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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
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
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
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.
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- 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.