What to do with hyssop?


Plus 7 of Our Favourite Hyssop Recipes

Hyssop has great potential in the kitchen. It is also a herb of great antiquity, and definitely deserves a spot in every herb garden.

We hope these hyssop recipes and cooking tips will stimulate your imagination. Some of these recipes you will recognize, others might sound too adventurous. Our only intention here is to show you how easy it is to use herbs to relieve boredom in the kitchen.

Please note: As many of our recipes dates from pre-computer days (meaning they are in files and files of hand written notes), I’m not including the ‘authors/creators’ of all these recipes. Because we simply collected recipes for our own purposes, never with the intention of sharing them with a wide audience, we did not always record the source. If I infringe your ‘copyright’ by not giving you credit please accept my apologies and please send me an email.

Parts used: We use the leaves fresh or dried; the flowers only fresh.

When to harvest: The leaves can be harvested at any time during the year. We pick the flowers and young flowering tops as flowering begins.

How to dry: Hang in a warm, dark, well ventilated place.

How to store: Fresh leaves and flowers – In tightly sealed plastic bags or ‘tupperware’ containers in the refrigerator. Dried leaves – In airtight containers in a cool, dark place.

Cooking tips: At first use small amounts of leaves (especially dried) in your dishes as the bitter, slightly minty (or camphor-like if you wish) flavour can easily overpower a dish. As you become used to the flavour you will increase the amounts naturally. We never use both the leaves and flowers to flavour the same dish as the stronger flavour of the leaves dominate that of the delicate flowers. The leaves stand up well to long cooking periods but we prefer to add it just before serving. Experiment a bit to find out what suits your taste buds.

Taste good with/in: Dried or fresh leaves – soups, stews, herbal teas. Fresh leaves – soft cheeses such as goat cheese and cottage cheese, flavoured butters, sandwiches, sauces, dips, hot or cold pasta dishes. Flowers – green salads.

Herb Blends: Mostly used on its own but we often combine it with one or more of the following: chervil (my favourite combo), chives, parsley, bay, basil and sage (especially in fatty dishes, but be careful as both can overpower). Tip: Both hyssop and sage aids digestion of fatty fish and meat.

Historical uses: Hyssop is frequently mentioned in the Bible, from Moses to John the Baptist. It was also venerated by the Arabs. The ancient Greeks boiled it with rue and honey, and used it as a cough remedy. Much used as a medicinal herb. Also used to flavour liqueurs, such as the well known Chartreuse. A wine called hyssopites, made from hyssop was mentioned by the Roman writer Pliny (first century AD).

Hyssop Recipes

Glazed Carrots with Hyssop

Here’s one way I can easily convince my dear wife, who’s not too fond of carrots, to eat carrots. She loves chicken though, so its sort of a compromise.

About 500g young carrots, scraped and thinly sliced; 1 cup chicken stock; 1 tbsp honey; 1 tbsp unsalted butter; 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh hyssop leaves; salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste.

In a saucepan, combine the carrots, stock, honey, butter and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender and the liquid is a syrupy glaze, about 20 minutes or so. Be careful that it does not burn. Toss the carrots with hyssop and serve immediately.

If you don’t want to ‘ruin’ 500g carrots, try this tester: 2 large carrots thinly sliced, 1 tbsp water (or chicken stock), 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp honey or brown sugar, 1 tsp finely chopped hyssop. Proceed as above. This needs only about 10 minutes to cook, but beware, it burns very easily.

Corned Beef, Cheese and Hyssop Spread

My national service days cured me from eating any Corned Beef, unfortunately not so for the rest of our family. My biggest challenge in the early days of experimenting with herbs was to find ways to make Corned Beef edible – according to my taste buds anyway. This is one of my ‘favourites’. The original recipe called for 250g minced, cooked ham, but I’ve never tried that.

1 tin minced Bull Brand Bully Beef (but any brand will do), remember to put the excess fat on the bird feeder for the insect eating birds; 3/4 cup cottage cheese (or a cream cheese, I’ve even used grated cheddar), 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter; 2 tsp finely chopped fresh hyssop; salt and pepper.

Combine all ingredients, blend well, add seasoning to taste. Place in a serving dish and chill before serving with crackers or toast.

Meat Balls with Hyssop

My mom makes the most divine meat balls, and I’ve ruined, and devoured, a couple of beef herds trying to improve her recipe. Admittedly, without success, but this one comes close. It also makes an exceptional pure beef hamburger patty.

250g minced meat; 1 minced onion; 1 beaten egg; 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian parsley); 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh hyssop; salt and pepper; seasoned flour; oil for frying.

Combine minced meat and onion, mix in herbs and season to taste. Stir in beaten egg and mix well. Form into small balls, roll in seasoned flour, fry quickly in very hot oil, turning to brown them on all sides. Reduce the heat and cook them a little longer if they are not cooked in the middle.

Chicken with Hyssop

Next time you stuff a roasting chicken with your favourite stuffing substitute the herbs you usually use with 2 tsp finely chopped fresh hyssop. While the chicken is roasting baste it with its own fat or 2 tbsp melted unsalted butter and a little lemon juice. Sprinkle with 1 tsp finely chopped hyssop.

We are not too fond of stuffed chicken. We simply put a sprig of hyssop in the cavity of the un-stuffed chicken. To improve the flavour we add a knob of butter and some thinly peeled lemon rind.

Cauliflower and Hyssop Salad

Hyssop adds a new dimension to salads and its a wonderful way of benefiting from all those wonderful health building properties of fresh greenies and hyssop.

2 cups thinly sliced, raw cauliflower; 1 diced red apple; 1 1/2 cups plain yoghurt; 2-4 tsp finely chopped fresh hyssop; 1 tsp salt; 1 tbsp lemon juice (or your own home-made herb vinegar).

Mix cauliflower and apple together in a salad bowl. Combine other ingredients in a basin, mix well, pour over cauliflower and apple mix. Toss and chill before serving. Garnish with hyssop flowers or hyssop sprigs.

Recipe Variations: All the above recipes lend themselves to endless variations. For starters substitute the hyssop with any of your favourite herbs. Next try some of the bouquet garni’s above or just use your imagination to create your own. Using herbs, “Aagh no mom, not meatballs (or whatever) again!”, becomes a phrase expressed before the first bite, not after.

Queen Elizabeth’s Cordial Electuary of Hyssop

Her Highness’s original recipe called for some ingredients that’s quite hard to obtain on short notice, and quite expensive. After some experimenting (it took exactly 22 batches), I’m convinced that she won’t know the difference. This licorice flavored remedy, soothes sore throats, relieves cough, does wonders for an upset stomach and helps shortness of breath. You can take a tablespoon 1-3 times a day. Please read the cautions for using hyssop in medicinal dosages in last weeks newsletter.

2 tbsp dried hyssop (preferably flowering tops) or 1/3 cup fresh hyssop (chopped flowering tops); 1/4 cup water; 1 cup honey; 1 tsp aniseed; a pinch each ground pepper and ground ginger.

In a saucepan combine honey and water. Stir until the mixture is consistency of pancake syrup. Bring slowly to a boil (over a medium heat). Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. If using dried hyssop, use 1-2 tbsp water to moisten the dried material. Crush the aniseed. Stir both into the honey. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add a small pinch of ground pepper and a small pinch of ground ginger. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and allow to cool. While the mixture is still a little warm, strain into a sterilized jar. When completely cooled, screw on the lid. Keep in the refrigerator for not more than one week.

Hyssop Air Freshener

If you have a aromatherapy oil burner take a good handful of fresh hyssop, or 1 heaped tablespoon of dried hyssop and bring it to boil in a pan of water. Pour into a your aromatherapy oil burner. . You need to watch this as the water evaporates quicker than oil. So keep on replenishing. This keeps the air sweet and healthy.

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Hyssop has been used for centuries as an antiseptic agent; one of its common uses as an essential oil is as a medicinal plant and aromatic herb. Hyssop oil spiritual uses date back thousands of years ago. There’s even a hyssop oil Bible reference — in verse 7 of Psalm 51, it states, “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.”

What is hyssop and what is it used for? For thousands of years, hyssop has been an herb used as a purifier and cleanser; the Romans even used hyssop because they believed it helped protect them against plagues. Its reputation as a protector has led people to hang dried hyssop at their homes in order to keep out the evil eye or negativity. It has also been left at grave sights to protect the dead.

Hyssop, or Hyssopus officinalis, is a herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus, and it’s native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Its name comes from the Hebrew word adobe or ezob, which literally means “holy herb.”

Today, hyssop is used for digestive and intestinal problems, including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain and loss of appetite. It’s also used for respiratory problems in various ways, such as eliminating coughs, helping to prevent the common cold and respiratory infections, soothing sore throats, and as one of the natural remedies for asthma.

The Hyssop Plant and Components

Is hyssop same as lavender? No, it’s certainly not even though both produce pretty purplish blooms. Hyssop is a shrub that ranges from 12 to 24 inches in height. It has a woody stem that serves as the base, from which grow the straight branches. The leaves are dark-green, and the flowers are fragrant and colorful; in the summer months, the plant produces purple-blue, pink and white flowers.

The stalks are cut twice a year, at the end of spring and beginning of fall. Once they are cut, they’re dried, which takes approximately six days. When it dries, the leaves and flowers are chopped finely, and the mixture can be stored for up to 18 months. The plant is also used to make an essential oil, extract and capsule.

Hyssop is part of the mint family, so it has a minty taste that can be rather intense when added to foods. It’s best to use the herb in smaller quantities when adding it to salads, broths or soups. The main components of hyssop oil include monoterpenes (cis-pinochamphone, trans-pinocamphone and beta-pinene) and sequiterpenes (germacrene and elemol); however, the chemical composition does vary depending on the plant’s growth stage when extracted.

The flavonoids present in hyssop oil provide beneficial antioxidant activity. An analysis published in the Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin was able to indicate that there are 20 compounds in hyssop oil, representing 99.9 percent of the oil’s makeup. Apigenin 7-O-β-D-glucuronide was isolated as the major flavonoid; myrtenylacetate, camphor, germacrene and spathulenol are the other main compounds that were found. The findings of this chemical breakdown revealed that hyssop possesses valuable high-antioxidant properties for culinary and medicinal use, especially because it serves as an antioxidant. (1)

8 Hyssop Benefits

What are the health benefits of hyssop? There are many!

1. Helps Respiratory Conditions

Hyssop is antispasmodic, meaning it relieves spasms in the respiratory system and soothes coughs. (2) It’s also an expectorant — it loosens phlegm that has been deposited in the respiratory tracts. (3) This property helps heal infections from the common cold, and it helps treat respiratory conditions, such as serving as a bronchitis natural remedy.

Coughing is a common reaction of the respiratory system trying to expel harmful microbes, dust or irritants, so hyssop’s antispasmodic and antiseptic properties make it a great natural treatment for coughs and other respiratory conditions.

Hyssop can also work as a remedy for sore throats, making it a great tool for people who use their voices throughout the day, like teachers, singers and lecturers. The best way to soothe the throat and respiratory system is to drink hyssop tea or add a few drops of oil to your throat and chest.

2. Fights Parasites

Hyssop has the ability to fight parasites, which are organisms that feed off the nutrients of other organisms. Some examples of parasites include tapeworm, fleas, hookworms and flukes. Because it’s a vermifuge, hyssop oil expels parasitic works, especially in the intestines. (4) When a parasite lives in and feed on its host, it disrupts nutrient absorption and causes weakness and disease. If the parasite is living in the intestines, it disrupts the digestive and immune systems.

Therefore, hyssop can be a key part of a parasite cleanse, as hyssop helps many systems in the body and ensures that your needed nutrients aren’t taken by these dangerous organisms.

3. Fights Infections

Hyssop prevents infections from developing in wounds and cuts. Because of its antiseptic properties, when it’s applied to an opening of the skin, it fights infection and kills bacteria. (5) Hyssop also helps in healing deep cuts, scars, insect bites and even can be one of the great home remedies for acne.

A study done at the Department of Virology, Hygiene Institute in Germany tested hyssop oil’s ability to fight genital herpes by testing plaque reduction. Genital herpes is a chronic, persistent infection that is spread efficiently and silently as a sexually transmitted disease. The study found that hyssop oil lowered plaque formation by more than 90 percent, proving that the oil interacted with the virus and serves as a therapeutic application for the treatment of herpes. (6)

4. Increases Circulation

An increase in blood flow or circulation in the body benefits the heart and the body’s muscles and arteries. Hyssop improves and promotes circulation because of its anti-rheumatic properties. (7) By increasing circulation, hyssop can work as a natural remedy for gout, rheumatism, arthritis and swelling. Your heart rate lowers when your blood circulates properly, and then your heart muscles relax and your blood pressure flows evenly throughout the body, affecting every organ.

So many people are looking for natural arthritis treatments because it can be a crippling condition. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs when cartilage between joints wears down, causing inflammation and pain. By increasing circulation, hyssop oil and tea inhibit swelling and inflammation, allowing the blood to flow through the body and relieve the pressure that builds up because of clogged arteries.

Because of its ability to improve circulation, hyssop oil is also a home remedy and treatment for hemorrhoids, which are experienced by 75 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are caused by an increase in pressure on the veins of the anus and rectum. The pressure on the veins causes swelling, pain and bleeding.

5. Relieves Muscle Pain and Spasms

Almost everybody has likely experienced discomfort in his or her muscles at some point. Because almost every part of the body has muscle tissue, this type of pain can be felt practically anywhere.

A study done at the Department of Pharmacology of Natural Substances and General Physiology in Italy found that hyssop oil had muscle-relaxing activity when it was tested on guinea pig and rabbit intestines. The hyssop oil treatment inhibited contractions and reduced the amplitude of spontaneous movements. (8)

Hyssop oil’s antispasmotic properties can help treat muscle aches, cramps and charley horses naturally.

6. Supports Healthy Immune Response

Hyssop improves circulation and digestion, while it kills bacteria and parasites — all of these benefits boost the immune system to work properly. By decreasing inflammation and allowing blood to run through our organs, hyssop oil maintains the function of the entire body.

One promising study done at the Department of Medicine, North Shore University Hospital in New York found that hyssop extracts contain caffeic acid, unidentified tannins and possibly a third class of unidentified higher molecular weight compounds that exhibit strong anti-HIV activity — thus, it may be useful in the treatment of patients with AIDS. (10)

7. Helps Digestion

Hyssop oil is a stimulant, so it increases the production of secretions, like bile, digestive enzymes and acid. These gastric juices are necessary in order to break down food as it makes its way to the stomach. We have digestive juices that contain enzymes in order to speed up the chemical reactions in the body and break down food into nutrients.

By facilitating digestion, hyssop oil helps with the decomposition of complex proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients. Because the digestive system interacts with all other body systems, including the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, the role that hyssop plays as a stimulant is very beneficial. Hyssop oil can also be helpful with intestinal gas, indigestion and loss of appetite. (12)

8. Promotes Skin Health

Hyssop oil can work as a natural treatment for acne. Because hyssop oil is antiseptic, it can kill bacteria on the skin and fight infections. Research also demonstrates that hyssop essential oil exhibits bacteriostatic activity, which means it can stop bacteria from reproducing. (13)

Growing Hyssop

Typically, hyssop seeds are sown in the springtime; they can be propagated from the roots or cuttings in autumn and spring. When planting, make sure the seedling is 15–20 inches apart so they have enough space to grow. Hyssop does best with well-drained soil and full sun, and when it becomes too big, it needs to be clipped. The plant attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees, which encourages pollination naturally.

If you plan to pick or cut the leaves for drying, do it on a sunny day to ensure that you get the highest concentration of active ingredients. Let the leaves air-dry in a sunny place with plenty of air and circulation; it takes about six days before they’re completely dry. For storage, keep the dried herbs in an airtight container.

Before drying the plant, you can make your own essential oil. Cut the leaves and flowers of a mature hyssop plant early in the morning. Rinse them and let them dry completely, then chop them up into fine pieces. When you crush the chopped pieces, the oil begins to come out of the herb slowly. All you need is a few drops mixed with a carrier oil to take advantage of hyssop’s wound-healing and vaporizing capabilities.

How to Use Hyssop

Hyssop is most commonly used to fight throat and respiratory infections, fatigue, muscle aches, and arthritis. It’s traditionally used in teas, but it’s equally effective as a capsule, oil or extract. Here are some common hyssop uses:

  • For aromatherapy, diffuse or inhale 3–5 drops of hyssop oil.
  • When used topically to treat skin irritations, burns, bruising and frostbite, dilute 2–3 drops of hyssop with equal parts of a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba oil) before applying to skin.
  • To heal scars and wounds, add 2–3 drops of hyssop oil with equal parts coconut or jojoba oil and apply the mixture to the specific area twice daily.
  • Add 3–5 drops of hyssop oil to warm bath water to stimulate sweating and lower body temperature.
  • To reduce fever, massage two drops of hyssop oil and a teaspoon of coconut oil into your feet.
  • To clear clogged respiratory system, add 2–3 drops of hyssop oil to my Homemade Vapor Rub recipe.
  • To treat a cough, add one drop of hyssop oil to my Homemade Cough Syrup.
  • As a fragrance, hyssop oil can be added to soaps, lotions and body washes.
  • Can you eat hyssop? The fresh herb is commonly used in cooking, but the flavor is very strong, so it’s often steamed when making broths or soups. It can be added to salads in small amounts. The leaves have a lightly bitter taste due to its tannins and an intense minty aroma.
  • For internal use, add 1–2 drops of hyssop to water and mix it with a smoothie. Only use very high-quality oil brands when used for consumption.
  • Hyssop flower tops and leaves are steeped in water to make infusions and medicinal tea.
  • The plant is commonly used by beekeepers to produce a rich and aromatic honey.
  • The hyssop herb is used to flavor liqueur and is part of the official formulation of Chartreuse.
  • To kill bacteria in the mouth, gargle 1–2 drops of hyssop mixed with water.
  • To increase blood circulation and repair damaged heart cells, add 1–2 drops of hyssop oil, or dried hyssop leaves, to my Hot Heart Health Juice.
  • Hyssop essential oil blends well with other essential oils such as geranium, lemon, clary sage, grapefruit, lavender, rosemary and orange.

Hyssop Tea Recipe

To make your own hyssop tea, follow these directions.

  1. Start by boiling two cups of water.
  2. Add two tablespoons of fresh hyssop leaves to the water
  3. Let it steep for 30 minutes.

You can make a bigger batch of tea and reheat it when needed.

Hyssop tea is a great way to relieve respiratory infections, the common cold and sore throat. It also helps regulate your digestive system and supports the immune system. You can even dab hyssop tea on your wounds, cuts and bruises to speed up the recovery process and minimize the look of dark spots and scars.

Possible Hyssop Oil Side Effects and Precautions

Hyssop is considered safe for most people in the amounts commonly found in foods and in medicinal amounts. It’s not safe to use hyssop during pregnancy because it might cause the uterus to contract or start menstruation, and these effects could lead to a miscarriage.

It’s not known whether hyssop is safe to use during breastfeeding, so avoid using it or speak to your doctor first. Do not give hyssop to children; convulsions were reported in a child who took 2–3 drops of hyssop oil over several days.

If you have a history of seizures, do not use hyssop because it may trigger seizures or make them worse. When using hyssop oil, do not exceed 30 drops a day because it’s a convulsant and may increase your risk of having a seizure.

Hyssop is also known to increase blood pressure, which can be beneficial to people with low blood pressure, but problematic for people who are trying to lower their levels.

Final Thoughts

  • Hyssop essential oil comes from the hyssop plant (Hyssopus officinalis), which is a member of the mint family.
  • What is hyssop oil good for? Respiratory conditions, parasites, infections, digestive trouble, acne, muscle pain and muscle spasms are some problems that top the list of hyssop benefits.
  • It’s not hard to grow hyssop in your home garden so you can use the herb in salads, teas, homemade health products like natural vapor rub and cough syrup.
  • Look for hyssop essential oil that is 100 percent pure, organic and therapeutic grade, especially if you’re looking to use it internally.
  • Hyssop oil is not recommended for use in people who have a history of seizures or high blood pressure, or who are pregnant or nursing.

Read Next: Top 10 Tea Tree Oil Uses and Benefits


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Botanical: Hyssopus officinalis (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Labiatae

  • Cultivation
  • Medicinal Action and Uses
  • Preparation
  • Recipe for Hyssop Tea

—Part Used—Herb.

Hyssop is a name of Greek origin. The Hyssopos of Dioscorides was named from azob (a holy herb), because it was used for cleaning sacred places. It is alluded to in the Scriptures: ‘Purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be clean.’

—Cultivation—It is an evergreen, bushy herb, growing 1 to 2 feet high, with square stem, linear leaves and flowers in whorls, six- to fifteen-flowered. Is a native of Southern Europe not indigenous to Britain, though stated to be naturalized on the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey in the New Forest.

Hyssop is cultivated for the use of its flower-tops, which are steeped in water to make an infusion, which is sometimes employed as an expectorant. There are three varieties, known respectively by their blue, red and white flowers, which are in bloom from June to October, and are sometimes employed as edging plants. Grown with catmint, it makes a lovely border, backed with Lavender and Rosemary. As a kitchen herb, it is mostly used for broths and decoctions, occasionally for salad. For medicinal use the flower-tops should be cut in August.

It may be propagated by seeds, sown in April, or by dividing the plants in spring and autumn, or by cuttings, made in spring and inserted in a shady situation. Plants raised from seeds or cuttings, should, when large enough, be planted out about 1 foot apart each way, and kept watered till established. They succeed best in a warm aspect and in a light, rather dry soil. The plants require cutting in, occasionally, but do not need much further attention.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—Expectorant, diaphoretic, stimulant, pectoral, carminative. The healing virtues of the plant are due to a particular volatile oil, which is stimulative, carminative and sudorific. It admirably promotes expectoration, and in chronic catarrh its diaphoretic and stimulant properties combine to render it of especial value. It is usually given as a warm infusion, taken frequently and mixed with Horehound. Hyssop Tea is also a grateful drink, well adapted to improve the tone of a feeble stomach, being brewed with the green tops of the herb, which are sometimes boiled in soup to be given for asthma. In America, an infusion of the leaves is used externally for the relief of muscular rheumatism, and also for bruises and discoloured contusions, and the green herb, bruised and applied, will heal cuts promptly.

The infusion has an agreeable flavour and is used by herbalists in pulmonary diseases.

It was once much employed as a carminative in flatulence and hysterical complaints, but is now seldom employed.

A tea made with the fresh green tops, and drunk several times daily, is one of the oldfashioned country remedies for rheumatism that is still employed. Hyssop baths have also been recommended as part of the cure, but the quantity used would need to be considerable.

—Preparation—Fluid extract, 30 to 60 drops. The Hyssop of commerce (Hyssopus officinalis) occurs in Palestine, but is not conspicuous among the numerous Labiatae of the Syrian hillsides, which include thyme and marjoram, mint, rosemary and lavender. Tradition identifies the Hyssop of Scripture with the familiar herb, Marjoram (origanum), of which six species are found in the Holy Land. The common kind, so well known in cottage gardens (O. vulgare), grows only in the north, but an allied species (O. maru) abounds through the central hills, and a variety is common in the southern desert.

Dr. J. F. Royle disagrees, and identifies the Hyssop of the Bible with the Caper-plant (Capparis spinosa) which grows in the Jordan Valley, in Egypt, and the Desert, in the gorges of Lebanon, and in the Kedron Valley. It ‘springs out of the walls’ of the old Temple area. This view is supported by Canon Tristram and others. The Arabs call it azaf.

The leaves, stems and flowers of H. officinalis possess a highly aromatic odour and yield by distillation an essential oil of exceedingly fine odour, much appreciated by perfumers, its value being even greater than Oil of Lavender. It is also much employed in the manufacture of liqueurs, forming an important constituent in Chartreuse. Bees feed freely on the plant and the odour of the honey obtained from this source is remarkably good. The leaves are used locally as a medicinal tea. As a kitchen herb it has gone out of use because of its strong flavour, but on account of its aroma it was formerly employed as a strewing herb.

‘Infuse a quarter of an ounce of dried hyssop flowers in a pint of boiling water for ten minutes; sweeten with honey, and take a wineglassful three times a day, for debility of the chest. It is also considered a powerful vermifuge.’ (Old Cookery Book.)

Purchase from Richters Seeds
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) Seeds
Blue Nectar Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ‘Blue Nectar’) Seeds
White Nectar Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ‘White Nectar’) Seeds
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) Plants

Common Name Index

Bear in mind “A Modern Herbal” was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900’s. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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Agastache is a plant that boasts many assets. Its appeal lies in its foliage, flowers and therapeutic properties.

Main Agastache facts

Name – Agastache
Family – Lamiaceae
Type – perennial

Height – 12 to 48 inches (30 to 120 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – light, well-drained

Blooming – May to October

Let’s take a look at how to grow Agastache and get to rediscover this plant.

Planting agastache

How to plant agastache

You can plant agastache starting in October and all the way to May-June, keeping a distance of 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) between plants.

  • Agastache likes full sun but it also tolerates part sun.
  • It appreciates well drained soil, even poor.
  • Being planted in the sun is where agastache is at its best in terms of flavor.

How to sow agastache

If sowing from seed, sow agastache during the month of March in a sheltered place.

  • In any case, select a full sun location.
  • Once it has set root and has settled in properly, agastache will go to seed and re-seed itself and will ultimately form a nice flowery cover along the ground.

Propagating agastache

You can propagate agastache in spring or fall through crown division.

Watering agastache

This plant copes well with having a lot of sun, but must be watered in case of elevated temperatures.

If growing it in pots, don’t wait for the soil to be completely dry before watering again; simply water often but in moderate amounts.

Harvesting agastache

Agastache is best collected in the morning during the vegetation phase, from spring up to the end of summer, but it is still fine when collected at other times of the year.

  • Wait for the plant to have grown quite a bunch of leaves before harvesting for the first time.
  • Dried agastache leaves keep very well, they can last several months.

Note that when you crumple agastache flowers and leaves, they produce a soft mint-like fragrance with a touch of aniseed. It is very pleasurable.

All there is to know about agastache

Agastache is part of the Lamiaceae family, as is sage. Both plants are thus well known both for their medicinal properties and for their taste: leaves of both are used in culinary preparations as a spice herb.

Types of recipes it is used in include desserts, jams, sauces and more, thanks to its licorice, aniseed-like taste.

Although Agastache is the scientific name, more common appellations are hummingbird mint and giant hyssops. It is a relative of mint, but has nothing to do with hyssops.

Two varieties, Agastache foeniculum and Agastache rugosa, are used to prepare tea that helps stimulate digestion and counters vomiting and diarrhea. Dried leaves and flowers are the best parts of the plant for this.

Also very ornamental and simply of a high value as a spice, this plant is also used simply to decorate the garden and cook delicious flavorful meals. Use young leaves in salad or prepare tea and infusions from them.

An extremely melliferous plant, agastache will grow well in a flower bed or along edges, in a rocky pile or a sand patch, and it’ll even fit right into a garden box on your balcony or terrace. You’ll be attracting butterflies and other beautiful insects – or hummingbirds! – in no time.

Smart tip about agastache

Flower your beds with plants of all colors, shapes and sizes!

The many Agastache varieties will help and in time, just as for the iris flower, a new hybrid might even appear!

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Hummingbird on Agastache by USFWS Mountain-Prairie under © CC BY 2.0
Blue Agastache by Dan Mullen under © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Agastache with bee by Debbie under © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Agastache ‘Blackadder’ (Giant hyssop ‘Blackadder’)

Botanical name

Agastache ‘Blackadder’

Other names

Giant hyssop ‘Blackadder’, Hummingbird mint ‘Blackadder’, Anise hyssop ‘Blackadder’, Agastache ‘Black Adder’


Agastache Agastache

Variety or Cultivar

‘Blackadder’ _ ‘Blackadder’ is an upright, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with lance-shaped to ovate, aromatic, dark grey-green leaves and whorled spikes dark purple buds opening to tubular, two-lipped, fragrant, violet flowers from summer to early autumn.




Leaves are anise-scented.



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Violet in Summer; Violet in Autumn

Grey-green in Spring; Grey-green in Summer; Grey-green in Autumn

How to care

Watch out for

Specific diseases

Crown rot , Leaf spot , Powdery mildew , Rust

General care


Cut back the faded flower-stems in autumn or leave for winter interest and cut back in spring. In colder areas, leave leaf and flower stems for winter protection and cut back in late winter or early spring.


‘Blackadder’ is sterile so does not set seed.

Propagation methods

Division, Semi-ripe cuttings

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Where to grow

Agastache ‘Blackadder’ (Giant hyssop ‘Blackadder’) will reach a height of 0.9m and a spread of 0.6m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

Beds and borders, City, Cottage/Informal, Garden edging, Gravel, Ground Cover


Plant in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Prefers alkaline soil but will tolerate poor, acid conditions. Dislikes heavy clay. Drought and heat tolerant once established. Apply a thick winter mulch in cold areas. Often short-lived.

Soil type

Chalky, Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral


Full Sun


South, West


Exposed, Sheltered

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Agastache ‘Blackadder’ (Giant hyssop ‘Blackadder’)

Common pest name

tomato thrips

Scientific pest name

Ceratothripoides brunneus



Current status in UK


Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Thrips present in Africa; the Caribbean and parts of Asia; frequently intercepted in the UK. Can cause significant damage to tomatoes and other crops in countries where it is present. Europe wide PRA will consider its potential to establish and cause damage.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/


Anise hyssop, or Agastache foeniculum, is a perennial herb of the Lamiaceae, or mint family.

It’s native to the northwestern US, where it sprawls across prairies, creating vast stretches of lavender, from early summer until the first frost.

The name “anise hyssop” is somewhat confusing, as this plant is neither anise seed (Pimpinella anisum) nor star anise (Illicium verum) nor hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). However, it is like them in that it is also used in culinary and medicinal applications.

The blossoms are often eaten as a salad garnish, and fresh or dried leaves may be brewed into a soothing tea.

Favorite of Honeybees

Also called fragrant, lavender, and blue giant hyssop, by any name this plant has a fragrance and flavor that have been described as mint-licorice-anise.

It’s a vigorous grower that readily naturalizes in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9. I’ve had great luck with it in partial shade in zone 6, and, it seems to be one of the few truly deer-resistant plants that I’ve grown.

Blooming A. foeniculum is a favorite of pollinating insects, especially honeybees, and its seeds attract a variety of birds.

This plant grows in an upright fashion from tiny seeds that benefit from weed control until they are firmly established.

When it becomes dense, it is easily divided for transplant elsewhere, or sharing with friends. Consult our Complete Guide to Dividing Perennials for instructions.

Agastache foeniculum Plant Facts:

  • Blooms early summer to first frost
  • Culinary and medicinal applications
  • Deer resistant
  • Drought tolerant
  • Easy to grow
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Height 2 to 4 feet
  • Lavender color
  • Native that naturalizes well
  • Nectar plant for pollinators
  • Perennial herb
  • Self-sows
  • Well-drained average to dry soil
  • Zones 4 to 9

Where to Buy

A. foeniculum ‘Blue Boa’ is available from Nature Hills Nursery in 5-inch containers.

Blue Boa Anise Hyssop

This award-winning variety is prized for its exceptional 5-inch, deep lavender flower spikes atop mature plants 2-3 feet in height.

Year-Round Attraction

I like having A. foeniculum in the garden because it makes me happy whether it’s fresh or dried, all year long.

Bunches of coneflower and anise hyssop dry upside-down.

Some of my family members love its flowers on salads and its leaves made into tea.

I like to watch the bees come to the flowers for nectar and the birds for seeds, but most of all, I like to dry stems for flower arranging in the winter and spring.

Here’s how to dry your own:

How to Dry Flowers

  1. Cut stems after morning dew has evaporated.
  2. Bind bunches of ten together with yarn.
  3. Suspend bunches upside down from nails in a dry place.
  4. Place newspaper beneath flowers to catch loose seeds.
  5. Allow 3 to 4 weeks to dry.
  6. When dry, gently remove each bunch from its nail, give it a gentle shake to remove any remaining seeds, and unbind.
  7. Toss seeds outdoors for the birds.
  8. Arrange flowers in vases as desired.

Dried flower spikes retain their lovely lavender color and mild fragrance. And if you like to brew your own tea, be sure to snip off some leaves to steep!

In addition to A. foeniculum, another lavender-hued herb you may enjoy cultivating is lavender itself, also known as Lavandula. For a comprehensive look at this attractive and useful plant, consult our article, How to Grow Lavender in Every Climate.

Does anise hyssop grow in your garden, and do the deer leave it alone? Let us know in the comments below, and follow us on Facebook for all things gardening.


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Product photo via Nature Hills Nursery. Uncredited photos: .

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

Species anise hyssop and golden cultivar.

Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, is a short-lived herbaceous perennial with blue flowers and fragrant foliage that can be used as an ornamental or in the herb garden. Native to prairies, dry upland forested areas, plains and fields in the upper Midwest and Great Plains into Canada (from northern Colorado to Wisconsin and in Canada from Ontario west to British Columbia), this plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae) is hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Anise hyssop has an upright form.

Other common names include blue giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop and lavender giant hyssop. Despite the common name, it is not closely related to hyssop (Hyssopus spp.), a European plant traditionally used as a healing herb, or anise, Pimpinella anisum, a completely different plant in the carrot family (Apiaceae).

The new growth often has a purplish cast.

The upright, clump-forming plants generally grow 2-4 feet tall and about 1-3 feet wide from a small tap root with spreading rhizomes. They have alternate leaves on the square stems (characteristic of the mint plant family). The ovate to broad-lanceolate, dull green leaves up to four inches long have toothed margins and a whitish tint to the underside. The foliage remains nice looking throughout the season and sometimes has a purplish cast on the new growth.

The medium green, alternate leaves on square stems have toothed margins.

The aromatic leaves have a licorice-like (anise) scent, and can be used in herbal teas, to flavor jellies or eaten fresh in small quantities, such as in a salad with other greens. The dried leaves can be used in potpourri. The plant was used medicinally by Native Americans to treat coughs, fevers, wounds, and diarrhea. The best time to harvest foliage to dry is when the flowers are just past full bloom, as the oil content in the leaves is the highest at that time, but they can be used at any time.

By midsummer erect terminal cylindrical flower spikes begin to form and continue blooming through fall. The tiny flowers occur in dense, showy verticillasters, or false whorls tightly packed together, that are 3 to 6 inches long. Each tubular flower has two lips like all plants in the mint family, with the lower lip having two small lateral lobes and a larger central lobe, and four stamens ending in blue-purple anthers and a cleft style that extend from the flower throat.

Plant begin blooming in midsummer (L), with erect flower spikes (LC and C) bearing many two-lipped, tubular flowers (RC and R).

Flower color varies from white to pale blue and lavender through blue-purple, with the color more intense at the tip. The unscented flowers are very attractive to bees – particularly bumblebeees, butterflies, beetles and other insects that feed on the nectar or pollen, as well as hummingbirds. Pollinated flowers produce smooth, oval-shaped fruit or seeds that are technically nutlets. Deadhead spent flowers to promote additional bloom. The flower spikes can be cut to use in fresh arrangements or to dry, and the flowers are edible. Plants self-sow readily, but undesired seedlings are easy to pull. Goldfinches and other birds may feed on the seeds.

The flowers are attractive to many pollinators including bees (L), butterflies (C) and beetles (R).

Anise hyssop combines well with many native perennials, such as bee balm.

Anise hyssop works well in the middle or back of perennial borders, native or wildflower gardens, cottage gardens, and herb gardens, as well as in meadows and prairies. It can be grown in masses, drifts, or in small clumps. It combines well with other natives such as the biennial brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), goldenrods such as Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’,

Anise hyssop contrasts well with purple-foliaged plants.

purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), bee balm (Monarda spp.), false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and native grasses. In perennial gardens it mixes well with globe thistle (Echinops ritro), Japanese anemones, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and plants with purple foliage, such as Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’ or purple-leaved heucheras.

Use anise hyssop in mixed or perennial borders.

It can also be grown in containers, alone or in combination with other plants. In mixed beds combine it with Verbena bonariensis and various annuals and perennials. The chartreuse foliage of the cultivar ‘Golden Jubilee’ offers good foliar color contrast with other green- or purple-leaved plants.

Anise hyssop is tolerant of many soil types and is easy to grow.

Grow anise hyssop in full sun to partial shade. It tolerates a wide range of soils as long as there is good drainage. This plant has no significant pest problems, but may develop root rot in wet soils or powdery mildew and leaf spots in humid climates. It tolerates drought once established but will also do well in moist soils as long as it has good drainage. It is not favored by deer but rabbits will eat this plant. It is easy to grow and rarely needs staking.

Plants grown from seed may bloom the first year.

Anise hyssop is easily started from seed and often blooms the first year, but also can be propagated in spring or fall by division of plants that spread by rhizomes. Seeds need light to germinate, so barely cover the seeds. They should germinate in 1-4 weeks; cold, moist stratification improves germination.

Plants grown from seed may bloom the first year.

Self-sown seedlings can be easily transplanted when small; although they will wilt quickly when moved, the plants will recover in a few days. To collect seed, allow the flower spikes to dry on the plants and bag the spikes to capture ripening seed or remove from the plants to collect seeds. Sterile hybrids are propagated by semi-ripe cuttings taken in summer.

There are a number of cultivars of anise hyssop and a few hybrids with Korean hyssop (A. rugosa, Zones 5–9), which has deep violet–blue flowers and glossy green foliage on plants up to 2 feet tall and 15 inches wide.

‘Black Adder’

Some readily available types of A. foeniculum include:

  • ‘Alabaster’ – has creamy-white flowers on three foot high plants that have lighter green foliage and are not quite as bushy as the species.
  • ‘Black Adder’ – is a hybrid with dark buds and red-violet flowers, but is less vigorous than the species.
  • ‘Blue Blazes’ – a tall hybrid of A. foeniculum and Agastache ‘Desert Sunrise’ introduced by High Country Gardens that has pinkish calyxes and glowing lavender purple blooms. Hardy to zone 5.
  • ‘Blue Fortune’

    ‘Blue Fortune’ – a sterile hybrid of A. foeniculum and A. rugosa bred at Arboretum Trompenburg in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It has extremely thick spikes of powder blue flowers and large, deep green leaves. Plants grow to about 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide. Peak bloom is in midsummer and flowers last a very long time because it sets no seeds. It received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2003.

  • ‘Blue Fountain’/’Blue Spike’ – has clear blue flowers.

‘Golden Jubilee’

  • ‘Golden Jubilee’ – an All American Selection Winner (2003) with golden-chartreuse to lime-green foliage that is especially bright yellow in spring and normal lavender-blue flowers. Self-seedlings are mixed with some golden ones.
  • ‘Purple Haze’ – a hybrid with narrow flower spikes that are of less interest to large native bees but still attracts many smaller pollinators
  • ‘Red Fortune’ – a hybrid with pink flowers that are not nearly as attractive to pollinators as the species.
  • ‘Snow Spike’

    ‘Snow Spike’ (also known as ‘Album’) – with white flowers on three foot plants.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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An erect, upright habit reaching 2 to 3 feet high
Short-lived, 2 to 3 years

Plant Care

Best in full sun in moist, well drained sites.
Cut back plants in spring to a height of 12 inches to promote more stem branching and fuller growth.
Drought and heat tolerant once established.

Disease, pests, and problems

Does not tolerate wet conditions
Powdery mildew
Two-spotted cucumber beetles occasionally a problem

Native geographic location and habitat

Found in dry rocky areas and open woodlands and prairies from ND to KS, west to CO and Northern Mexico

Attracts birds or pollinators

Hummingbirds, birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators

Leaf description

Opposite, dark green, 2 to 3 inch long and 1 inch wide, ovate to lanceolate leaves with serrate margins.
Leaves are often tinted purple, especially in cooler climates, underside of leaf is felt-like.
A strong smell of anise, but some say licorice, tarragon or basil.

Flower description

Flowers are on tightly packed on 4 to 5 inch long terminal spikes.
Individual flowers are 1/4 inch, tubular, lavender blue with a larger violet bract.
Long-lasting flower spikes begin in mid summer. Makes good cut flowers

Fruit description

Seeds are tiny nutlet. Plants can reseed readily.

Cultivars & hybrids and their differences

Alba Anise-hyssop (Hyssop foeniculum ‘Alba’ (syn. ‘Alabaster’): pale green leaves and creamy white flowers

Golden Jubilee Anise-hyssop (Hyssop foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’): golden yellow foliage with lavender-blue flowers

Licorice Blue Anise-hyssop (Hyssop foeninulum ‘Licorice Blue’): green foliage with lavender-blue flowers

Licorice White Anise-hyssop (Hyssop foeninulum ‘Licorice White’): medium green foliage with white flowers

Hybrids are usually showier and hardier and come in a variety of colors. Most are 2 to 4 feet high with fragrant, gray-green leaves and dense terminal spikes.

Black Adder hyssop (Agastache ‘Black Adder’): 2 to 3 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide; black buds open to smoky red-violet flowers

Blue Blazes hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’): 3 to 4 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide; lavender-pink flowers

Blue Fortune hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’): 3 to 4 feet high; lavender-blue flowers

Heatwave hyssop (Agastache ‘Heatwave’): 2 to 3 feet high; spikes of magenta-pink flowers on soft green leaves

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