hyssop (hĭsˈəp) [key], aromatic, perennial, somewhat woody herb ( Hyssopus officinalis ) of the family Labiatae (mint family), native to the Old World but partially naturalized in North America. The plant has small, violet-blue or sometimes pink or white flowers. Although now grown chiefly for ornament, it has been used to flavor soups and salads, as a tea for chest ailments, and as a poultice for bruises; oil of hyssop has been added to liqueurs and cologne. The hyssop of the Scriptures (1 Kings 4.33; Ps. 51.7; John 19.29) may have been a similar plant or the name may have referred to different plants. Hyssop is used as a symbol of humility in religious painting. North American plants of the related genus Agastache are called giant hyssop and were used medicinally and as flavoring by the Native Americans. Hyssop is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Lamiales, family Labiatae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.