The herb hyssop ( Hyssop officinalis) has a long history of use in both religion and medicine. The biblical phrase “purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be clean” echoes the ancient Greek use of this herb for cleansing sacred sites. Various preparations of hyssop have been used medicinally for respiratory problems, including cough, chest congestion, sore throat, and bronchitis. Hyssop has also been used to treat a variety of digestive problems, including stomach pain and intestinal gas. The fragrant essential oil of hyssop is an ingredient in the liqueur Chartreuse.
The essential oil of hyssop is still recommended by herbalists today for treatment of respiratory and digestive problems such as the common cold, asthma, acute bronchitis and cough, stomach upset, and intestinal gas. Hyssop tea is recommended as a gargle for sore throat. However, there is no meaningful evidence that it is effective for any of these purposes.
Very preliminary evidence, too weak to rely upon at all, hints that extracts of hyssop might have anti-HIV activity.1,2 Other preliminary evidence weakly suggests that constituents in hyssop might reduce absorption of carbohydrates from the digestive tract.3,4 This has led to statements that hyssop is helpful for treating diabetes and aiding weight loss, but in reality the current evidence is far too weak to draw any such conclusion.
A typical dose of hyssop essential oil is 1–2 drops daily. Hyssop tea is made by steeping 2–3 teaspoons of herb in a cup of hot water, and may be taken two to three times daily for sore throat.
Hyssop has undergone no more than minimal evaluation for safety. Hyssop tea is thought to be relatively benign, but hyssop essential oil (like most essential oils) is toxic in excessive doses. Some of its constituents might increase risk of seizures.5,6 For this reason, hyssop essential oil should not be used by people with epilepsy. It should also not be used by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.
1. Kreis W, Kaplan MH, Freeman J, et al. Inhibition of HIV replication by Hyssop officinalis extracts. AntiviralRes. 1990;14:323–337.
2. Gollapudi S, Sharma HA, Aggarwal S, et al. Isolation of a previously unidentified polysaccharide (MAR-10) from Hyssop officinalis that exhibits strong activity against human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Biochem Biophys ResCommun. 1995;210:145–151.
3. Miyazaki H, Matsuura H, Yanagiya C, et al. Inhibitory effects of hyssop ( Hyssopus officinalis) extracts on intestinal alpha-glucosidase activity and postprandial hyperglycemia. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2004;49:346–9.
4. Matsuura H, Miyazaki H, Asakawa C, et al. Isolation of alpha-glusosidase inhibitors from hyssop ( Hyssopusofficinalis). Phytochemistry. 2003;65:91–7.
5. Hold KM, Sirisoma NS, Sparks SE, et al. Metabolism and mode of action of cis- and trans-3-pinanones (the active ingredients of hyssop oil). Xenobiotica. 2002;32:251–65.
6. Millet Y, Tognetti P, Lavaire-Perlovisi M, et al. Experimental study of the toxic convulsant properties of commercial preparations of essences of sage and hyssop [in French]. Rev Electroencephalogr Neurophysiol Clin. 1979;9:12–8.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015