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Maybe some of you only get shine in summer while others tend to dislike their shiny or greasy appearance all year round. But the fact is that everyone’s skin makes natural oils. Under each pore on your face and over all your body sits a sebaceous gland and its job is to produce the natural oils called sebum. It’s this sebum that moisturises your skin and keeps it from drying out. Its other job is to clean out your pores from dead skin and other grime. The sebum and sweat are secreted through your pores.

If your sebaceous glands are overactive they make too much natural oils which can leave a greasy surface and even lead to clogged and enlarged pores. This is the reason why oily skin types also tend to be prone to zits.

You know you have oily skin if right getting up in the morning you find that your T-zone emits a shine. Another tell-tale sign is when you see your makeup slide off. Worry not, there’s a herb that naturally cleanses and balances: hyssop.

A little bit of background

The hyssop plant is found in the Middle East and southern parts of Europe. It’s a perennial shrub belonging to the Lamiaceae or mint family. Some also call it the deadnettle or sage family which gives away that hyssop is related to culinary herbs including

  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
Hyssop, photo by Melanie Shaw

Its botanical name is Hyssopus officinalis. If you look at the picture, you see it has a slender stem and purplish coloured flowers reminiscent of lavender. The plant can also have pink and white flowers.


Hyssop has been used as a condiment and as medicine since time immemorial, possibly even as far back as Biblical times, it is even mentioned in the Old Testament. The word hyssop can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and it appears to come from the Hebrew word ezob.

The Greeks used it to treat ailments such as throat and chest, and other respiratory complaints.

The Romans used the plant because it should help in all sorts of things like protecting them against the various plagues, as an appetite stimulant, and an anti-inflammatory.


As part of the mint family, hyssop has an intense minty aroma. The leaves and flowers have different purposes. The leaves are used in Middle Eastern cuisine. They taste slightly bitter and with the intense minty aroma can be quite intense.

Hyssop can be harvested twice a year. The stalks are cut once at the end of spring and once again at the beginning of autumn. After harvest, they’re hung to dry which takes about 6 days. After drying, the leaves and flowers are finely chopped. The dried hyssop can be stored for up to 18 months.

The bioactive compounds present in the stems and leaves are flavonoids, tannins, caffeic acids, and glycosides. Thanks to its anti-oxidant properties hyssop is valued both as a culinary and medicinal herb.

Why is it so good for oily skin

The combination of flavonoids, tannins, caffeic acids and glycosides means that hyssop is

  • Astringent
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Cicatrisant
  • Cleansing

Natural cleanser

Hyssop’s leaves, stems, and flowers are known as a natural cleanser thanks to their astringent and antiseptic properties. It removes dirt, grime, and excess oils from your skin and at the same time can kill off bacteria and germs.

Mop up excess oils

If your makeup slips from your face or you find your T-zone emit a shine already at midday, you may want to get active so that you won’t see enlarged pores or breakouts. Use a product formulated with hyssop to take advantage of its astringent properties. Hyssop will mop up excess oils and clear greases. It will also balance the oils and cleanse out your pores.

Postpone the ageing process

Thanks to the flavonoids and tannins, hyssop has potent anti-oxidant properties and so can delay skin ageing. As an antioxidant, it can protect your skin from harmful free radicals and their degenerative effects on your skin.

Promotes healthy skin

Being anti-microbial, hyssop is ideal for cleansing wounds and killing microbes in and around them, preventing wounds from becoming infected. Even better, it’s cicatrisant which means it can help reduce scars from wounds, breakouts, and stretch marks.

How to use

Hyssop oil or more correctly hyssop essential oil is widely available. It’s obtained through a process called steam distillation. The flower, leaves and in some cases, stems are put in a steam distiller. When the steam rises, it lifts the oil from the plant. It collects on top of the condensed water so that it can be skimmed off.

Use hyssop oil as you would with any other essential oil. It needs to be diluted with a carrier lotion or oil. Do not apply undiluted essential oils.

You can also find it as a kitchen herb and dried as tea leaves. To prepare the herbal infusion, take 1-2 teaspoons per cup and let it steep for 5 – 15 minutes.

The cool thing with the tea is that once cooled, you can use it as a toner. The longer you steep the tea, the stronger the toner. The tea is also the base to make an oil fighting cleanser. Mix 1/2 to one teaspoon of colloidal oatmeal with a little bit the strong hyssop herbal infusion and apply it to wet skin. If you want to massage your skin for a few minutes to stimulate circulation and then rinse thoroughly.

Wrapping up

This warm, woody, minty herb is also great in stimulating circulation. So it’s not only great to balance oily skin but also for mature skin.

Outside of skin care, hyssop was also used to fight parasites. As a so called vermifuge, it can expel parasitic worms. No wonder it was used in ceremonial cleansing of people and houses.

Hyssop To Control Shine

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