Hyssop of the Bible
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Susan Gerrish
Posted on: June 5, 1998

In the Bible it talks about the herb Hyssop, and I heard it can be used for chest pains. Is this true? Could you also give me an E-mail address to find out more info on this herb such as how to grow it and use it.

The true identity of the biblical hyssop has provoked a long controversy going back centuries. Eleanor Anthony King, in her book "Bible Plants for American Gardens" (available from Richters), says a number of plants have been proposed but none has been conclusively proven to be the real one. Some suggestions include the Middle Eastern natives Egyptian marjoram (Originum aegyptiacum), caper (Capparis spinosa), sorghum (Holcus sorghum), maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) and wall-rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria).

According to King, the modern hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is not the hyssop that is mentioned in the Bible. "It was said of Solomon, in proof of his wisdom, that he could talk upon any subject from the cedar tree that was in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall (I Kings 4:33)." Solomon’s hyssop, by logic, had to be a native of the Holy Land, but Hyssopus officinalisis is a southern European native that is not found in the Holy Land.

Whatever the true identity of the biblical hyssop, the modern variety is indeed useful for chest problems. According to John Lust in his book, "The Herb Book", a tea made from the above-ground herb of Hyssopus officinalis is used to treat breast and lung problems and coughs due to colds.

Hyssop is very easy to grow. It is a hardy perennial thriving in sunny, well-drained locations. It reaches 50-60 cm (24-28 inches) in height. It can be started from seeds, cuttings or by division. Lust says that the infusion made with the dried foliage steeped in water at a rate of 1 teaspoon to a half cup of water. A half to one and a half cups are taken daily, a mouthful at a time. Lust warns not to take it for extended periods;" why, he does not explain.

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