What Is Hyssop?

Traditionally used as a digestive aid and for asthma

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is an herb that has been claimed to treat various ailments, including ulcers, herpes, and cancer. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that hyssop is safe and effective for these or any other medical uses.

Hyssop is native to southern Europe and central Asia, but can also be found growing in gardens throughout North America. 

This article will look at the potential benefits of hyssop, as well as side effects, precautions, dosage, and what to look for.

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF.

However, third-party testing does not mean a supplement is safe and effective for everyone. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

●     Active Ingredient(s): Hyssop leaf, hyssop flower

●     Alternate Name(s): Hyssopus officinalis

●     Legal Status: Legal in the US. Sold over-the-counter.

●     Suggested Dose: There is no evidence-backed suggested dose for hyssop.

●     Safety Considerations: Using hyssop may cause side effects like upset stomach, anxiety, and tremors.

 Steve Gorton/Getty ImagesSteve Gorton

Uses of Hyssop

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or doctor. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Hyssop is said to have a variety of health benefits. While supplements rarely get extensive research done on them, we do have some scientific literature on hyssop's potential benefits. Research on hyssop is in the early stages still, but much of it is promising. And this could give researchers an incentive to keep studying it.

Anti-Cancer Properties

A 2014 review found evidence that herbs in the Lamiaceae family, including hyssop, may be able to destroy cancer cells.

A study published in 2017 concluded that hyssop oils and extracts have the potential to kill cervical cancer cells. However, the study was performed in a lab and not on human subjects.

While these results are promising, they must be replicated in human studies before we'll know whether it's a safe and effective treatment.

Ulcer Treatment

Many traditional uses of hyssop involve indigestion, and one lab study uncovered a possible reason for that. Researchers found that hyssop acts against two chemicals in the body that are involved in developing gastric ulcers and peptic ulcers: urease and a-chymotrypsin.

These findings helped researchers conclude that hyssop may be an effective ulcer treatment. However, this has not yet been proven in a human trial. Until then, we cannot say that hyssop is beneficial for treating ulcers.

Antioxidant Activity

Hyssop is thought to have antioxidant properties that may provide many benefits. Antioxidants are powerful components that can fight off harmful substances and free radicals in your body.

A team of researchers in Romania published an article that explored the antioxidant activity of hyssop. The article revealed high levels of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, to be found in hyssop oils and extracts. These polyphenols were shown to have moderate levels of antioxidant activity within hyssop.

However, these results were found in a laboratory setting. We'll need further research and human studies to confirm that the possible antioxidant effects of hyssop will work in humans.

Antiviral Properties

Few viruses are as well-known to the general public, or as common, as herpes simplex 1 and 2. Hyssop may have some use in preventing the spread of these and other viruses.

A 2016 review of Iranian herbal medicines for herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) reported on the potential anti-viral activity of hyssop. The review lists several studies that showed hyssop extract to be able to slow the onset of HSV-1 infection by more than 50% in mice.

A 2018 review of the literature on Lamiaceae plants against the retrovirus HIV showed promising preliminary results from in vitro studies. Researchers said the plants, including hyssop, appear to target structures that allow the virus to infect cells. Hyssop may also destroy key enzymes that HIV relies on for its life cycle.

Despite these positive results, researchers agree that human trials are needed to strengthen these claims.

Other Possible Effects

Hyssop has been used for centuries in a variety of ways. Other traditional uses of hyssop include treatment of:

Hyssop may also have anti-microbial properties, as evidenced by in vitro studies.

It's always best to talk with your healthcare provider before starting hyssop or any other supplement. They can walk you through the potential benefits and the supplement and help you decide if it is right for you.

Side Effects of Hyssop

Even natural treatments can have unwanted side effects, and hyssop is no exception. The herb is believed to be relatively safe at levels commonly.

However, at high doses, hyssop can be dangerous. And some people should avoid hyssop entirely.

Common Side Effects

Some side effects associated with taking hyssop are more common than others. Common hyssop side effects include:

These side effects are typically reported as mild. If you notice these or other side effects then stop use and ask your healthcare provider if you should continue taking hyssop.

Severe Side Effects

Severe side effects are also possible while taking hyssop. Severe side effects possible while taking hyssop include:

  • Seizure: Hyssop oil is a known convulsant and should not be given to children or to people with seizure disorders. In healthy adults, hyssop may elevate seizure risk, especially at high doses.
  • Miscarriage: Do not take this herb while you're pregnant. Hyssop oil may cause uterine contractions and trigger menstruation, which may cause miscarriage.
  • Allergic reaction: Do not use hyssop if you've ever had an allergic reaction to hyssop-containing products, the hyssop plant itself, or other plants in the Lamiaceae family (also known as the mint or deadnettle family).

It's important to seek medical attention if you experience severe side effects when taking hyssop.


Some populations should take precautions and avoid using hyssop.

People who are pregnant or nursing should avoid hyssop. Miscarriage is possible while taking hyssop. And there is not enough information to know if it is safe to take while nursing.

It is also recommended that children avoid taking hyssop. This is because seizures are a possible, severe side effect that can occur when taking hyssop.

The risk of seizures also means people with a history of epilepsy and other seizure disorders should avoid hyssop.

Only use hyssop supplements and oils as directed to avoid side effects or other adverse reactions. Always speak with a healthcare provider to learn how to safely use a new supplement.

We don't have enough information to say whether hyssop is safe to use while breastfeeding, so it is best to avoid it if you are nursing. Children shouldn't use hyssop due to the increased risk of seizure.

Dosage: How Much Hyssop Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

No standard, safe dosage has been determined for hyssop. The right dose for you may depend on your age, health, and other conditions.

Most studies done on hyssop have been performed on animal models or in lab settings. Without adequate human testing, it is not safe to recommend a standard dose for hyssop.

Remember that you increase your risk of side effects when you take more hyssop than recommended. Therefore, it's important to use hyssop only as directed.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Hyssop?

You should only take hyssop as recommended either by your healthcare provider or as listed on the supplement packaging.

Hyssop has the potential to become toxic if taken incorrectly. Taking too much hyssop can result in severe side effects, including seizures.

Hyssop extracts contain oils that are classified as volatile. One of these, pinocamphone, has been found to be neurotoxic in certain settings.

Be aware of how much hyssop you take each time you use it. You may have taken too much hyssop if you experience side effects.


Medication, food, and supplement interactions have not been reported for hyssop. However, it is possible that interactions exist but have not been properly reported.

Regardless, it is still recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider about any medications or supplements you plan to use at the same time as hyssop. They may be able to tell you whether hyssop will interact with anything else you are taking.

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of hyssop and other supplements to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Hyssop

Hyssop supplements should be stored properly to avoid spoiling.

Keep hyssop leaves, teas, capsules, and oils in a cool, dry place that is not directly hit by the sun at any time of the day. It's also best to store hyssop in its original packaging.

Loose hyssop leaves and teas should be kept in an airtight container.

Store hyssop in a place that children cannot access to prevent accidental consumption.

Discard hyssop supplements once the expiration date listed on the packaging has been reached.

Similar Supplements

There are a number of supplements on the market today. And some of these claim to have similar benefits to hyssop.

A few supplements that are similar to hyssop include:

  • Licorice: Licorice root may be beneficial for the treatment of peptic ulcers as it may help clear H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for many stomach ulcers. In one randomized human trial, participants who took licorice along with ulcer medication for two weeks had increased eradication of H. pylori.
  • Selenium: Selenium contains antioxidants that may be beneficial for the prevention of various diseases. The antioxidants in selenium are thought to work by reducing oxidative stress in the body.
  • Zinc: An important trace element, zinc has been found to have antiviral properties. It has been used to treat flu, herpes simplex, and other viruses.

It should be noted here that a food-first approach is always best when it comes to getting the nutrients your body needs to keep you healthy. No supplement can cure or prevent disease on its own.

It's typically not recommended to take two or more supplements for the same benefit. Talk with your healthcare provider before adding more supplements to your routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is hyssop oil?

    Hyssop oil is extracted from the hyssop plant (Hyssopus officinalis). It is often used as an essential oil in aromatherapy., but some people also use it topically. Hyssop oil should not be taken orally.

  • Is hyssop toxic?

    Hyssop contains substances that can be toxic if overused or taken improperly. Hyssop can cause seizures in some people. It is recommended that children and people with epilepsy avoid taking hyssop.

  • What does hyssop taste like?

    Hyssop has a minty, slightly bitter taste that is reminiscent of liquorice. In Middle Eastern cuisine, it is often used to flavor meat and vegetable dishes.  The oil is also used as a fragrance in some body-care products and cosmetics.

Sources of Hyssop & What To Look For

Hyssop is not naturally found in foods, but you can cook with it as an herb. You can also find hyssop in a variety of supplement forms.

Food Sources of Hyssop

Dried hyssop leaves can be used as a garnish or cooked into dishes. It is described as having a minty yet floral flavor.

Some people choose to sprinkle dried or fresh hyssop leaves over meals, like salads, soups, and roasts. Others prefer to cook or steam hyssop to make the flavor more palatable. The way you choose to cook with hyssop is really up to you!

If you are eating hyssop for its antioxidant benefits, there are many other fresh food options that can provide the same polyphenols. A food-first approach is always recommended when it comes to getting the nutrients your body needs.

Food sources of polyphenols can be found here.

Hyssop Supplements

Hyssop supplements are sold in a variety of forms. You can purchase hyssop supplements as capsules, soft gels, essential oils, liquid extracts, and dried leaves.

The liquid forms of hyssop (oil and extract) have been associated with an increased risk of seizures more often than the other supplement forms available.

When looking into supplements, it's important to remember that they are not regulated by the FDA or any other governing agencies. This means that what you are buying may not actually contain what the label says it does. And the claims listed on supplement packages have often times not been supported by science.

Some supplement companies choose to undergo a voluntary review from independent agencies like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab. A seal from one of these agencies means that the supplement ingredients have been vetted.


Hyssop is an herb from the Lamiaceae family that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine.

It may be beneficial for some to use due to its potential antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-cancer properties. However, no strong human trials have been performed on these and other claims surrounding hyssop uses. Therefore, take precautions and talk with your healthcare provider before starting hyssop.

A Word From Verywell

Only you can decide whether hyssop is something you'd like to add to your healthcare regimen. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your healthcare provider, do plenty of research, and consider your full health history and what medications and supplements you're already taking.

Remember that "natural" doesn't always mean "safe." Follow your healthcare provider's dosage advice and watch for negative side effects or interactions whenever you start taking something new.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Moradi MT, Rafieian-Kopaei M, Karimi A. A review study on the effect of Iranian herbal medicines against in vitro replication of herpes simplex virus. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine. 2016 Sep-Oct;6(5):506-515.

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Additional Reading

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.