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Hyssop (huo xiang)

What is hyssop? What is it used for?

Hyssop is a thin, medium-sized plant believed to have originated in Asia, in the region surrounding the Black Sea. It is now found throughout Asia, especially in arid regions, partly because of its ability to survive in harsh climates. Hyssop has a light odor, with small, needle-like leaves and fragrant purple flowers. Both the leaves and flowers are used in herbal preparations.

Traditionally, hyssop has been used to soothe sore throats and clear up congestion in the chest. Some herbalists use hyssop to relieve intestinal disorders, such as cramping and flatulence.

Recent research has shown that the volatile oils contained in hyssop may relieve some upper respiratory tract infections, as well as coughing and bronchitis. Lab studies conducted in the mid-1990s found that certain compounds found in hyssop could impede progress of the HIV virus, but these studies have not been conducted in human subjects.

How much hyssop should I take?

The recommended dosages of hyssop are as follows: 2–3 teaspoons of hyssop steeped in one cup (250 ml) of hot water for 10-15 minutes, with no more than three cups of tea per day. As an option, some practitioners recommend 1–4 ml of hyssop tincture three times per day. If hyssop is being used for a sore throat, it is recommended that patients gargle with the tea or tincture before swallowing.

What forms of hyssop are available?

Hyssop is available as a tincture or extract. Dried hyssop can also be combined with hot water to make a hyssop tea.

What can happen if I take too much hyssop? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Although hyssop tea and tinctures are unlikely to cause any unwanted side-effects, the volatile oil in hyssop has been shown to cause seizures in adults taking more than 10 drops per day, or in children taking more than 2-3 drops over several days. For these reasons, it should not be taken by patients with epilepsy or other seizure-related conditions. It should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The German Commission E has not approved hyssop for any medical condition.

As of this writing, there are no well-known drug interactions with hyssop. As always, make sure to consult with a qualified health care practitioner before taking hyssop or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, pp. 338–9.
  • Garg SN, Naqvi AA, et al. Composition of essential oil from an annual crop of hyssopus officinalis grown in Indian plains. Flavour and Fragrance Journal May/June 1999;14(3): 170-172.
  • 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 Res Commun 1995;210:145–51.
  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds). PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics, 2000, pp. 414–5.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 63.

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