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Plant Profile: Anise Hyssop

This month’s plant profile highlights another mint-family friend: anise hyssop. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is an aromatic herb with a scent somewhere between mint, licorice, and fennel. The pollinators who visit my garden love this plant, and so do I! I love its sweet taste and often use the flowering tops and leaves in tea along with chamomile, nettle, and tulsi. Like chamomile and tulsi, this plant is one of my top picks for digestive discomfort and mood imbalance.

Bitter herbs help fuel the digestive fire by stimulating the production of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, and bile. Anise hyssop is used medicinally for slow, “stuck” digestion that is accompanied by nausea, gas, bloating, and dysbiosis. Anise hyssop’s predominant flavor is sweet, and it’s enjoyed by children and people all of ages who might otherwise avoid the strong flavor of more classic bitter plants like dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) or Calamus root (Acorus calamus).

I also love anise hyssop as a nervine herb as well. Here I think of it for mood-related digestive discomfort such as “nervous indigestion” and low appetite as well as emotional heartache and general symptoms of anxiety. On a psycho-spiritual level, I think of anise hyssop as helpful for people who need guidance in assimilating past experiences into conscious thoughts and new life directions. For this purpose, I think of it during times when someone is in a period of emotional transition and trying to bridge the gap between future desires and past patterns of connection.

Anise hyssop is rich in aromatic volatile oils. Estragole is the volatile oil that imparts the plant’s characteristic scent. Anise hyssop also abounds with anti-inflammatory flavonoids such as apigenin and quercetin. It also contains rosmarinic acid, a phenylpropanoid derivative also found in rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, lavender, and peppermint. Like apigenin and quercetin, rosmarinic acid is also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Research suggests that it plays a role in lipid metabolism, insulin sensitivity, digestive inflammation, sleep, and cognition. Anise hyssop also contains limonene, a compound that has been found to neutralize stomach acid and promote a healthy digestive tract.

Anise hyssop is great as a tea! On hot summer days, I like it iced with rose petals, nettle leaf, and chamomile flowers. Prepared tea can also be frozen in ice cube trays as is or blended with fruit and honey to make herbal popsicles! Happy summer!

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