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Anise Hyssop

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cultivar413 from Fallbrook, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Agastache foeniculum, or Anise Hyssop, is also known as Blue Giant Hyssop or Fragrant Giant Hyssop. Anise Hyssop, a perennial member of the Mint Family, is native to the Great Plains of the northern US and adjacent Canada. It can grow from 2 to 4 feet tall in clumps 1–3 feet wide. It is recognized by its 3- to 6-inch-long spikes of pale lavender to purple flowers and its leaves with silvery undersides that smell of anise when crushed. Anise Hyssop is often grown for ornamental purposes and is considered one of the best food sources for local pollinators.  

Historical Use

As a plant native to North America, historical sources on the use of Anise Hyssop come from Native American sources. One review notes that this plant was used by the Cree, Cheyenne, and Ojibwa for fever reduction, to treat respiratory conditions, and as an external application on burns (Fuentes-Granados, Widrlechner, & Wilson, 1998). 

Find out more about historical use of Anise Hyssop at the John R. Martin Rare Book Rooom.

Modern Use

The most common modern use of Agastache foeniculum is as an ornamental garden plant, due to its attractive flower spikes, fragrant leaves, and beneficence to pollinators. One study has shown strong antioxidant properties of the dried leaves of Anise Hyssop when taken as an herbal supplement (Strilbytska et al., 2020). Studies examining the essential oil of Anise Hyssop have suggested that it may be useful as a virucide against Herpes Virus Simplex 2 (Koch, Reichling, Schneele, & Schnitzler, 2008; Nykänen, Holm, & Hiltunen, 1989).  

Latest Research


Fuentes-Granados, R. G., Widrlechner, M. P., & Wilson, L. A. (1998). An Overview ofAgastacheResearch. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 6(1), 69-97. doi:10.1300/J044v06n01_09 

Koch, C., Reichling, J., Schneele, J., & Schnitzler, P. (2008). Inhibitory effect of essential oils against herpes simplex virus type 2. Phytomedicine, 15(1-2), 71-78. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2007.09.003 

Nykänen, I., Holm, Y., & Hiltunen, R. (1989). Composition of the Essential Oil of Agastache foeniculum. Planta Med, 55(3), 314-315. doi:10.1055/s-2006-962017 

Strilbytska, O. M., Zayachkivska, A., Koliada, A., Galeotti, F., Volpi, N., Storey, K. B., . . . Lushchak, O. (2020). Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila. Front Physiol, 11, 596729. doi:10.3389/fphys.2020.596729