Hyssop & Juniper
Hyssop & Juniper
Hyssopus officinalis or hyssop is an herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. Due to its properties as an antiseptic, cough reliever, and expectorant, it is commonly used as a medicinal plant. Formerly much cultivated as an herb, and still sometimes planted for ornament, Hyssop is not native to our country, although it has naturalised itself in some places. As the specific name officinalis reveals it was an old fashioned medicinal plant and continues to be today. This use would seem to have Biblical authority behind it, the psalmist saying, 'purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean', although this may relate to religious purification ceremonies rather than inner cleanliness. It was probably the Romans who introduced Hyssop into this country, and it was later grown in monastic gardens for medicinal purposes. An infusion of the flower tops, known as Hyssop tea, is used for coughs, colds and bronchial complaints, Gerard (1) saying that 'a decoction of Hyssope made with figges, water, honey and rue and drunken helpeth the old cough.'
Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, between 50 and 67 species of juniper are widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa, from Ziarat, Pakistan east to eastern Tibet in the Old World, and in the mountains of Central America. Juniper has a curious distribution in the British Isles, being found in several scattered localities on chalk downs in the south of England, and in some places in the north of England and in the north of Scotland but absent from the midlands. It is a variable species and can be divided into several ecological or geographical sub-species, two extreme forms sometimes being classed as distinct species, though intermediates do occur. It derives its name from the French genièvre) which we have transformed through geneva to gin, the flavour of which comes from Juniper berries. These can also be used in the preparation of Oil of Juniper, which is a powerful diuretic. They have a questionable history in early family planning which accounts for the Somerset name of Bastard Killer. The unfortunate belief that gin could induce miscarriage was current until quite recently.
(1) Gerard, John (c 1545-1612) botanist and herbalist, Great Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597;