In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about growing hyssop, including its many benefits. Keep reading, there’s a lot of good information coming up!
What is hyssop?
Hyssop, also known as Hyssopus officinalis, is a vivid and fascinating shrub commonly grown in the garden either as a fence or hedge, while some are planted in pots. This compact herbaceous plant is popular in Southern Europe, some parts of Asia, and can be seen all throughout North America since it is indigenous to that region. During summer time, you can see different colors of hyssop flowers such as blue, pink, and white.
Hyssops generally reach 24 to 36 inches (60 – 90cm), which means some people choose to plant these rather than installing fences. This length is formed from a woody stem at the base of the plant where unswerving branches sprout. Add to that, its dark green leaves and riveting spikes make it more appealing to the eyes.
Since bees and butterflies are all attracted to hyssop because of its alluring flowers, you can plant hyssop side by side with cabbage. Moreover, they can also serve as a diversion to moths and butterflies that attack cabbage which makes it a good companion plant.
Is it a perennial?
One of the many reasons why most gardeners choose to plant hyssops in their garden is due to the fact that they can last for a long period of time. Since it grows naturally in the Mediterranean region, you can see it almost everywhere, especially along the ledges and the roadsides. Others prefer to grow these herbs in their gardens in order to add color to their homes. Nowadays, you can see them in countries such as the US and Canada because these plants have been shipped and established to those places.
Hyssop can be utilized in many different ways, depending on your needs. A lot of people claim that this plant has brought so much help in terms of culinary, medicine, and many other things. In this article, you will encounter several benefits of hyssop as mentioned below.
- In the Middle Eastern region, hyssop is used in the kitchen as an ingredient in cooking. They have this famous herbal mixture called Za’atar which makes use of the plant as the main ingredient added with sumac as the other element. This herbal mixture is essentially used to make the meat more savory, as well as intensify the flavor of vegetables. However, you should know that hysoop leaves contain an organic substance that has a slightly bitter taste called tannins. Too much hyssop leaves added on your preparation may ruin the final taste of your dish.
- Since hyssop flowers are enticing, you can find bees feasting on them. Beekeepers then may use these flowers to create a rich and fragrant honey. Hyssop leaves may have a slightly minty aroma, but it compliments well with honey, resulting in a very extraordinary scent. Furthermore, this herb is one of 130 herbs used in the famous French liqueur, Chartreuse.
- When talking about herbal medicine, you can never forget hyssop either. It acts as an antitussive agent that provides a soothing and calming effect, which makes it a good alternative medicine in treating common coughs and colds.
- Another benefit of hyssop is its ability to promote better gastrointestinal function, good metabolism and faster absorption of minerals and vitamins in your body. This herb is also believed to aid in releasing gas inside the body, as well as relieve colic. None of these uses and benefits have been carefully deliberated and proven clinically, yet people still continue to use hyssops. According to a survey, among all these benefits and uses, herbalists consider its oil as the most significant contribution to the community.
Hyssop during pregnancy
Though there are no recorded or known contraindications of hyssop usage, it is not recommended during pregnancy. There has been incidences that may link hyssop usage to abortion and other unfavorable effects.
How to use hyssop oil
Hyssop oil, by far, is the most important and effective usage of the plant. This discovery of the oil has brought so much help for a number of causes. Below are some of them.
- Antiseptic – hyssop contains two chemicals namely thujone and phenol. These two give hyssop its antiseptic properties. When you use it in treating wounds or bruises, it will lower the chances of the wound getting infected, thus allowing it to heal quickly. However, excessive usage of it may lead to problems in the central nervous system which will eventually show signs and symptoms such epilepsy and seizures.
- Massage oil – some people apply the oil before having a relaxing massage as it has the ability to relieve or at least reduce pain and fatigue in your body. To some women, it helps alleviate menstrual cramps and pain.
- Antispasmodic and aromatherapy – the oil has been proven to restore breathing pattern of those people experiencing difficulty in breathing by simply clearing their lungs up. Add to that, its pleasant, therapeutic fragrance contributes in the strengthening and tonifying of not only the respiratory system, but the entire body and mind resulting in a healthy state of mind.
Note: Hyssop oil is more effective when used together with eucalyptus or any of your favorite massage oil. Since it can be applied topically, through direct inhalation, or as a medical dressing, it’s up for you to decide which one gives you faster and efficient result.
Growing Hyssop From Seeds
Just like any other plant, the hyssop herb can also be started indoors before transplanting it to the ground outside. You just need a good container or pot to start with. You just don’t use any size or type of pot. It is important to consider the depth of your pot to make sure it can accommodate the roots of your plant. Remember that their roots can grow deep down and large enough to fit inside the pot.
The best time to lay the seeds indoors is during the early spring. In order for the plant to grow healthy and strong, find a location where your pots get either full or partial sunlight, and make sure the soil is dry and has good water drainage, like is the case when you use loam soil. Some landscaping companies prefer to add organic fertilizer, but it’s really not a requirement as long as the location gets enough sunlight and the soil is in good condition to start off with. Another very important factor to consider in growing hyssops is its germination period. It would usually take 2 – 3 weeks, or even a month, so you should be able to deal with the waiting process. Also, it is best and ideal to transfer the plant to the ground once all danger of freezing has already passed, so make sure you watch out for the last frost date.
Anise hyssop seeds
Anise hyssop is a member of the mint family which, unlike the regular hyssop herb, is commonly used for cooking purposes. Tea lovers can definitely enjoy its leaves since it makes an excellent tea, and the flowers are safe to eat, as well.
This type of hyssop herb grows indigenously in the northern, central United States and is mostly used by the native americans medically since they have seen how it helps treat common ailments such as cough and colds, and even poor digestion.
The best time to plant the seeds directly on the soil is late fall. However, you may also choose to set the seeds during spring time by combining anise hyssop seeds with dampish sand. Subsequently, keep the seeds in a cold temperature by storing them inside the refrigerator and then waiting for 30 days before planting.
Once the seeds are ready, scatter them directly on the top layer of the soil, making sure that the soil temperature is kept at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.Once everything is set, see to it that the soil is consistently moistened until the seeds germinate.
Gardeners should keep an eye on this plant as it grows. Why? Anise hyssop has the capacity to endure extreme heat, in fact it prefers warm or hot weather. You can only see it blossom fully when you water the plants on a regular basis just enough to provide a little soil moisture. It does not grow well in soft and wet soil; rather, it grows healthy and strong in a sandy or stony soil, and of course with proper water drainage.
You can use almost all the parts of anise hyssop, especially the leaves. During the entire growing period, the leaves of this plant can be freshly harvested now and then, and used in making tea and salads. The perfect time for harvesting the seeds is early in the morning, once the dew has dried. It is advisable to start taking out leaves one by one from the bottom of the stalk and work your way up to the top of the stem. Make sure you do not go beyond 60% of the leaves removed from the plant all in one time, as this may cause a negative effect to the plant’s growth.
A good indication that the seeds are ready for harvesting is when you notice that the flowers of the anise hyssop start to get dry and appear brownish. When this happens, remove them from the plant and bash them up to detach the seeds.
Another fast and easy way to remove the seeds is by shaking the plant itself. Get a container and shake the plant’s head just above the container so that the seeds drop directly inside the container. You can do this daily until you are able to get all the seeds. Make sure you do not forget to store the seeds in a cool and dry environment, or better yet, inside the refrigerator.
Contrary to most plants, planting anise hyssop may be tedious since you need to start growing these plants indoors. Plant the seeds 4-6 weeks before the endmost frost of the spring takes place and then transfer the plant outside your garden after the final frost of the spring season. By this point, the plant has reached about 3-4 inches in height and their true leaves are now visible.
Hyssop plant care
Hyssop plants do not require maximum maintenance for some reason, which is why it is a very good addition to your garden. Aside from that, this plant is extremely resistant to common garden pests which makes it easier for gardeners to take care of this plant. Below are some ideas in taking care of hyssop plants.
- Look for a spot where the plant gets enough sunlight all day and the soil has good drainage. Remember that the plant has the ability to grow on almost all varieties of soil, including the rocky ones, and does not require any type of fertilizer to grow healthy.
- Some people prefer to water the plants daily, but it’s not really necessary. They only need to be watered once or twice per week. Make sure you leave about an inch of water on top of the soil, just enough for the soil to get moisture and not leaving it wet and soft. Take note that hyssop can withstand mild to moderate droughts so you need not worry about watering the plants daily.
- Adding mulch may be optional but some people prefer to add a little mulch of about 2-inches over the soil while making sure there is a 3-inch distance from the stem of the hyssop plant. During spring time, refill the mulch in order to retain soil moisture and somehow prevent growth of surrounding weeds.
- Once you notice mangled or densed stems of the hyssop plant, trim and remove them if necessary. You can do this some time during summer in order to keep the hyssop plant in good shape. In late winter or at least in the early spring, you may cut the plant back to 4 inches off the ground in order to give way for new growth.
- It is vital to check for drooping or yellow foliage. This signals nematode invasion. If this is already evident on your plants, then dig the soil further to check for the roots and see if there are certain parts of the roots that are swollen. This could be a worse problem to handle because it tells you that nematode infestation has reached deep down into the roots. To make sure the disease won’t spread, destroy these affected plants immediately since there is no other way to control nematodes. Cleaning your garden tools carefully after each usage could somehow help avoid the spread of these garden pests.
The best time to harvest hyssop plants is just before their flowers begin to blossom. Swing them loosely in a location that gets moderate shade, warm temperature, and windy. The next step is to snip off the leaves and flowers from the plant. Secure the remaining plant parts inside an airtight container. Since not all of the parts of the plant have your desired scent and flavor, harvest only the green areas of the hyssop plant.
If the weather is good and there were no major problems encountered while growing your plants, you can have a good harvest twice a year. This generally happens in late spring and when fall season begins. If you are looking into collecting the flowering tips of the plant, then it is best for you to harvest while your plants are flowering.
Gather the stems you have cut and pile them up to give ample time for draining. You can also hang them to air dry. You must do the drying process in a breezy, cool and dry location while mixing the stems once in a while to ensure that all parts of the material are dried evenly. It is important to secure this type of location because exposure of the stems to direct sunlight may cause discoloration and unwanted chemical reactions. The whole process of drying usually takes up to 6 days for optimum results. Once the process is completed, the leaves and flowers of the plants are then sliced into very tiny pieces. Your dried material should now have one third of the total weight of the original fresh hyssop plants. For future use, store them no longer than 18 months.
Hyssop herb may be a bit pricey due to its edible leaves and fancy-looking purple flowers. While it is true that they only require little maintenance, these plants will achieve full bloom if regularly pruned. With pruning, hyssop plants are encouraged to produce a healthy and ample foliage.
- The best time to perform hyssop pruning is between early spring and the middle of summer. It is not advisable to prune them in the late summer because doing this will allow germination in that same season, which will only be destroyed when the first season of autumn frost starts.
- Since you will need garden tools such as pruning shears, make sure that you have it sanitized with rubbing alcohol before using them. Mix water with rubbing alcohol and soak the blades of your pruning shears for at least 5 minutes, and then rinse off with running water.
- A day prior to pruning your hyssop plant, it is imperative to water the plant so that the roots get enough water too. To make sure the plants are watered deeply, you may use a hose to water the base of the stems until the soil looks properly moist. Allow the soil to absorb the water the whole night.
- In order to keep the form of the plant compact and firm, it is best to prune them during early spring. With the help of your pruning shears, cut 2 inches of the back of the plant off the ground and make sure to do it just above the leaves to promote growth of numerous branches.
- Once you notice that the plants already look filthy and messy, trim them once in a while during the summer season in order to maintain a tidy and pleasing appearance. Also, jumbled stems need to be removed through pruning.
- Aside from the out-of-place stems, make sure you also get rid of the damaged stems. You need to periodically do this while the plants are in the growing period. Keep an eye on the surrounding healthy stems as you do not want to inadvertently cut or harm them.
- Hyssops are self-sowing so you’ll need to get rid of the flower stalks. Most gardeners do this after the stalks seemingly fade, but just before the seeds are set. Start removing stalks from the base of the plant and dispose of them properly rather than using them as a compost.
One of the many uses of hyssop is for the skin. A lot of people benefit from using hyssop as a main ingredient in bath soaps. It has been proven to reduce the oiliness of your skin, as well as brighten your complexion. Hyssop soap is also safe for sensitive skin, in fact it is used by people with sensitive skin because all of its properties are natural.
Its Use in Ancient Times
People previously made use of hyssop plants in a lot of ways. People started to spread these plants on the floors, particularly inside the rooms of ill people. They believed that the scent of the plant would help heal, cleanse, and purify their diseases, especially those with skin diseases. Most of the products in the past were naturally made because they did not have enough access to resources like what we have at the present. Their products came from plants, animals, as well as minerals surrounding them. Since hyssop is a herb that has antiseptic, curative, and seasoning properties, it was used significantly in ancient times.
Hyssop was also mentioned a couple of times in the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament. You can read in the book of Leviticus that God performed ceremonial purification to people with the use of hyssop. He also gave a command to His people to use the same plant in purifying their houses. Moreover, the Israelites also made use of hyssop symbolically. They made paintbrushes out of hyssop plants and used them to put a mark on their door with a lamb’s blood. This act would mean that the angel of death would simply pass over that house because of that painted blood mark. The main reason why hyssop was chosen to be used as paintbrush is because of its sturdiness.
The book of Psalm also tells us that David mentioned hyssop when he asked God to cleanse him. He believed that through the process, he would be cleansed and would become whiter than snow. Here, David actually meant spiritual and sacred cleansing and not referring to any physical purification at all.