Updated: Feb 5
Commonly called: Anise Hyssop, Blue Giant Hyssop, Fragrant Giant Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint, Licorice Mint, Elk Mint
Botanical name: Agastache foeniculum
Energetics: Warm, dispersive, moistening
Taste: Sweet, aromatic, a little pungent
Parts Harvested: Aerial parts: flowers, leaves, stem
Major constituents: Mainly volatile oils of: methyl chavicol, Trans- anethole, myrcene, limonene, estragole, 1-octen-3-ol, 3-octanone, spathulenol, bicyclogermacrene, germacrene D, E- caryophyllene & methylchavicol
Actions/Functions: Anti-inflammatory, aromatic, diaphoretic, dispersive, expectorant, relaxing yet uplifting nervine, a little demulcent
I will always remember the first time I tasted Anise Hyssop… it was in the kitchen of Farmacy Herbs tucked away on Cemetery Street in Providence, RI. I believe it was one of my very first times working in the herb kitchen there, & I was tasked with processing the Anise Hyssop from the garden.
I recall putting it in the food processor to chop it up & being completely blown away by the scent that arose from the bowl once I opened the lid. I tried some in tea not long after & ever since, I have
found myself craving it. The flavor falls somewhere between licorice-anise-fennel-mint & it is just so so lovely. From then on, it was almost as if I opened Pandora’s Box, because I could not shake the flavor & feeling of this beautiful plant.
Now that I think on it, Anise Hyssop has shown up at some major, life-altering points in time for me. I won’t go too far down memory lane, but after my first experience at Farmacy, I came to encounter it at other very special or pivotal points in my life. For instance, I found some volunteer Anise lining the little, wooded pathway which led to the yurt I lived in while attending Birthwise Midwifery School. More recently, I had another volunteer plant unexpectedly sprout up in a tiny garden bed in my backyard right where I had planned for the Herb Cottage to be.
This sweet, mysterious friend seems to be around me whenever I enter into new, wonderful phases in my own personal life. On that note, dear reader, is there a new, wonderful, possibly challenging phase of your life which you have just entered?
As a member of the Mint family, Anise Hyssop grows much the same way as many other mints do: square stems, opposite leaves, & lovely spike-inflorescences. This plant is native to the US, specifically the Great Plains area, where it was much used by those Indigenous to that region, namely (though not limited to) the Cree, Cheyenne, & Chippewa whom we learned about this plant's medicinal, culinary, & spiritual characteristics from.
Just like the Hummingbirds, Anise Hyssop is native only to the Americas. It is an incredible plant to bring into the garden for the wonderful pollinators in your community. Besides the humans who have been drawn to this plant’s qualities, Anise Hyssop has always brought pollinators to its blooms—bees, butterflies, hummingbirds & other insects seem to love this plant. The same goes for rabbits & birds, who are known to return time & again for the seeds.
The botanical name Agastache comes from the Greek agan + stáchys translating to ‘an ear of grain’ which refers to the shape of the inflorescence. Foeniculum is Latin for ‘fennel’ which gives a nod to the flavor of the seeds & leaves. European colonizers gave it the common name we call it today, Anise Hyssop, because the flavor resembled anise & due to its visual similarities with hyssop. On that note: though Hyssop & Anise Hyssop are both in the Mint family, they otherwise do not have much in common. Star Anise is in another family entirely, but has similar flavor & carminative effects.
With a gentle, soothing, & comforting spirit ~ Anise Hyssop is one plant that has really helped me to get out of some little slumps when added into my daily regimen. Clearing to damp, stagnant, "depressed" or lax tissue & energy states, Anise Hyssop an affinity for the dispirited heart as well as for the lungs & respiratory system: a place we hold grief, where its dispersive nature can act as a soft, sweet breeze to lighten our sorrow.
As a digestive aid, its carminative qualities relieve stagnation, trapped air, & soothing indigestion. I find that it excels at soothing & releasing tension in the belly & digestive system as a whole. Anise Hyssop is even a wonderful, safe plant to use for alleviating morning sickness during pregnancy. It has such a lovely, soft, sweet flavor, & as with all naturally sweet things, points to its incredible ability to build & nourish. So, I will call upon Anise Hyssop in times of depletion, tension, weakness, & over-exertion; when one is on the mend from being sick, or in cases where there needs to be some overall grounding & strengthening. Similarly to Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), I love to think of this plant as a great harmonizer for body, mind, & spirit.
My favorite way to prepare Anise Hyssop is in the form of a strong tisane or a few drops of tincture. You must try it on its own, because the soft flavor will have you hooked. You can also make a fresh tincture (it is divine), & its flavor not only lends a lovely, harmonious feeling & taste to a formula. Anise Hyssop also goes extremely well with sweet preparations such as infused-honeys (delicious), electuaries, oxymels, syrups, & whatever else your heart desires. Externally, it can be called on to relieve heat & irritation on the skin or in a space. You can burn dried Anise Hyssop in a bundle or work with it in washes, poultices, compresses, dream pillows, sachets, or even as a liniment.
Let Anise Hyssop be a reminder that you are on the right path, even when the way feels occluded, uncertain, solitary, or bumpy ~
You can purchase Spirit drops of Anise Hyssop here ~