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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Hyssop, as a herb, has been known since ancient times; today, hyssop essential oil has a number of uses and properties in the practice of aromatherapy.
Historical Use of Hyssop
It is important to distinguish between hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) in its use as a herb and hyssop in its use as an essential oil; as is the case of herbalogy and aromatology, the properties of a plant can differ, depending on the part of the plant used and how it is used.
It is also believed that hyssop as mentioned in the Bible, and in use as an ancient, medicinal herb, may in fact be a form of wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare/syriacum). However, it is also thought that Hyssop officinalis was used as a strewing herb and for purifying sacred places; the name hyssop is of Greek origin, originating from Hyssopos of Dioscorides (taken from azob, meaning holy herb).
Botanical Profile of Hyssop
Hyssop is native to the Mediterranean region and temperate parts of Asia; however, it is now found growing wild throughout Russia, America and Europe, where it is cultivated chiefly in Hungary and France. Hyssop is a perennial herb which grows up to 24 inches in height; it has purple-blue flowers, small, lance-shaped leaves and a woody stem.
Hyssop is of the plant family Lamiaceae; although there are also species of white hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis f.albus) and pink hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis roseus), hyssop essential oil is only extracted from blue hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). Hyssop essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves and flowers of the plant.
Use of Hyssop Oil in Aromatherapy
Hyssop essential oil is anti-infectious, digestive, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic, anti-viral, diuretic, sedative, expectorant, a tonic and carminative. It is used in aromatherapy in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, colds, influenza, emphysema, wounds, bruises, scars, eczema, anxiety, fatigue, stress and nervous tension.
Other Uses of Hyssop
Hyssop is used in the cosmetics and perfumery industry to fragrance perfumes, soaps and cosmetics; it is also used to flavor food products, such as seasonings and sauces, and in alcoholic drinks. The dried flowers of hyssop are used in potpourri and in flower arrangements. A tea can also me made from hyssop leaves and flowers to help with respiratory complaints; as a culinary herb, hyssop leaves are used to flavor soups and stews and hyssop flowers are used in salads.
Cautions For Using Hyssop Essential Oil
Hyssop essential oil should not be used in pregnancy, in epilepsy and by those who suffer from high blood pressure; hyssop contains the chemical component pinocamphone which makes it slightly toxic. Pinocamphone levels vary in hyssop essential oil, depending at what point in the season the plant was harvested; this may lower the level of toxicity present but it is still recommended to use hyssop essential oil only in moderation and with regard to the contra-indicated “risk” groups.
– Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons
– Lawless, Julia 2001 The Aromatherapy Garden UK: Kyle Cathie Ltd
This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Hyssop Essential Oil
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