.
The essential oil of Hyssop is made by steam distillation. It is a middle note, with a sweet, richly herbaceous, camphoraceous fragrance. The thjone and phenol in the plant, and the subsequent EO, give it strong antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. It also possesses astringent, caminative, cephalic, *cicatrizant, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypertensive, nervine, sedative, tonic, vermifuge, and vulnerary properties.
In the market place, hyssop is frequently used in mouthwash and eye drop formulations. In fact, the expectorant action of this oil can be put to good use during cold and flu season by adding it to a balm/rub, or by putting some in a diffuser. Aside from colds, coughs and flu, sore throats, asthma, and bronchitis, it can benefit conditions of dermatitis, eczema, fatigue, fevers, flatulence, indigestion, inflammation, leucorrhea, nervous tension, rheumatism, and wounds.
It should not be used during pregnancy, by those with high blood pressure, or by anyone with epilepsy. Hyssop has high concentrations of thujone and other chemicals that stimulate the CNS (central nervous system). These chemicals can provoke epileptic seizures when taken in high enough doses. Just how high is high enough is an unknown quantity, so best to stay away from this herb if you have any epileptic tendencies.