There are a wide variety of plants known by the name “hyssop,” from hedge hyssop to capers to anise hyssop. However, true hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis, is an edible member of the mint family that’s been used in a wide variety of foods, drinks, folk remedies, and even perfumes. Compared to other plants known as hyssops, true hyssop is safe to eat and is found in a variety of spice mixes and foods.
Hyssop plants look like a smaller form of lavender, with spikes of blue flowers that smell slightly minty. Tea made from true hyssop has been used to help treat coughs, earaches, asthma, and bloating. Today, studies are beginning to back up some of these age-old folk remedies, showing that hyssop offers some impressive health benefits.
The nutrients and essential oils in hyssop can offer some helpful health effects. For example, hyssop is rich in flavonoids, flavorful compounds that can act as antioxidants. Eating foods rich in flavonoids may help reduce your risk of age-related conditions like cataracts, heart disease, and strokes.
In addition, true hyssop may provide health benefits like:
Ulcers have a number of causes, but there are two particular chemicals linked to ulcer creation: urease and α-chymotrypsin. Studies have shown that hyssop extracts seem to inhibit these chemicals, or stop them from forming ulcers. By adding small amounts of hyssop to your diet, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing uncomfortable stomach ulcers.
Several studies have suggested that hyssop’s traditional use for treating symptoms of asthma and head colds may actually have an effect. These studies have compared hyssop to other herbal and non-herbal methods of treating asthma symptoms and found that hyssop was one of the most effective natural substances. This may be because hyssop contains pinocamphone, which is a slightly toxic chemical related to camphor that is known to help open airways. However, in case of an asthma attack, always take your prescribed medications first.
The antioxidants in hyssop aren’t just good for reducing your risk of age-related conditions. They may also help lower your risk of cancer. Eating foods rich in antioxidants is connected to a lower risk of certain forms of cancer, as antioxidants help your body remove the free radicals that can trigger cells to become cancerous.
Asthma involves a significant inflammation of the airways. Hyssop’s effect on asthma may also extend to other types of inflammation. While more studies need to be done to determine hyssop’s effectiveness treating inflammation in people, early animal trials suggest that hyssop may help reduce inflammation, lowering your risk of problems like heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
Although true hyssop offers many health benefits and can improve your body’s overall function, consuming it does carry some risk. As with many kinds of herbs, some people experience an upset stomach, bloating, or anxiety. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should consider stopping or reducing your hyssop consumption.
Other potential health risks of hyssop include:
Hyssop is in the same family as plants like mint, lemon balm, and catnip. If you have ever experienced an allergic reaction to any of these plants, be very cautious with hyssop. It may trigger these allergies as well.
True hyssop is known to cause seizures, and it can elevate the risk of seizures even in adults without pre-existing conditions. People taking anti-seizure medication or who have diagnosed seizure disorders should avoid products with hyssop. Children should also avoid hyssop products, because the seizure-causing effect appears to be stronger in children.
People who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid hyssop entirely. Hyssop may cause the uterus to contract, leading to miscarriages or other pregnancy complications.
Amounts and Dosage
No studies have been done on hyssop to find the safe maximum serving amount. It appears that the amount normally found in food is generally safe to consume, but large amounts of hyssop or hyssop extract may cause health problems. In general, it is likely safe for most adults to eat or drink one serving of hyssop tea or to consume the amount of hyssop found in seasonings.