Anise Hyssop scientifically known as Agastache foeniculum is neither anise (Pimpinella anisum) nor hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), despite its common name. However, it belongs to the Lamiaceae / Labiatae (Mint family), just like hyssop. The plant is native to Southern Canada (Alberta, Ontario) to the north central and northern states of the United States (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Dakota, Colorado). Few of the popular common names of the plant are Anise Hyssop, Anise-Hyssop, Anise-Mint, Blue Giant-Hyssop, Fennel Giant Hyssop, Fragrant Giant Hyssop, Giant Hyssop, Lavender Giant Hyssop, Lavender Hyssop, Licorice-Mint and Wonder Honey Plant.
The common names are referring to fragrant and anise because the leaves have a fragrant anise odor when crushed, green or dry. The genus Agastache is derived from two Greek words- agan, meaning very much and stachys, meaning ‘an ear of wheat’ which together refer to the flower spikes of this genus having many flowers, like grains of wheat. The species foeniculum, is from the Latin word for Fennel, used here to represent a plant that produces a fragrant scent. The plant is one of the nicer wild foods and is often harvested from the wild for local use, both as a food and medicine. It is often grown as an ornamental in the garden, valued especially for its attractive flower spikes and their ability to bring bees, butterflies and humming birds into the garden. It is tolerant of deer and drought, and also attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, carpenter bees, and night flying moths.
Anise Hyssop Facts
|Southern Canada (Alberta, Ontario) to the north central and northern states of the United States (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Dakota, Colorado)
|Anise Hyssop, Anise-Hyssop, Anise-Mint, Blue Giant-Hyssop, Fennel Giant Hyssop, Fragrant Giant Hyssop, Giant Hyssop, Lavender Giant Hyssop, Lavender Hyssop, Licorice-Mint, Wonder Honey Plant
|Name in Other Languages
|Arabic: Aghastash shamri (أغستاش شمري)
Chinese : Huo Xiang, Huí huò xiāng (茴藿香)
Danish : Anis Isop, Indianermynte
Dutch : Anijsplant, Dropnetel, Anijsnetel, Dropplant
English: Anise-hyssop, Anise-mint, Blue giant hyssop, Licorice-mint, Fennel, Fennel giant hyssop, Fragrant giant hyssop, Giant hyssop, Lavender giant hyssop
Estonian : Aniisi-Hiidiisop
Finnish : Intianminttu, Minttuanis, Yrtti-Iiso, anisiiso,
French : Agastache Fenouil, Anis Hysope, Hysope Anysée, Duft Nessel
German : Anis-Ysop, Duftnessel
Hungarian: Ánizsillatú izsópfű
Lithuanian: Pankolinė kinmėtė
Norwegian : Anisisop
Ojibwa: Wexa ‘wûnûckwûk’
Persian: زوفای بزرگ معطر
Portuguese: Hissopo-anisado, hissopo-gigante
Russian: Mnogokolosnik fenkhel’nyy (Многоколосник фенхельный)
Swedish : Anis-Isop, Indianmynta
Ukrainian: Lofant (Лофант)
|Plant Growth Habit
|Erect, upright, short lived, clump-forming herbaceous, perennial plant
|Natural habitats include openings in dry to mesic open upland forests, upland areas of prairies, scrubby barrens, clearings and thickets, fields and waste ground, plains
|Prefers full or partial sun and mesic to dry conditions and grows on loam, clay-loam or stony soils. Cultivated forms of anise hyssop are often grown in flower gardens; these cultivars are often hybrids and vary in their fidelity to the wild forms of the plant
|2 ft. (61 cm) to 4 ft. (120 cm) tall and 1 ft. (30 cm) wide
|Stem is erect, 4-angled and mostly glabrous
|Oval shaped with coarsely toothed leaf margin. Leaves are green on the upper side and white on the underside with tiny flattened hairs. Leaf arrangement is opposite and foliage gives an anise or licorice scent when crushed
|June to September
|Lavender to purple inflorescence is borne on terminal. Tiny lavender tubular flowers with hairy calyx are packed densely into cylindrical flower spikes about 8 to 16 cm long
|Fruit Shape & Size
|2 mm long, smooth, oval shaped dry nutlet with small brown hairs at the tip containing one brown seed
|Oblong brown seed about 1 mm long and 2 mm wide
|By division of the rhizomes or from seeds
|Strong aroma, a combination of licorice, root beer, basil, tarragon, and mint
|Plant Parts Used
|Leaves, flowers, root
Anise hyssop is an erect, upright, short lived, clump-forming herbaceous, perennial plant that normally grows about 2 – 4 ft. (61 – 120 cm) tall and 1 ft. (30 cm) wide. The plant is found growing in natural habitats include openings in dry to mesic open upland forests, upland areas of prairies, scrubby barrens, clearings and thickets, fields, waste ground and plains. The plant prefers full or partial sun and mesic to dry conditions and grows on loam, clay-loam or stony soils. Cultivated forms of anise hyssop are often grown in flower gardens. These cultivars are often hybrids and vary in their fidelity to the wild forms of the plant. Like all members of the Mint family, the stem is erect, square, 4 angled and may be slightly hairy as well.
Opposite leaves are up to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, with a rounded base, pointed tip, coarsely toothed edges and a short stem. They have short petioles. The leaves are cordate to broadly lanceolate in shape and their margins are crenate to crenate-serrate. The upper surface of the leaves is conspicuously veined and dull green, while lower surface is whitish with minute appressed hairs. Leaves have anise scent when crushed or brushed.
The inflorescence is a dense spike, up to 8 inches high, of flowers arranged in what looks like a number of whorls at the top of stem. In the mint family this arrangement is called a ‘verticillaster’ where the flowers look like a whorl arrangement but are actually in cymes that rise from the axils of a pair of opposite stem bracts. The spike has a number of bract nodes and thus a number of verticillasters, but they are closely spaced and you seldom see any interruptions. Large plants can produce many spikes from the upper leaf axils. Flowers open in various spots around the spike on the various verticillasters, not from the bottom of the spike to the top. The flowers are very aromatic with an anise scent.
The small flowers are 5-parted, about 1/3 inches long with a calyx that forms a tube with 5 sharply pointed teeth. The tube ranges from light blue to violet in color with the upper part the darkest. Several darker vein lines are often visible on the calyx. The corolla is similar in color but much lighter and slightly longer than the calyx. The lips of the corolla end with two lobes on top formed from 2 fused petals and three lobes on the bottom formed from three fused petals. Protruding from the corolla are 4 stamens with white filaments and violet-purple anthers and a single white style with a bifurcated tip. The stamens are in pairs of different length. Very delicate purplish vein lines are seen inside the corolla throat. Flower clusters in the spike are interceded with pairs of ovate light green floral bracts from which the cluster arises. Many species of bees are attracted to the flowers.
Fertile flowers produce an oval shaped, dry nutlet containing one oblong brown seed about 1 mm long and 2 mm wide. These disperse by wind shaking the stem. Seeds are small and need light for germination plus 30 days of cold stratification. Seeds that fall from the plant will readily self-germinate in the spring and the seedlings transplant easily and larger ones will flower the same year. American Goldfinches are quite fond of the seeds, even in the green stage. Aromatic leaves can be used to make herbal teas or jellies. Seeds can be added to cookies or muffins. Dried leaves can be added to potpourris.
Types of Anise Hyssop
It is a taller version of Agastache and A. Foeniculum which was introduced by High Country Gardens. It has glowing lavender-purple blooms and pinkish calyxes
It is a sterile hybrid of A.rugosa and A. Foeniculum, which is generated in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Its appearance is pretty different from the original Anise Hyssop. It has deep green leaves and very thick spikes and blue flowers. It possesses a bigger size than Anise Hyssop. Mature plant can grow up to 18 inches wide and 3 feet tall.
It has white flowers and lighter green foliage. It isn’t as bushy as the species.
Other people say that this is a less vigorous version of Anise Hyssop. However, we think that it has its unique beauty. It comes with red-violet flowers and dark buds.
This is the most outstanding hybrid of Anise hyssop. It is selected as an All American Selection Winner of 2003. Golden Jubilee turns bright yellow in spring and has lavender-blue flowers.
Health benefits of Anise Hyssop
Anise Hyssop is bitter, pungent, and dry energetically and slightly warming in temperature. It is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, carminative, and expectorant, as well as soothing & coughs suppressing. Listed below are some of the popular health benefits of using anise hyssop
1. Respiratory Ally for Colds & Flus
Its main medicinal indication is as a respiratory remedy for coughs, colds, sore throat, and flu. Anise Hyssop has expectorant action, so it’s helpful in relieving congestion and clearing the sinuses of mucus. It also has throat soothing, cough suppressant properties and is reported to ease the pain associated with wracking cough and chest colds. Ingested as a hot tea, it will act as a diaphoretic, reducing fever. Tea made from both the leaves and flowers will contain methyl eugenol, an essential oil that has mild sedative action, which encourages overall relaxation of the airways and body.
2. Antimicrobial and Anti-inflammatory Properties
Anise Hyssop is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal due to its high concentration of essential oils. This herb will reduce bacterial and viral load in cases of illness, and will be effective topically for skin and wound healing. It can also be used in cases of fungal infections, both topically and internally. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it beneficial for treating burns, rashes, and poison ivy. Anise Hyssop makes a great wash for irritating plant oils, reducing rash occurrence and the itching associated with poison ivy and poison oak. Additionally, it may be used for cold sores and for herpes simplex due to its antiviral action.
3. Digestive Support
Like most aromatic herbs in the Mint family, Anise Hyssop has carminative properties, meaning it reduces or prevents excess gas in the intestines. Rich in volatile oils, it works by gently irritating the gastric mucosa which increases peristalsis and regulates gut contractions. This settles the gut by relieving cramping and aiding in the expulsion of gas. Anise Hyssop’s bitter properties help to relax the smooth muscles of the intestines and increase bile production, which helps to break down fats and tough-to-digest foods. Traditionally, it was used to treat diarrhea, especially that caused by bacteria or virus.
Traditional uses and benefits of Anise Hyssop
- The herb is used for cardiac, pectoral and diaphoretic complaints, as poultice and for treating herpes simplex.
- An infusion of the leaves is used in the treatment of colds, fevers, chest pains and weak heart.
- Poultice of leaves and stems can be used to treat burns.
- When left to go cold, the infusion is used to treat pains in the chest (such as when the lungs are sore from too much coughing).
- Anise hyssop was used medicinally by Native Americans for cough, fevers, wounds, and diarrhea.
- Anise hyssop has long been used in traditional herbal medicine, especially amongst Native Americans.
- Infused in tea, anise hyssop can be used to relieve congestion, acting as an expectorant (clearing mucus from lungs and airways).
- Cold-infusion can be used to relieve chest pains caused by excessive coughing, and mixed with licorice; it can be used to treat respiratory infections and bronchitis.
- Hot infusion induces sweating, and can therefore be used to help with fevers.
- The Cheyenne use anise hyssop in sweat lodges.
- It is used as a poultice, anise hyssop is said to help treat burns, and, made into a salve, can be used to treat wounds.
- The Iroquois were said to make a wash from it used to relieve the itching associated with poison ivy.
- It is used as an infusion in tea and cold remedies will relieve congestion.
- It is also used to strengthen a weak heart.
- Essential oils of Anise Hyssop are antiviral toward Herpes simplex I and II.
- Poultice is also useful in treating burns.
- Hot infusion will induce perspiration and is thus useful in treating fevers.
- Indians used the leaves in incense to treat depression as it provided an uplifting fragrance.
- Cold infusion of leaves is used to relieve pains in the chest from excessive coughing.
- It is used as a preventative for summer colds.
- It is used by Indians to cure wounds and use as a salve.
- Traditionally used to treat burns with a poultice of leaves.
- It is often combined with licorice for lung conditions such as respiratory infections and bronchitis.
- Simply sip some tea with you meals to prevent gas and bloating.
- Being aromatic, the oils in the plant are useful in opening up the airways.
- Its leaves and flowers are highly beneficial in treating fevers, diarrhea, coughs, and wounds.
- Tea made from Anise-Hyssop leaves is believed to relieve coughs, clear congestion, ease digestive upset, and promote restful sleep.
- The Cheyenne drank a tea of this herb to relieve a dispirited heart.
- Leaves are used topically as a compress for angina, burns, fever, headache, heatstroke, and herpes.
- Plant is excellent in baths and foot-baths for simply cooling off or for treating sunburn and fungal conditions such as athlete’s foot and yeast overgrowth.
- Indigenous tribes used a poultice of the leaves to treat burns and rashes.
- An infusion of Anise Hyssop and Elk Mint is a traditional remedy for colds and chest pain used by the Chippewa tribe.
- The Cheyenne used anise hyssop tea to relieve depression.
- The Haudenosaunee reportedly used anise hyssop to make a wash to treat poison ivy.
- The Cree people of Saskatchewan steeped Anise hyssop leaves in hot water to make a comforting tea to reduce congestion.
- The Cheyenne used Anise hyssop leaves to treat coughs and colds.
- Leaves were also used in a steam bath to induce sweating and to treat fevers.
- In Northern America, anise hyssop is cultivated as honey plant by beekeepers and in house gardens for tea and as culinary seasoning, in the same way used already earlier by the Indian tribes.
- It has also been experimentally grown as essential oil plant in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Finland, here also in house gardens as tea and spice plant for cakes and sweets.
- Leaves, seeds and flowers have a sweet anise flavor and are eaten raw or cooked.
- They are used as a flavoring in raw or cooked dishes and present a delicious addition to the salad bowl.
- Seeds are used in cookies, cakes and muffins.
- A pleasant tasting tea is made from the leaves.
- Leaves and flowers can be consumed raw or cooked.
- They are used as a flavoring in raw or cooked dishes.
- They have a sweet aniseed flavor and are one of our favorite flavorings in salads.
- They make a delicious addition to the salad bowl and can also be used to flavor cooked foods, especially acid fruits.
- The foliage has an anise fragrant and is used as flavoring in salads and teas.
- The soft, anise-scented leaves are used as a seasoning, as a tea, in potpourri, and can be crumbled in salad.
- The dried leaves can be used in potpourri.
- Leaves can also be used as a substitute for French tarragon or mint, or they can be mixed into pasta, tossed into green salads, floated on soups, or stirred into fruit bowls for added flavor.
Strawberry Anise Hyssop Jelly
- 4 lbs fresh strawberries
- 2 cups sugar
- 12-14 large (24-30 small) Anise Hyssop leaves gently rinsed and patted dry
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
- Stack Anise Hyssop leaves on a cutting board and slice into wide 1/4-3/8″ chiffonade.
- Add to large 6-8 quart pot with the sugar, give it a stir. Wash, trim and chop your strawberries, adding them to the pot, and stirring occasionally as you work.
- Place the pot on the stove and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. When the berries are starting to cook and just before they reach a simmer, give them a good smashing with a potato masher or back of a large spoon. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir gently, occasionally.
- Remove from heat and begin draining berries in small batches. Stir gently with fork and remove all of the Anise Hyssop herbs and unripened strawberries that did not cook down.
- Do not press solids as you do not want any in your liquid.
- Return liquid to the stove on high heat and bring to a full boil. Boil liquid down by about half, stirring often. This will take about 20-25 minutes.
- Return the strawberry solids to the pot and add the lemon juice. Stir well and reduce heat until a gentle simmer can be maintained.
- Stir frequently so that it does not scorch until a small dab of jam placed on a frozen plate, and returned to the freezer for about a minute, is firm.
- It will not gel but will have a nice, non-runny consistency. This will take about 5-7 minute
Anise Hyssop Syrup
- 20 leaves (1 handful) anise hyssop
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Combine all ingredients in small saucepan over high heat.
- Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain and refrigerate.
Strawberry Anise Cocktail
- 1/2 oz. anise hyssop syrup
- 3 oz. vermouth
- 1 oz. vodka
- 2 ripe strawberries, washed and stems removed
- Place ice and all ingredients except the strawberries into a cocktail shaker.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over the cocktail shaker and press the strawberries through it with the back of a spoon to “juice” them into the shaker.
- Shake until nice and cold and strain into a glass.
- Anise hyssop is grown as a culinary herb and ornaments and is also an excellent honey plant.
- Flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
- The safety and uses of methyl chavicol, the main constituent in the essential oil of Agastache, in the food industry as well as the herbal, flavoring and medicinal uses of Agastache have been reviewed by Fuentes- Granados et al.
- One plant may produce upwards of 90,000 individual flowers.
- The purple flower spike is favored by bees that make a light fragrant honey from the nectar.
- In the language of flowers and plants anise hyssop represents sacrifice and purification.
- Leaves tend to have a drying effect in the mouth and so cannot be eaten in quantity.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be cautious and avoid this plant.
- It’s always advisable to consult a doctor before consuming this herb.