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Hyssop – Growing, Harvesting & Health Benefits

I guess a hyssop is an unusual herb, but more commonly used as a flowering perennial that can self seed and clump to fill any space. We inter-plant ours with borage and echinacea for a perfect country cottage look, that is also edible.

Hyssop Hyssopus Officinalis is an evergreen plant suitable to fill borders or large containers. This herb is perfect when the leaves and flowers are used in salads. Hyssop is in the Lamiaceae or mint family, loving full or partial sun with well draining soil.

How To Grow Hyssop From Seed

  1. If sowing directly outside, make sure to dig the soil through with rich organic matter. You will need good drainage but the hyssop plant will put down long tap roots so double dig.
  2. Sow seeds directly outside around 10 weeks before the last frost. This can really vary year on year, but you wan the hyssop seeds to go through that freeze and awaken process known as stratification. It will allow them to leave their dormant period and germinate.
  3. Rake the soil over and sow seeds thinly about 10cm apart. Cover with a very fine layer of soil, about 1/4 inch and then we use a portable bird cage to stop the seeds from being eaten. It is important that you don’t use a portable greenhouse to prevent the seeds being eaten as it may prevent the seeds from getting a frost.
  4. About 14-21 days later germination will take place.
  5. Once they have true leaves on them thin them out further to around 30cm apart.
  6. Hyssop is a perennial but you will also find that it self seeds wonderfully. If you do not want that to occur, wait until flowering has ended and cut back quite hard. This will create a bushier shrub and the following year you will get a much thicker covering of flowers.
  7. In the fall of the second year you will be able to happily create new plants by division. Using a sharp spade and cutting between plants to leave one half in the original spot and to replant the other.
  8. You can follow this process for container grown hyssop as long as you allow for a large enough container for that long taproot.
Hyssop young plant.
You can see the pointed leaves and the young buds emerging at about July time in the UK.

How To Harvest & Store Hyssop Leaves & Flowers

  1. Cut stems mid morning to avoid harsh afternoon sun destroying the essential oils, but to also allow enough time for morning dew to dry off naturally.
  2. Hang them loosely in small bunches in a cool, dark but airy room. We have a wood shed that doubles as our herb drying area.
  3. 2-3 weeks later the leaves should be brittle to the touch. If they have not dried out fully, check for damp or mold and then leave for a few more weeks.
  4. Once the leaves are dried out, remove them and finely chop. We then use a mortar and pestle to crush them down further. You can use the herbs in a cheese cloth pouch in cooking or teas or keep it fine and add to dishes as a herb mix.
  5. You can harvest leaves individually and freeze them. Simply pop them into a zip lock bag individually and they will be easy enough to separate when you want to cook with them.
  6. Frozen or as dried herbs you can still add the leaves to herbal teas or cooking and the flavor is retained very nicely.
bees on a purple hyssop flower

What does Hyssop taste like?

If we are going to harvest hyssop we need to learn about it’s taste profile. For me it helps to remember that it sits within the mint family but more on the floral side. Bitter in profile, but with those lighter notes. The leaves have a lovely texture, making them ideal for salads. The flowers add a subtle almost lavender flavor to ice cubes for cocktails or for a lift of color in salads. There is an anise undertone that reminds me of root beer, not a very sophisticated taste palate I know, but the licorice taste is very floral and easy to enjoy.

Hyssop leaves are perfect in herbal teas. Steeped in boiled water the leaves release a lot of their health benefits without a diminished return on flavor.

Possible Health Benefits Of Hyssop

These are more historical and old usages for herbal remedies. Certainly not recommended over modern medicines. So if you are struggling with your health seek medical advice from a health professional and eat a healthy diet which may include hyssop leaves and flowers in small quantities. We have seen that herbs have such intense quantities of nutrients that if we mix and match in a salad then we can get a great range of health benefits.

Here is a list of what hyssop is used for, however this is no replacement for seeking further medical advice.

  1. Hyssop has been taken for coughs as it was though that as a member of the mint family it is used to clear throats. Taken as a herbal tea, hyssop is tasty and can be gargled.
  2. The Common cold can be treated with hyssop, just to relieve symptoms and this is also linked to the idea of the mint element.
  3. Respiratory infections can be treated with hyssop, however this is very much a secondary to full medical treatment. The time when this was a popular treatment was before modern science and the idea behind it was that essential oils contain a very concentrated amount of nutrients.
  4. Those suffering with mild asthma can use hyssop to alleviate the symptoms, mainly the idea behind it is to relax the muscles. Again this is very much something that I am highlighting as having no body of research to evidence this link. It would be from an ancient tradition that this connection was made. Asthma should be treated by a specialist at all times.
  5. Historically essential oil from hyssop was used to treat gall bladder issues. This is not to say that you should rely on an essential oil to cure illness, but it has been linked to relieving associated symptoms.
  6. Hyssop essential oil has been used to treat intestinal pain, perhaps because of the anti-inflammatory qualities.
  7. Drinking a hyssop herbal tea has been used to help with loss of appetite. Due to its stimulant benefits the production of bile and gastric juices are increased. This can lead to increase in appetite and an aid to digestion.
  8. Poor Circulation linked to conditions such as arthritis has been treated with hyssop essential oils. The link to using this herbal remedy for inflammatory pains has also been seen. As ever a herbal remedy is no substitute for modern medical treatment, but more as a supplement, do inform your medical practitioner that you are using this alongside their treatment.
  9. For those who struggle with Menstrual Cramps hyssop oil is thought to bring on the bleeding and hence ease the cramping. This has led to the warning for those who are pregnant as it is linked to possible miscarriage. So it is advised to avoid using hyssop extract or essential oils if you fall pregnant.

What Next?

Grow your own hyssop in borders or use it to fill any gap in the garden, in pots or the ground. The worse that will happen is you have a few leaves to add to a salad a few times a year.

Hyssop flowers do dry well and retain their color! Making them the perfect herb flower to add to homemade wreaths or dried flower arrangements.

If you want to go into making herbal teas then you are pretty much promised a perfect cuppa of light minty, lavender aniseed mixed together. The health benefits will come through.

If you are seeking a herbal remedy to any of the conditions above, do please first seek medical treatment and then use herbal teas or essential oils as a supplement to any treatments.

Further Reading

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