Tag Archives: circulatory stimulant

Essential Oils for Headaches

Essential Oils for HeadachesHeadaches are one of the most common medical complaints; they can be caused by stress, muscle tension, hunger, eye strain from too much screen time, or deeper medical conditions. Luckily, there are many essential oils for headaches that can help reduce pain and tension. What’s more, using essential oils to treat headaches is often as easy as dabbing some oil on a cotton ball or inhaling some from the bottle. In this article, we explore some of the most popular essential oils for headaches and how to use them effectively.

Please note that this article is not a substitute for trained medical advice. Headaches may be an indication of a more serious medical condition. You should consult a physician if you suffer from headaches that are severe and/or chronic. Many severe, chronic headaches such as migraines and cluster headaches require treatment by a doctor. This article is intended to be an overview of essential oils to treat headaches that are minor and infrequent.

How Essential Oils Can Reduce Headache:

Essential oils containing menthol or 1,8-cineol have cooling properties that can directly numb the pain and discomfort of a headache [1]. Many essential oils also have vasodilating properties that increase circulation [1], may reduce muscle tension, and can even treat emotional stress at the root of some headaches [3]. Essential oils with hormone-balancing properties, such as lavender and clary sage, may be especially effective at reducing headaches caused by hormonal imbalances during a woman’s menstrual cycle [3]. As you can see, as many causes as there are for headaches, there is also an essential oil to combat them!

The Essential Oils – Peppermint:

One of the most popular essential oils for headaches, peppermint contains cooling menthol that can directly numb tissues while also increasing nourishing blood flow to the painful area. People commonly use peppermint oil for tension headache and muscle ache [2]. However, peppermint oil can be stimulating and may interfere with sleep, so we recommend against using it right before bed. You can also use spearmint oil if you prefer the aroma, since it contains many of the same compounds [2].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Peppermint oil is considered one of the best home remedies for headaches and migraines.

Lavender: With its high linalyl acetate content, lavender oil is sedating and can soothe inflammation [2]. The oil also contains phytoestrogens which may help reduce headaches caused by an imbalance of female hormones. Lavender oil’s calming properties can be perfect for treating any underlying emotional stress as well. This oil can be used before bed without keeping you awake, and in fact, lavender aromatherapy is actually recommended for treating sleeplessness[2].

Roman Chamomile Oil: This lovely, apple-scented oil possesses similar properties to lavender oil due to its high ester content [2]. Roman chamomile oil is sedative, reduces tissue inflammation, and may also have direct relaxing effects on the nerves [2].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Roman chamomile oil is one of the gentlest essential oils. Its common name comes from its wide use in medicine since Roman times.

Eucalyptus Oil: This oil is especially effective for sinus headaches caused by congestion. Packed with 1,8-cineol, eucalyptus has powerful expectorant properties and direct analgesic properties similar to menthol [3]. Note that eucalyptus oil should not be used on children younger than 12 (for older children, consult a physician), because it can cause respiratory spasm, especially in larger quantities [2].

Basil Oil: A muscle relaxant similar to peppermint oil, basil oil can be used to reduce tension headaches, as well as aches and pains in the surrounding neck and head muscles [1].

Ginger Oil: This slightly spicy-smelling oil is a powerful vasodilator and circulatory stimulant. Commonly used for painful, aching joints, a little bit of ginger oil can also go a long way toward wiping away that irritating tension headache [2]. Ginger oil is best used sparingly in a blend with another oil such as lavender. Anecdotal evidence suggests ginger oil may be somewhat effective against more severe chronic headaches such as migraines [3].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Ginger oil is an invigorating circulatory stimulant that works on circulatory problems and muscle pain as well as headaches.

How to Use Essential Oils for Headaches:

As with any essential oil treatment, dilution is the rule. Always dilute a few drops of your chosen essential oil (or blend) in 1 fluid ounce of a gentle carrier like jojoba oil. The general ratio is 10-12 drops of essential oil (6-8 drops if using peppermint, spearmint, or eucalyptus, as these oils are stronger) in 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil. Place your blend in an amber or blue glass bottle with a stopper. 1-4 drops of this blend may be massaged into the painful area—back of the neck, temples, forehead, and so on. You can also dilute a few drops of essential oil in water in a spray bottle to create a room spray, or use the inhalation method: place a few drops of undiluted oil into a diffuser or cotton ball and inhale the vapors. When using this method, use only one drop of essential oil at first until you know how your body reacts to it [2].


Always use any essential oil for headache sparingly and in dilution (unless using the diffusion method above). Using more of an oil will not necessarily be more effective, and may cause a reaction or sensitivity to the oil. We always recommend consulting a physician when considering treating children with essential oils, as they may have sensitivities to certain oils. For instance, oils high in menthol or 1,8-cineol, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, can cause breathing difficulties in children. Furthermore, while this is rare, a few essential oils can actually cause headaches! Ylang ylang oil in particular is a headache trigger for some people, especially when used in excess [2].

Other Headache Treatments:

Certain foods rich in phytochemicals are thought to reduce the frequency of headaches: particularly flax seed (which is high in healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids), and buckwheat, which contains the phytochemical rutin [1]. The pith (white part) of citrus fruit is also a source of rutin. Conversely, people suffering chronic headaches and migraines should consider keeping a food diary to identify foods that may be headache triggers. Common “trigger foods” include caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, chocolate, red wine, foods high in tannins, MSG, red or processed meat, and aged, fermented or pickled foods [1]. Eliminating these foods and then slowly adding in one at a time can be one way to identify foods that may be headache triggers [1].

Even more severe forms of headaches such as migraine and cluster headache may respond to do-it-yourself remedies. At the onset of a migraine, massaging the occipital nerve at the base of the skull can sometimes reduce the severity of an attack, or even prevent it in some cases [3]. This treatment’s effectiveness may be increased by warming the hands about 15 degrees (by soaking them in warm water); researchers think this increase in temperature may treat vascular headaches by regulating circulation [3].

Finally, some people find relief from chronic, severe headache such as cluster headache by use of capsaicin cream [3]. Derived from the compound that makes chili peppers hot, when rubbed into the spot where headaches occur 4-5 times per day for about 4 weeks, capsaicin cream is thought to reduce and even prevent severe headaches by depleting nerve endings of substance P, the neurotransmitter that sends pain impulses to the brain [3]. Capsaicin cream works best as a headache preventative because of the more extended treatment required.

Nature has created many plants with compounds that can aid us in our quest to rid ourselves of headaches and other sources of chronic pain. With a little research and dedication, it is possible to naturally treat headaches and live a more comfortable life!


1. Calabro, Sara. “Home Remedies for Headache and Migraine”. Everyday Health. Accessed January 27th, 2015. http://www.everydayhealth.com/headache-migraine-pictures/8-home-remedies-for-headaches-and-migraines.aspx.

2. “Aromatherapy for Headaches”. Aromaweb. Accessed January 27th, 2015. http://www.aromaweb.com/articles/aromatherapy-essential-oils-for-headaches.asp.

3. Keville, Kathy. “How to Get Rid of a Headache With Aromatherapy”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed January 27th, 2015. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/aromatherapy/how-to-get-rid-of-a-headache-with-aromatherapy.htm.

Pure Birch Oil and Its Traditional Use as a Muscle Liniment

Pure Birch Oil and Its Traditional Use as a Muscle LinimentPure birch essential oil is almost 100% methyl salicylate—the same therapeutic compound used in liniments to soothe muscle aches and painful joints—which may be why birch oil was a popular folk remedy for sore joints, sprains, and muscle aches caused by overexertion [1]. All parts of this beautiful tree have been used by people living in temperate Europe and North America—as a textile material, medicine, perfume, and even a food!

Several species of birch (genus Betula) can be found in temperate regions of the world; Betula alba is the species typically used to extract birch essential oil. Birches are small to medium-sized trees or shrubs with serrated leaves and characteristic smooth, shiny bark marked by horizontal oval strips called lenticels [2]. Birch bark can be white, yellow, silver, or black depending on the composition of essential oils in the bark tar; common names for different species of birch often use the color of the bark as a distinguishing characteristic.

The name “birch” is thought to derive from an Indo-European root meaning “to shine”, in reference to birch bark’s beautiful sheen [2]. The tough outer bark of the birch tree can be peeled off the trunk in papery sheets, and was used as a durable natural paper by people in continental Europe for hundreds if not thousands of years. In fact, the bark’s tar content makes it so resistant to decay that birch bark drawings dating from 1240-1260 CE have been recovered at archaeological sites near Novgorod, Russia [2]!

Besides being a valued paper analogue, the bark of the birch tree has been used by humans in fragrancing, medicine, and even food—the soft inner bark of the birch tree is edible and was eaten as a starch in times when other starch sources were scarce [1]. Interior birch bark may also have been used as the first “aspirin” in Europe and North America: the soft bark was steeped into a methyl salicylate-containing tea that was taken to treat headaches and congestion [1]. In Russia, birch oil was a jealously guarded fragrance and key component in “Russian Leather”, a perfume so-named because it was once rubbed into book bindings to keep the leather soft, water-resistant, and pliable, as well as to repel insects that could cause damage [1]. Ladies also scented their kerchiefs with a scent called Iceland Wintergreen that contained birch oil [1].

Today, aromatherapists use birch oil in many of the same applications as wintergreen oil: as a topical liniment for sore muscles, joints, and sprains, and in diffusion to treat headache and sinus congestion [3]. In Europe, birch essential oil is also one of the few essential oils approved to treat arthritis and other joint conditions in horses. Pure birch essential oil contains mostly methyl salicylate (the same active compound found in wintergreen oil), as well as creosol and guaiacol [1], which combined give pure birch oil an enchantingly fresh, minty scent!

Aromatherapists also use a drop or two of birch oil in a warm bath to soothe sore muscles, promote circulation and encourage menstruation, especially when the latter has been delayed due to stress or emotional issues [1]. Some people also find relief from the dry rough skin that accompanies eczema or psoriasis when birch oil is added to a lotion [1]. A small amount of birch oil may also be added to a shampoo or conditioner to combat dandruff [3].

Like wintergreen oil, birch oil is an oral toxin due to its high methyl salicylate content [3]. Birch essential oil should never be taken internally or used over large areas of the skin [3]. Birch oil is best used in diffusion from an oil burner or diffuser, or topically in extremely limited quantities. The oil’s refreshing, minty aroma blends exceptionally well with woody or floral oils such as jasmine, rose, benzoin, rosemary, and sandalwood.


1. Keville, Kathy. “Aromatherapy: Birch”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed September 12th, 2014. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-birch.htm.

2.“Birch”. Wikipedia. Last modified September 9th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birch.

3. “Health Benefits of Birch Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed September 12th, 2014. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-birch-essential-oil.html.

Radiata Oil – A Gentle Relative of Eucalyptus Oil With Similar Properties

Radiata Oil - A Gentle Relative of Eucalyptus Oil With Similar PropertiesYes, radiata is a type of eucalyptus—but its chemical composition is different enough from Eucalyptus globulus that we have elected to offer radiata essential oil separately, as its very own product. Even plants belonging to the same genus can produce very different essential oils at the species level; for example, take sweet annie and wormwood oil: while both plants belong to the genus Artemisia, their essential oils contain a distinct range of compounds that have different effects. In the case of the eucalyptuses, Eucalyptus radiata is widely considered to have a sweeter, gentler scent that lacks the more medicinal overtones of its famous cousin Eucalyptus globulus. Radiata essential oil is often used to treat the same conditions as eucalyptus oil in people who are too sensitive to the camphoraceous scent of eucalyptus.

Both Eucalyptus radiata and E. globulus are evergreen trees native to Australia [1]. Radiata has lance-shaped glossy green leaves and grayish brown bark that comes off in parchment-like layers, which is why it’s sometimes also known as the “paperbark” tree. In the wild, radiata trees grow to an average height of 15 meters (48 feet), and occasionally can reach heights of 30 meters (97 feet)[2]!

Australian aborigines used a wide variety of plant medicines in traditional medicine. Eucalyptus was one of the first and foremost of these, used to treat ailments from aching muscles and sore joints to respiratory infections, burns, and open wounds [2]. One common practice was to crush eucalyptus leaves into a poultice that could be applied to cuts and wounds to speed healing and prevent infections due to antimicrobial compounds in the leaf. Eucalyptus leaves were also burned and the vapors inhaled to treat fevers, and a distillation of eucalyptus leaves in water was often consumed to relieve menstrual cramps and stomach upset [2].

There are 6 known chemotypes of radiata oil [1], each with a slightly different ratio and composition of compounds; the chemotype we offer at Essential Oil Exchange contains naturally high levels of piperitone, used to synthesize the antimicrobial compounds menthol and thymol, which are found in mouthwashes, lozenges and commercial disinfectants [2]. Radiata essential oil also contains phellandrene, camphene, cymene, terpinene, and thujene.

The oil of radiata is used in aromatherapy as an analgesic rub for sore muscles and joints due to its anti-inflammatory [3], warming, and circulatory stimulant properties. Radiata oil is also inhaled in diffusion to support the immune system [3] and treat respiratory infections [2] and conditions ranging from sinusitis to nasal catarrh and chest congestion, especially wet congestion resulting from the production of excess mucus. The vapor of radiata oil can help clear this congestion by acting to regulate mucus secretion [4]. The oil is also sometimes diffused outdoors as an insect repellent [2], along with lemongrass and citronella oil.

Finally, we couldn’t conclude this article without mentioning some of the lovely blendings radiata oil makes with other essential oils! Aromatherapists often enhance the efficacy of essential oils by combining them to create a therapeutic synergy, and radiata oil is no exception. A blend of radiata oil with similar antimicrobial and expectorant essential oils such as Eucalyptus globulus, peppermint, and thyme may be invaluable in staving off winter colds while invigorating the senses and relieving general feelings of sluggishness and apathy. For a blend with enhanced anti-inflammatory and circulatory stimulant effects, a small quantity of radiata essential oil may be blended in a carrier oil with ginger, marjoram, Roman and German chamomile, and black pepper oil.


1. “Eucalyptus radiata.” Wikipedia. Last modified February 18th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucalyptus_radiata

2. “Eucalyptus Radiata Essential Oil”. Quinessence Aromatherapy. Accessed April 22nd, 2014. http://www.quinessence.com/blog/eucalyptus-radiata-essential-oil.

3. Serafino, A., PS Sinibaldi Vallebona, F Andreola, M Zonfrillo, L Mercuri, M Federici, G Rasi, E Garaci and P Pierimarci. 2008. “Stimulatory effect of Eucalytpus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response.” BMC Immunology 9 (17).

4. Juergens, Uwe R., Tanja Engelen, Kurt Racké, Meinolf Stöber, Adrian Gillisser, Hans Vetter. October 2004. “Inhibitory activity of 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) on cytokine production in cultured human lymphocytes and monocytes.” Pulmonary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 17 (5): 281-87.

Black Pepper Oil as a Warming Energizer and Analgesic

Black peppercornsBlack pepper is one of the most ubiquitous spices in the world, and its pungent, slightly spicy flavor is used to bring out the complexity in everything from roast meat to soup to green salads. However, it turns out that black pepper can do more than stimulate the taste buds: black pepper essential oil is also used therapeutically to promote circulation, treat indigestion, relieve chills, and energize the whole body [1].

Although black pepper is now the second most-used seasoning in the world after salt, in ancient times black pepper was a rare and valuable commodity, so much so that it was used as currency in some regions of the world! The black pepper plant (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine with broad, heart-shaped green leaves and clusters of tiny round green fruits. Native to South India, black pepper is now grown in many tropical regions of the world, with the foremost producer being Vietnam. The green fruits, called peppercorns, are processed in different ways to produce black, white, green, and red pepper. The differences depend on how the peppercorns are processed: black pepper comes from peppercorns that have been dried and cooked; green pepper is made from dried, uncooked corns; and white pepper is made from just the seed of the fruit [2]. Black peppercorns are typically ground or powdered into the familiar spice, although they can be purchased whole in many grocery stores.

Black Pepper Oil as a Warming Energizer and Analgesic

Peppercorns change color and texture depending on how they are processed, producing the four different types of pepper.

The history of black pepper truly spans the globe: one of the earliest trade spices, black pepper has been found in preparations used to embalm Egyptian mummies, and there is evidence it was available (though expensive) in ancient Greece. When the Roman Empire established a trade route from Italy to India, black pepper quickly became so in demand that the Roman chronicler Pliny wrote critically about the vast sums of money the empire was spending on the condiment. Rome also gave us the modern word pepper, derived from the Latin piper and related to the Dravidian word for the plant, pippali. Probably due to its spicy, bracing flavor, the word pepper also came to mean spirit, energy, or verve—and in English, this was later shortened to simply, “pep”. Later on, black pepper influenced the course of history as one of the South Asian spices over which European trading powers tried to gain a monopoly, along with nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.

There’s no denying that black pepper adds life to countless savory dishes, but it was also highly valued as a medicine in Asia and Europe. For one thing, piperine, the compound in black pepper that gives it its “pep”, has also been observed to enhance the body’s absorption of nutrients such as selenium, B vitamins, and beta-carotenes [3]. Not bad for something it takes just a second to sprinkle onto your food!

The therapeutic uses of black pepper essential oil are even more expansive: black pepper oil has thermogenic properties, meaning it raises body temperature and promotes circulation [4]; in a massage, this action makes black pepper oil incredibly useful for easing the pain of arthritis, rheumatism, and sore muscles, as well as reducing chills and feelings of coldness in the hands and feet [4]. Black pepper essential oil is also used to reduce a fever by promoting sweating, to stimulate appetite, and to treat indigestion [5].

Black pepper oil is also emotionally stimulating and energizing; its woody-spicy aroma can be helpful in addressing nervous exhaustion and emotional coldness, and to spur the mind into a more proactive state. Because of its circulatory stimulant action, minute quantities of black pepper oil can also serve as an overlooked yet inexpensive aphrodisiac, especially in a gentle massage.

Despite its spicy reputation, black pepper essential oil is generally non-sensitizing, though it may be irritating to sensitive skin and should always be diluted in a carrier oil before use. Our preferred way to use this warm, woody-spicy oil is to blend minute quantities with other essential oils in specialized blends. Try a spicy-floral combination of black pepper, geranium, lavender, and ylang ylang for an unforgettable exotic perfume, or combine black pepper oil with other energizers such as ginger, bergamot and coriander oil for a scent that will have you leaping out of bed in the morning. With a little experimentation, you’re sure to find your favorite use for this versatile exotic oil!


1. “Black Pepper Essential Oil Profile, Benefits and Uses”. Aromaweb. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/black-pepper-oil.asp.

2. “Black Pepper.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper.

3. Dudhatra GB, SK Mody, MM Awale, HB Patel, CM Modi, A Kumar, DR Kamani, BN Chauhan. 2012. “A comprehensive review on pharmacotherapeutics of herbal bioenhancers”. The Scientific World Journal.  

4. Heep, Alexandra. March 17th, 2010. “Uses of Black Pepper Essential Oil”. http://voices.yahoo.com/uses-black-pepper-essential-oil-5635588.html?cat=5.

5. “Health Benefits of Black Pepper Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-black-pepper-essential-oil.html.

Neroli Oil Brightens the Spirits, Calms the Nerves, and Brings Balance

Neroli Orange BlossomThe delicate floral scent of neroli essential oil has been prized in perfumery since the 1600s because of its ability to lift the mood, banish fatigue, and improve the skin’s complexion and color. Distilled from the flower of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium var. amara), neroli oil has a lighter aroma than other citrus-based essential oils, floral with rich honey undertones. Because of their delicacy, neroli blossoms must be hand harvested, usually from April to June, and distilled using water rather than steam to preserve their fragile array of chemical compounds.

Besides neroli oil, the bitter orange tree is also the source of petitgrain essential oil (from the leaves and twigs) and bitter orange oil (from the fruit rind) [1]. Originating probably from the Middle East, the juice and rind of the bitter orange were used medicinally throughout the Arab world and Europe: bitter orange juice was recommended by Gerard, a British herbalist, for healing scorpion stings and expelling intestinal parasites. Although bitter oranges were probably never used as a food—they are quite sour, as their name suggests—the juice may also have been used as a gastric stimulant and treatment for indigestion. Another common use was to place dried orange peel or whole fruit into linen chests to repel moths that could destroy textiles. This practice has survived in the pomander, an aromatic dried orange studded with cloves that can be used to scent drawers or entire rooms, often around Christmastime.

Neroli Oil Brightens the Spirits, Calms the Nerves, and Brings Balance

A traditional orange pomander studded with clove buds.

Neroli essential oil only really came into its own in the late 1600s, when the Italian princess Anne Marie Orsini began using the oil to scent her gloves and bathwater, making neroli oil the fasionable fragrance of the era: the name neroli actually derives from Nerola, the Italian city where she ruled [1]. Due to its distinctive yet unobtrusive scent, neroli oil features in up to 12% of perfumes produced today, and is speculated to be one of the secret flavoring ingredients in the closely guarded recipe for Coca-Cola [1]. Blending well with most essential oils, particularly floral and citrus oils such as bergamot and petitgrain, neroli oil is a common ingredient in facial creams and toners, including the famed orange flower water, because its astringent properties tone the skin [2]. However, since many commercial orange flower waters contain alcohol and other additives that can dry out the skin, we recommend buying your own neroli essential oil and diluting a bit in a spray bottle of water to make small, easy-to-use quantities of this excellent toner.

In aromatherapy, neroli essential oil is especially helpful for its calming effects on the emotions: simply inhaling neroli oil can help reduce nerves, balance emotional turmoil, and reduce feelings of distress [3, 4]. Some aromatherapists also use neroli oil to treat occasional sleeplessness [4]. Besides its toning actions on the skin, a massage with neroli essential oil can also stimulate circulation and minimize the appearance of stretch marks, varicose veins, and thread vein scars [2]. Its circulatory stimulant properties can also help diminish or eliminate under-eye puffiness and provide mild pain relief [2].

Unlike citrus oils derived from the fruit rind, neroli essential oil does not contain the coumarin compounds that can cause photosensitization and is safe to use by itself on skin that may be exposed to sunlight [1]. Whether you use it in a perfume, facial toner, massage, or simply diffuse it into your home, this light, flowery oil is sure to brighten your spirits and help your light shine!


1. “Neroli.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 7th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neroli.

2. O’Leary, Sarah. November 9th, 2012. “Relieve Depression and Increase Confidence with Neroli Oil”. Holistic Hot Sauce. http://www.saraholeary.net/heal-depression-and-increase-confidence-with-neroli-oil/.

3. Keville, Kathy and Mindy Green. December 2008. Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. Crossing Press.

4. Chen, Ying-ju, Fuchou Cheng, Ying Shih, Tsong-Min Chang, Ming-Fu Wang, Sen-Sen Lan. June 2008. “Inhalation of Neroli Essential Oil and Its Anxiolytic Effects.” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 5 (1).

Hyssop Oil and Its Ancient Use in Ritual Purification

Blooming HyssopThe warming, slightly camphoraceous scent of hyssop oil has been associated with rites of purification, cleansing and sanctification since Biblical times. In aromatherapy, hyssop essential oil has antiseptic, expectorant, and cough suppressant properties [1], and is often included in diffusion blends to chase away winter colds, sinus congestion, and feelings of melancholy. Hyssop essential oil is a colorless to pale yellow-green liquid that blend well with other herbaceous and floral oils such as angelica, clary sage, geranium, melissa, and rosemary.

Hyssopus officinalis is a shrub native to the Middle East, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe in the region around the Caspian Sea. It has lance-shaped leaves and produces bundles of blue, pink or white flowers during the summer. Hyssop was known to the Greeks in Classical Antiquity, and some scholars have suggested the word hyssop derives from the related Hebrew word esov or esob, which refers to a plant used in the Old Testament to purify temples and other sacred places. Hyssop also appears in the Bible as a treatment for leprosy. However, some scholars have argued that the hyssop of the Bible is actually a kind of thyme or marjoram, two other aromatic plants with similar antiseptic and cleansing properties.

Whatever the ancient truth, hyssop remained popular as a strewing herb in medieval European churches because it drove away fleas, which carried plague, as well as lice and other pests. Inspired by this use, some Roman Catholic sects still interpret Hyssopus officinalis as the hyssop of the Bible and use the flowers and leaves to scent the water used in purifying rituals called aspersions[1].

Fresh hyssop herb is also used in cooking, although sparingly because it has a strong minty taste with a slightly bitter edge due to the presence of tannins. Along with coriander seed, hyssop leaves are also a part of the complex and closely guarded recipe for Chartreuse liqueur, which makes use of over one hundred different aromatic plants! Bee keepers also sometimes raise bees on hyssop nectar to produce a richly aromatic honey [1].

As a medicine, hyssop essential oil may be diffused to ease respiratory complaints such as congestion, cough, and asthma [2]; it is currently listed in the British Pharmacopoeia for addressing colds and bronchitis [2]. In a massage, hyssop oil acts as a circulatory stimulant, making it helpful for reducing menstrual discomfort, healing bruises and sores, and managing the pain of rheumatism [3]. The oil may also ease digestive complaints when applied to the abdomen [2].

Hyssop essential oil should be avoided during pregnancy, and should not be given to children or people with epilepsy, kidney or liver disease [4], or high blood pressure [2], as hyssop oil can induce a mild increase in blood pressure. Use hyssop essential oil in dilution on the skin, or simply inhale the oil from a diffuser to quickly access its gentle, clarifying benefits.


1. “Hyssopus officinalis“. Wikipedia. Accessed May 10th, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyssopus_officinalis.

2. Lawless, Julia. 2013. “Hyssopus officinalis” In: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health, and Well-Being. Conari Press.

3 Grieve, M. “A Modern Herbal: Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)” Accessed May 14th, 2014. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hyssop48.html.

4. Millet Y, P Tognetti, M Lavaire-Perlovisi et al. 1979. “Experimental study of the toxic convulsant properties of commercial preparations of essences of sage and hyssop.” Rev. Electroencephalogr. Neurophysiol. Clin. 9: 8-12.