Anise hyssop (botanical name Agastache foeniculum) is a species of perennially growing plant that belongs to the mint family (genus Lamiaceae). Anise hyssop is indigenous to most of the north-central and northern regions of North America.
It may be noted that anise hyssop belongs to the same family to which hyssop (Lamiaceae) belongs; however, they are not related closely. In fact, hyssop (Hyssopus) is a genus of about 10 to 12 plant species that are partially woody or herbaceous and indigenous to the region ranging from the east Mediterranean to central Asia.
A firmly straight growing perennial plant, anise hyssop usually grows to a height of anything between 0.6 meter and 1.5 meters. Since this herb is very attractive as well as aromatic, anise hyssop is very often grown as a garden plant, where this herb makes an extremely beautiful backdrop plant. Anise hyssop produces sharp, vivid green leaves that are notched at the edges and are swathed with delicate, white, hairs similar to felt on their underside. During the spring, new undergrowths usually have an attractive purple-hued radiation. The aroma as well as the essence of the foliage has a fascinating blend of mint and anise.
The stems of anise hyssop are branched and more often than not hairless. The rootstock is branching and produces fibrous roots. The herb produces elongated flower spikes composed on several attractive small lilac-blue flowers during the period between July and September. In addition, a cultivar that bears white flowers is also in existence. Compared to the leaves, the flavor of the flowers is a little dull.
Honey bees are very much attracted by anise hyssop and it is extensively cultivated in the form of a honey herb. In addition, the flowers of anise hyssop are also an excellent source of nectar for butterflies. On the other hand, wild birds, particularly finches, find the seeds of the plant attractive. The flowers as well as the leaves of anise hyssop are both edible.
In folk herbal medicine, anise hyssop tea has been employed to facilitate the digestive process. The Native Americans also used anise hyssop as a medication to cure wounds, fevers, diarrhea and cough. The delicately, anise-aromatic leaves are employed in the form of a seasoning, a tea as well as in potpourri. Bees have a preference for the purple hued flower spike of this plant and they prepare a light scented honey from the nectar collected from anise hyssop flowers.
The leaves of anise hyssop are cardiac (good for the heart) as well as diaphoretic (induces perspiration). An infusion prepared from anise hyssop leaves is used to cure colds, feeble heart and other health conditions. When the infusion is used in its cold form, it is effective in relieving pains in the chest, for instance, when the lungs are throbbing owing to excessive coughing. A poultice prepared with the leaves and stems of anise hyssop may be used to heal burn injuries.
Besides, therapeutic uses, anise hyssop is also used for culinary purposes, for instance, you may add fresh leaves and flowers of this plant to salads and fruit salads as well as use it in the form of a garnish. Alternately, you may use fresh or dried up anise hyssop leaves in accompaniment of chicken, lamb, salmon as well as to make some vegetable dishes like peas. Anise hyssop leaves may also act as a substitute of anise or mint in different recipes.
The flowers of anise hyssop may be used in baking, particularly in tea breads. You may also add young leaves of this herb to cool and refreshing summer beverages.
In order to prepare an invigorating cup of tea from anise hyssop, you need to add one teaspoon (5 ml) of the dried leaves and flowers of the herb or three teaspoonfuls (15 ml) of fresh leaves and flowers to one cup (250 ml) of boiling water. Cover the container and allow the mixture to steep for about 15 minutes. Subsequently, filter the tea and add honey to sweeten it and make it flavourful.
Pale-hued anise hyssop honey is very scrumptious. On the other hand, anise hyssop essential oil is commercially employed to add essence to root beer as well as a variety of liqueurs.
The leaves and flowers of anise hyssop may be consumed raw or cooked. Anise hyssop leaves and flowers taste excellent when they are consumed raw and possess a sweet aniseed flavour. In fact, the flowers and leaves of anise hyssop are among our preferred salad flavourings. The leaves and flowers of this herb actually make a delectable addition to the salad bowl and may also be employed to add essence to cooked foods, particularly acid fruits. The sole problem with anise hyssop leaves is that they are prone to having a drying impact in the mouth and, therefore, it is not possible to consume them in large quantities. Anise hyssop leaves are used to prepare a pleasurable tasting and refreshing tea.
Apart from its therapeutic and culinary uses, anise hyssop flowers are also used for craft purposes, for instance, the fresh or dried up blooms of the herb are used in floral arrangements. In addition, you may also add the dried up flowers of anise hyssop to sachets or potpourris.
Habitat and cultivation
The ideal growing conditions for anise hyssop include a properly drained, fertile soil that comprises properly decomposed manure and compost. While growing in its natural environments, this herb thrives well in soils that can retain moisture, but are not damp or drenched. This herb has a preference for a total sunlight, but it is also able to endure partial shade. It is essential to keep the plants moist during the arid weather, or else they will not bear flowers in the later part of summer.
Anise hyssop is primarily propagated by its seeds, preferably sown indoors during the early part of spring. The seeds of this plant are somewhat small and have the aptitude to germinate successfully under a shallow soil covering. Hence, they should not be sown in depths more than 6 mm or one-fourth inch. Usually, anise hyssop seeds take about four days to ten days time to germinate. The seedlings may be planted in their permanent position outdoors when the last expected frost in your region has passed. Alternately, you may also sow the seeds directly outdoors in the later part of fall and allow them to remain inactive all through the winter months and germinate in the early part of spring.
It is essential that when you are planting the seedlings outdoors, they ought to be transplanted at intervals of 30 cm or 12 inches from each other.
On the other hand, you may even create new plantings in the spring from divisions of established plants. The root cutting should be made from tender or partially mature stems.
Propagating anise hyssop by means of division is rather uncomplicated, provided you are using large divisions. In this case, you may plant the divisions directly into their permanent positions outdoors. The basal cutting of young shoots should be made in spring. You may harvest the young shoots when the plants have grown to a height of approximately 10 cm to 15 cm and plant them in individual pots in a greenhouse in a shaded location. These young shoots ought to give out roots within three weeks from planting and may be transplanted outdoors during the summer or in the subsequent spring.
In the initial stages, the growth of anise hyssop is very sluggish and it may habitually take approximately two years from the day of sowing to bloom. It is advisable that you pinch back the plants during the early summer as it will stimulate branching of the plants. Anise hyssop is an herb that is usually free from pests and diseases.
However, the growth of the young plants is susceptible to damage due to slug. As aforementioned in this article, when the anise hyssop plants are in blossom, the bees and butterflies find them to be very attractive. It may be mentioned here that no less than one named variety of this herb exists. In fact, the ‘Texas American' possesses an aroma that resembles anise-pennyroyal and is also employed in the same manner as this species is.
Anise hyssop contains methyl chavicol which is one of the main constituent of the essential oil.
Collection and harvesting
The leaves of anise hyssop may be harvested for fresh or dried use all through the growing season of the herb. The leaves should be gathered on sunny, arid days, if possible during the morning hours. Cut off the leaves fresh from the base of the plant as may be required.
In order to dry anise hyssop, you need to cut the entire stems approximately 10 cm or 4 inches from the bottom of the plant. Hang the stems upturned in a place where there is ample shade and the air is dry. When the leaves have dried up, strip them from the stem and store them in sealed containers for use when necessary.
On the other hand, you may collect the fresh flowers and leaves of anise hyssop for preparing tea all through the growing season of the plant.
If you are drying up anise hyssop leaves for preparing tea, you need to cut the stems about 15 cm or 6 inches from the plant's base. While cutting the stems, you may also include the flowers with them. Hang the stems upturned in an airy and dry location. Store the dried up stems and flowers in a sealed container for future use.