The name hyssop comes from the Greek hussopos and the Hebrew esob meaning 'holy herb.' Because of its strong camphor-like odor, it was used historically as a cleansing herb. In the seventeenth century, it was used as a strewing herb in sick rooms and to cleanse lepers, as noted in biblical writings.
The bushy, compact, upright plant has many branched square stems which are woody at the bottom. The 1-to-1 1/2-inch long leaves are opposite, linear to lanceolate, and sessile. The two-lipped blue-violet flowers grow up to 1/2 inch long on spikes in successive axillary whorls. They have a bell-shaped calyx and a tubular corolla. The fruit is comprised of four nutlets.
Aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, and medicinal.
Hyssop scents potpourris and perfumes. It is used in soothing herbal baths and in herbal facials to cleanse the skin. The mintlike leaves and flowers add flavor to green salads, soups, fruit salads, and teas. Hyssop can be grown in containers. It is said to have some medicinal qualities.
Hyssop must be planted early in the garden or started indoors. It attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.