Hyssop





The cultivated Hyssop, now of frequent occurrence in the herb-bed,

and a favourite plant there because of its fragrance, belongs to the

labiate order, and possesses cordial qualities which give it rank as a

Simple. It has pleasantly odorous striped leaves which vary in

colour, and possess a camphoraceous odour, with a warm aromatic

bitter taste. This is of comparatively recent introduction into our

gardens, not having been [278] cultivated until Gerard's time, about

1568, and not being a native English herb.



The Ussopos of Dioscorides, was named from azob, a holy

herb, because used for cleansing sacred places. Hence it is alluded

to in this sense scripturally: Purge me with Hyssop, and I shall be

clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm li. 7).

Solomon wrote of all trees, from the Cedar in Lebanon to the

Hyssop that springeth out of the wall. The healing virtues of the

plant are due to a particular volatile oil which admirably promotes

expectoration in bronchial catarrh and asthma. Hyssop tea is a

grateful drink well adapted to improve the tone of a feeble stomach,

being brewed with the green tops of the herb. The same parts of the

plant are sometimes boiled in soup to be given for asthma. The

leaves and flowers are of a warm pungent taste, and of an agreeable

aromatic smell; therefore if the tops and blossoms are reduced to a

powder and added to cold salad herbs they give a comforting cordial

virtue.



There was formerly made a distilled water of Hyssop, which may

still be had from some druggists, it being deemed a good pectoral

medicine. In America an infusion of the leaves is used externally for

the relief of muscular rheumatism, as also for bruises and

discoloured contusions. The herb was sometimes called Rosemary

in the East, and was hung up to afford protection from the evil eye,

as well as to guard against witches.



To make Hyssop tea, one drachm of the herb should be infused in a

pint of boiling water, and allowed to become cool. Then a

wineglassful is to be given as a dose two or three times in the day.



Of the essential oil of Hyssop, from one to two drops [279] should

be the dose. Pliny said: Hyssop mixed with figs, purges; with

honey, vomits. If the herb be steeped in boiling water and applied

hot to the part, it will quickly remove the blackness consequent

upon a bruise or blow, especially in the case of black or

blood-shot eyes.



Parkinson says that in his day the golden hyssop was of so pleasant

a colour that it provoked every gentlewoman to wear them in their

heads, and on their arms with as much delight as many fine flowers

can give. The leaves are striped conspicuously with white or

yellow; for which reason, and because of their fragrance, the herb is

often chosen to be planted on graves. The green herb, bruised and

applied, will heal cuts promptly. Its tea will assist in promoting the

monthly courses for women. Hyssop grows wild in middle and

southern Europe.



The Hedge Hyssop (Gratiola officinalis), or Water Hyssop, is

quite a different plant from the garden pot-herb, and belongs to the

scrofula-curing order, with far more active medicinal properties than

the Hyssop proper. The commonly recognized Hedge Hyssop bears

a pale yellow, or a pale purple flower, like that of the Foxglove; and

the whole plant has a very bitter taste. A medicinal tincture (H.) is

made from the entire herb, of which from eight to ten drops may be

taken with a tablespoonful of cold water three times in the day. It

will afford relief against nervous weakness and shakiness, such as

occur after an excessive use of coffee or tobacco. The title

gratiola, is from dei gratia, by the grace of God.



The juice of the plant purges briskly, and may be usefully employed

in some forms of dropsy. Its decoction is milder of action, and

proves beneficial [280] in cases of jaundice. In France the plant is

cultivated as a perfume, and it is said to be an active ingredient in

the famous Eau medicinale for gout.



Of the dried leaves from five to twenty-five grains will act as a

drastic vermifuge to expel worms. The root resembles ipecacuanha

in its effects, and in moderate quantities, as a powder or decoction,

helps to stay bloody fluxes and purgings. The flowers are sometimes

of a blood-red hue, and the whole plant contains a special essential

oil.



Whoso taketh, says Parkinson, but one scruple of Gratiola

(Hedge Hyssop) bruised, shall perceive evidently his effectual

operation and virtue in purging mightily, and that in great

abundance, watery, gross, and slimy tumours. Caveat qui

sumpserit. On the principle of affinities, small diluted doses of the

tincture, or decoction, or of the dried leaves, prove curative in cases

of fluxes from the lower bowels, where irritation within the

fundament is frequent, and where there is considerable nervous

exhaustion, especially in chronic cases of this sort.





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