A hardy perennial shrub native to Europe, hyssop is today widely cultivated in North America and throughout Asia. In the United States, hyssop can be found growing wild in open meadows and along the edge of the forest. Hyssop is a wonderful addition to any home herb garden both for its outstanding medicinal properties and to brew into a flavorful and refreshing tea. Known as the “Holy Herb”, hyssop has been used for centuries to clean shrines, temples, and sacred spaces. Throughout religious history, hyssop has held a prominent place in ceremonies and was used by the ancient Egyptians to cleanse the sores of lepers and is frequently mentioned in the Bible for its cleansing powers. History records that at the consecration of Westminster Abby, the holy herb was sprinkled on the altar. Medicinal Benefits Of Hyssop Fresh hyssop leaves, steeped in boiling water, creates a delightful tea. Pour one pint of boiling water over one ounce of freshly harvested chopped plant tops. Add a bit of honey and fresh lemon to relieve congestion and coughs due to allergies or a cold. Serve hot or cold. Traditionally, freshly harvested and finely minced hyssop leaves were simmered in honey and consumed as a syrup to ease shortness of breath, wheezing, and expel excessive phlegm. Hyssop blended and bruised, then combined with ground cumin seed and honey relieved the pain and infection from insect bites and was used by the Egyptians to treat bites from snakes, spiders, and scorpions. When hyssop is boiled with figs, a simple syrup is formed that is useful in the treatment of mouth sores or as a gargle to relieve throat pain or a toothache. An essential oil distilled from the hyssop plant is a cure for head lice and relieves the intense itching of lice bites. A poultice of steamed hyssop leaves is an effective remedy for the pain and discoloration of sprains, bruises and muscle injuries. Culinary Use For centuries, hyssop has been used by monks to craft fine liqueurs. Six tablespoons of hyssop liqueur added to ale is said to improve the disposition and the complexion. Fresh hyssop can be used in salads to impart a tangy, bitter taste and is often planted near grape plants to enhance the yield of the vines. Hyssop is frequently added to fruit salads, soups, and sauces to improve the flavor of stone fruits. Cultivation Hyssop adds beauty to the home garden, growing up to three feet tall at maturity. The plant can be started from seed or root division of a plant purchased at the nursery or home and garden supply. The plant is very attractive with dark and shiny long green leaves and an abundance of small white, blue or pink flowers with a delightful fragrance. The blue variety is considered the most fragrant and produces the most flowers. Hyssop likes a dry and sunny location with nutrient rich soil. When gathering leaves and flowers for tea, pick when the first flowers appear.