January 28, 2008
M. J. McKeown, MD, FACOG, FACS
Hyssop; Hyssopus officinalis (Linn.)
Natural order; Labiatae
Hyssop; Biblical Protectant and Healer - Exodus 12:22 ye shall take a bunch of Hyssop dip it into the blood that is in the basin and strike the lintel and two side posts ... This protects the Hebrew children from the death of the 10th plague
The results of the test of a hypothesis depend not only on the question asked but the methods of the test. As testing capabilities change so may proof or disproof. - MJM
The centuries of use of hyssop by leaders of medicine and local herbalists have given rise to a body of accepted uses. The proof of the use of these ministrations has been empiric observation of one unique case or another in the personal experience of these users of the herb. In the now, as the testing abilities of science have moved to the cellular and atomic areas of medicinal effects, traditional usages of hyssop have been supported and some new uses discovered in areas where the diseases themselves were not recognized.
Two of these are in the use during pregnancy and the dosage limits of use. The herb has been known to herbal history as an emmenagogue. This means it stimulates the uterine muscle to contract. This smooth muscle contractile stimulus now has more scientific proof thus the modern warning remains the same. The use of the herb as a stimulant is an old one but the warning of excessive stimulation is now known that the pinocamphones and isopinocamphones are related to seizure activity. Once again the modern warning remains the same; do not use too much!
There are six general forms of usage of this amazing herb; poultice of crushed leaves, a decoction of flowering tops, an infusion or tea, direct usage of tender shoots, usage of extracted oil, and an extract of the dried leaves.
The usage of a poultice of crushed leaves is an old English farming use.
The uses of decoctions, infusions, or teas relate to the now known chemical natures of the herb. The leaves are now known to contain terpenoids (marrubin, oleanic acid, ursolic acid), volatile oils (camphor, pinocamphene, isopinocamphene, thujone, alpha and beta pinene, alpha terpinene, linalool, bornylacetate), and flavonoids (diosmin, hesperidin, hyssopin glucoside, tannins).
The tender parts of the herb can be used, as with many herbs, directly in various food recipes.
The essential oil mixes well with eucalyptus, myrtle, lavender, citrus, rosemary, sage, camphor, juniper, laurel (bay), and geranium. The oil has been used in many ways and some of these are; anti-rheumatic, astringent, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, caminative, cicatrisant, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, anti-hypertensive, nervine, sudorific, stimulant, tonic, vermifuge, and vulnerary.
There have not been sufficient scientific tests of usage of this versatile herb to support all of the uses mentioned. However some specific testing supports some possible usages.
The essential oil works well as an antifungal.1,2 It also has properties as an anti-bacterial.3,4 Specific disc diffusion tests of its antibacterial activity show it to be active against Gram positive bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, echinococcus species), Gram negative (Klebsiella oxytoca, Escherischia coli, Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas species and Salmonella species). All yeasts ( 7 strains of Candida albicans, Candida krusei, and Candida tropicalis) were strongly inhibited.
The oil has been found to have strong anti-viral properties.5,6,7 The anti-viral properties against Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV1 and HSV2) are complementary to acyclovir and are effective in some cases where acyclovir is not.6,8 There is a clear dose-dependent virucidal activity and it appears to be by interacting with the viral envelope before adsorption of the virus to the affected cell walls.8,9
There is preliminary evidence that the oil inhibits the uptake of carbohydrates from the intestine.10,11 This is in animal intestinal preparations and has not been documented in humans.
The oil also has been found to have anti-tumor and other cytotoxic properties.12
The oil has been found to have activyity against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).9 The HIV effect is seen with the crude extract and appears to have a strong anti-HIV effect by inhibition of syncytiae formation, reverse transcription (RV), and p17 and p24 antigen expression but was non-toxic to uninfected Molt-3 cells.13
Thus Hyssopus officinalis appears to have many and varied uses in the healthcare field. The contraindications are for pregnant women, small children less than 2 years old, epileptics, lactating women and the use of greater than 10 drops per day of the tincture by adults.No interactions with any pharmaceuticals have been reported. However it must be remembered that the chemical compositions of standard pharmaceuticals change and when the pharmaceuticals are being checked for adverse actions prior to approval by the Food and Drug Administration and clinical use it is not likely they are checked for interactions with herbals.
References - Hyssop