GENERAL DESCRIPTION: An attractive perennial, almost evergreen subshrub up to 6O cms high with a woody stem, small, lanceshaped leaves and purplish-blue flowers.
DISTRIBUTION: Native to the Mediterranean region and temperate Asia, now grows wild throughout America, Russia and Europe. It is mainly cultivated in Hungary and France, and to a lesser degree in Albanian and Yugoslavia.
HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: Although hyssop is mentioned in the Bible, it probably does not refer to this herb but to a form of wild marjoram or oregano, possibly Oreganum syriacum. Nevertheless H. officinalis has an ancient medical reputation and was used for purifying sacred places, and employed as a strewing herb. It is used principally for respiratory and digestive complaints, and externally for rheumatism, bruises, sores, earache and toothache. It is also used to regulate the blood pressure, as a general nerve tonic, and for states of anxiety or hysteria. It is current in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a specific for bronchitis and the common cold.
ACTIONS: Astringent, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal, carminative, cephalic, cicatrisant, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypertensive, nervine, sedative, sudorific, tonic (heart and circulation), vermifuge, vulnerary.
EXTRACTIONS: Essential oil by steam distillation from the leaves and flowering tops.
CHARACTERISTICS: A colourless to pale yellow-green liquid with a sweet, camphoraceuos top note and warm spicy-herbaceous undertone. It blends well with lavender, rosemary, myrtle, bay leaf, sage, clary sage, geranium and citrus oils.
PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Pinocamphone, isopinocamphone, estragole, borneol, geraniol, limonene, thujone, myrcene, caryophyllene, among others. Non-irritant, non-sensitizing, the oil is moderately toxic due to the pinocamphone content. It should be used only in moderation and avoided in pregnancy and epileptics.
AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: Skin care: Bruises, cuts, dermatitis, eczema, inflammation, wounds. Circulation, muscles and joints: Low or high blood pressure, rheumatism. Respiratory system: Asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, cough, sore throat, tonsillitis, whooping cough. Digestive system: Colic, indigestion. Genito-urinary system: Amenorrhoea, leucorrhoea. Immune system: Colds, flu. Nervous system: Anxiety, fatigue, nervous tension and stress-related conditions.
OTHER USES: Employed as a fragrance component in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes, especially eau-de-cologne and oriental bases. Used as a flavour ingredient in many food products, mainly sauces and seasonings, also in alcoholic drinks, especially liqueurs such as chartreuse.