Honeysuckle – August Flower of the Month.

Lonicera japonica

Family: Adoxaceae, syn. Caprifoliaceae

honeysuckleThis lovely, cascading, woody vine, with its divine scent, is often planted as a landscape attraction. It dazzles the eye with its gorgeous blooms in warm weather and retreats to a pleasant but unremarkable placeholder at other times of the year. Its name refers to the fact that fairies {and everyone else} love to sip the nectar from the flowers. There are well over 100 different species, and at least 15 are used medicinally.

Description..

Honeysuckle is a perennial, deciduous or evergreen climbing shrub that typically wraps tightly around other plants or a support. It can grow to over 20 feet long and is invasive enough to be considered a noxious weed in the eastern United States. The tubular flowers bloom in the summer and are a pale yellow, sometimes tinged with pink, that turns a darker golden color as they age. Orangish red fruits that are rather nasty-tasting but are attractive to birds occur in clusters following the flowers in the fall.

Preparations and Dosage..

Make a strong infusion by steeping the flowers for as long as 30 minutes, or even gently simmer them, and drink 1/2 to 1 cup twice daily, or as often as desired. Honeysuckle also makes a delicious syrup. It’s found commercially in powder, granule, extract, and tablet form. Follow the directions on the product label.

Healing Properties..

The flowers {or flowers plus young stems} are mildly antibiotic and antiviral and are used to treat colds and flu. They are also recommended in traditional Chinese medicine {TCM} for relief of upper respiratory tract infections, fevers, bronchitis, sore throat, heat stroke, and diarrhea. The tea is also known for healing boils and other skin infections, as it helps to remove “fire toxins” {a TCM description that refers to metabolic waste buildup and inflammation} from your body. Teenagers and anyone who is prone to acne, boils, and sties can drink the refreshing tea daily to reap the strongest benefits.

Western herbalists recommend taking the flower tea or extract to relieve hot flashes, to prevent and promote healing of urinary tract infections, and to treat skin conditions like acne, boils, and eczema. The whole vine, including the leaves and twigs, can be decocted and used as a compress for treating burns, sores, and acne.

Safety..

The flowers and twigs are considered nontoxic by traditional Chinese medical practitioners.

In the Garden..

Honeysuckle is frost hardy, heat tolerant, and sturdy; it’s an easy plant to have around. If you want to create a hedge or fence-row, plant honeysuckle vines 3 feet apart, and expect them to push those bounds unless you trim them back during the dormant season. Honeysuckle likes moist, rich soil but is adaptable and somewhat drought tolerant once it’s large, and it will do well in full sun {or even partial shade, in hot climates}. Start it from seed, if you’re willing to wait a month or two for germination {stratification helps}, or take stem cuttings in the spring or woody cuttings in the fall. Easier yet, try layering a neighbor’s plant. Be sure to provide a trellis or fence for it to climb. Stems will trail along the ground, and you may want to prune them back for a tidier look.

Harvesting Honeysuckle..

Collect the flowers when they are just starting to open and are lovely, fresh and have a creamy hue. {Older, orange flowers will dry to a brown color.} Be sure to pick them every few days. As with all flowers, honeysuckle blooms are fragile and will bruise easily, so gather them in the morning, before the warmth of the day has compromised their freshness. Dry them immediately after harvest, at a low temperature and out of the sun. Tender stems may be collected also; they contain many of the same compounds.

Honeysuckle {Lonicera caprifolium / Lonicera japonica}

Also Known As..

  • Honeysuckle
  • Jin Yin Hua

honeysuckle 2The herbal plant called the honeysuckle is a climbing plant that can grow to twelve ft – four meters – in length. The plant comes in several varieties, and some varieties are deciduous – example, the L. caprifolium variety – while some are semi evergreen – the Asian honeysuckle or jin yin hua, L. japonica. The plant bears oval shaped leaves that come in pairs on the branches. The tubular shaped flowers of the plants come in a variety of colors, the yellow-orange flowers of the European variety or the yellow-white colored ones of the jin yin hua. The European honeysuckle variety bears red colored berries and while the berries of the jin yin hua variety is black in color.

The European honeysuckle or “woodbine” – the L. periclymenum to botanists – was at one time employed widely as an herbal remedy for problems like asthma, all kinds of urinary disorders, and as an aid to soothe labor pains in women giving birth. The ancient Roman writer Pliny suggested the use of the honeysuckle mixed with wine for disorders of the spleen. The variety of honeysuckle most likely to be used in herbal medicine is the “jin yin” or Chinese honeysuckle – L. japonica to botanists – rather than the woodbine. The properties of this variety of honeysuckle were recorded in the Chinese medical book called the “Tang Ben Cao,” that was written in A.D. 659. This herb remains as one of the most potent Chinese herbs used for eliminating heat and accumulated toxins from the human body.

The traditional use of the honeysuckle in European herbal medicine was as a remedy for asthma and related respiratory disorders that affected the chest. The Bach Flower Remedies lists the honeysuckle as one of the beneficial herbal plants. In this system of herbal cures, the woodbine is said to suppress feelings of nostalgia and to quell homesickness in a person. The use of the “jin yin hua” in Chinese medicine has a long history, and the herb was used as an agent to “clear heat and relieve toxicity,” besides other uses.

Parts Used..

Flowers, leaves, bark.

Uses..

Contemporary herbalists in the Western world make very rare use of the honeysuckle herb. Honeysuckle was a part of the traditional herbal repertoire, and the historical uses of this plant in herbal medicine were many. Traditionally, European herbalists used to employ different parts of the honeysuckle plant for different therapeutic purposes as they believed that different parts of the herb had different remedial effects on the human body. Honeysuckle bark contains compounds that induce a diuretic effect in the body; a remedy made from the bark is used to bring relief from problems such as gout, from kidney stones, and is also used in treating liver problems of all kinds. Honeysuckle leaves have the astringent properties and are made into an infusion used as an oral gargle and general mouthwash – this remedy is excellent in alleviating sore throats and canker sores or other oral complaints. The remedies made from the flowers of the honeysuckle have an anti-spasmodic effect, this brings relief from chroniccoughs and was traditionally used as a treatment for asthma and related respiratory disorders. In the Chinese system of herbal medicine, the “jin yin hua” remedy is extensively prescribed for a very wide range of diseases. Remedies made from the jin yin hua are mainly utilized in countering “hot” infectious disorders including abscesses, sores, and inflammation affecting the breasts, as well as dysentery. The remedy made from the jin yin hua plant is also used to bring down elevated temperatures in a body wracked by fever. This remedy is also used in treating problems affecting the oral cavity.

Other medical uses..
  • Viral infection

Habitat..

The European honeysuckle or “woodbine” is indigenous to southern Europe and the region of the Caucasus, though plants can be seen all over Europe except in the far north. The Asian variety, the “Jin yin hua” is native to the Chinese mainland and the island of Japan – it is cultivated as an herbal plant in both countries. The usual site where both varieties of plants can be seen growing are along walls, on trees, and in hedges. Harvest of honeysuckle is usually done in the summer months, flowers and leaves are normally gathered in the summer immediately before the onset of the floral bloom.

Research..

Research carried out on the properties inherent in the “jin yin hua” suggests that active compounds in the herb can help inhibit the growth of the tuberculosis bacillus and can help counteract infection of this dangerous pathogen. The Chinese also investigated other known properties of the herb, during one clinical trial, the jin yin hua was used in combination with the ju hua herb – this herbal mixture was found to be very effective in reducing the elevated blood pressure in individuals affected by hypertension. The European honeysuckle may also prove to be very useful in counteracting infection as it is very similar to the “jin yin hua” herb.

Constituents..

Honeysuckle’s constituents include a volatile oil, tannins, and salicylic acid.
Honeysuckle contains a volatile oil (which includes linalool and jasmone), tannins, luteolin, and inositol.

How Honeysuckle Works in the Body..

The use of remedies made from the honeysuckle – Lonicera caprifolium – in the Western world is based on the knowledge gleaned from its age old usage and herbal lore. Some of the ways in which the honeysuckle is used in the West include the preparation of an herbal gargle or mouthwash from the leaves for use as a treatment for sore throats and gum or other general oral problems. The remedies made from the honeysuckle flowers are commonly employed in the treatment of asthma and related respiratory disorders – the herbal remedy helps soothe and relax the irritated respiratory passages. The traditionally use of the Lonicera japonica – variety of honeysuckle in China, or the “Jin Yin Hua’ as it is known is much more extensive. Clinical studies carried out in China have shown that the herb possesses distinct bactericidal action against both the streptococcus and staphylococcus strains of bacteria. During the laboratory experiments carried out on human subjects, the herb was demonstrated to induce some very potent protective effects on the tissues of the lungs in tuberculosis affected patients. The traditional uses of the herb in the Chinese system of medicine includes the treatment of abscesses or swellings in the body, the herbal remedy was particularly used in treating disorders affecting the breast, the throat, the eyes, and used extensively as an internal medication. The remedies made from the honeysuckle are also employed during the early stages of many diseases that come with fever. The herbal remedy is used to treat individuals with sensitivity to wind, they are used in treating chronic soreness in the throat, and to alleviate persistent or chronic headache. The herbal honeysuckle remedy is also employed as a remedy in treating cases of damp or heat dysenteric disorders in patients; it is also used in treating urinary dysfunction accompanied by pain. The property of being both “sweet and cold” is the alluded to this remedy in the Chinese system of medicine.

Applications..

Flowers:
HERBAL INFUSION – the honeysuckle flowers can be combined in a remedy with many other expectorant herbal flowers, including flowers of herbs such as the cowslip, the elecampane, or the mulberry, this remedy is excellent for treating problems such as chronic coughs and in mild forms of asthma and some respiratory disorders.
SYRUP – the syrup made from the honeysuckle flowers can be used along with the floral infusion for treating coughs -particularly if they are chronic. The syrup may be used as a combination therapy with other herbal flowers, including expectorant herbs such as the mullein or the marshmallow herb.
Flower buds:
HERBAL DECOCTION – this form of the remedy can be used in the early stages of getting a feverish cold that is accompanied by some characteristic symptoms including persistent headache, great thirst, and soreness in the throat. The dosage to use is ten to fifteen g of the dried honeysuckle floral buds mixed in six hundred ml of water as one dose. If the cold is accompanied by very high fevers, than the huang lian and huang qin herbs can be added to the remedy.
HERBAL TINCTURE – the tincture prepared from the honeysuckle is used for the treatment of different digestive disorders, including persistent diarrhea or chronic gastroenteritis that accompanies food poisoning and related complaints.
Stems:
HERBAL DECOCTION – the decoction can be prepared by steeping fifteen to thirty g of dried honeysuckle stems in six hundred ml of water. The use of the stem decoction is similar to the way in which the flower bud decoction is used. This remedy is excellent particularly for chronic pain in the joints, as well as in the treatment of influenza and other infections. This herbal remedy can be combined with the use of other cooling herbs, including the Chinese “luo shi teng” or “shi hu,” particularly when intending to treat inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and related problems.

Let’s Create Some Herbal Remedies – When Cold and Flu Season Arrives.

These two recipes are prepared as teas but are not taken in your tea cup – they help with the discomfort of flu season in other ways.

Winter Inhalation

living-herbs-for-cold-flu-thymeThis traditional herbal steam helps open your sinuses, discourages bacterial and viral growth, and reduces pain and inflammation. Remember to stay a comfortable distance from the steaming pot to avoid burning your face.

8 – 12 teaspoons fresh or 4 teaspoons dried eucalyptus leaf {Eucalyptus globulus}

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaf

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme herb

3 cups purified water

Essential oils of the herbs above {optional}

Place the eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, and water in a saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and uncover. Drape a large towel over your head and the saucepan, forming a steam-filled tent, and inhale the medicated steam deeply for 5 minutes or so. Repeat several times daily as needed, warming the decoction each time just to the boiling point.

You can enhance the inhalation by adding 6 or 7 drops of essential oil to the brew after you remove it from the heat. Try oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, and thyme, and add one or more as desired. {Because essential oils can cause dizziness and light-headedness, do not use enhanced inhalations more than two or three times a day, and discontinue use if redness of the mucous membrane develops.}

A Soothing Throat Gargle

herbs for cold and fluThis decoction soothes throats that are sore from illness or hoarse from overuse; it’s ideal for public speakers or teachers even when it isn’t winter. You will notice that this recipe calls for simmering above-ground portions of the plant that are usually steeped; this is because you will be extracting deeper compounds that are only somewhat water-soluble.

5 -7 tablespoons fresh or 2 1/2 tablespoons dried echinacea leaf

4 – 6 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried lemon balm herb

3 – 5 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried sage leaf

3 – 5 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried licorice root

2 tablespoons dried witch hazel bark {Hamamelis virginiana} or marshmallow root

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh or dried usnea lichen, if available {Usnea spp.}

5 cups purified water

Place the echinacea, lemon balm, sage, licorice, witch hazel or marshmallow, and optional usnea in a saucepan. Pour the water over the herbs and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes, covered. Strain and compost the herbs. You can make a larger batch and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Gargle with 1/4 cup of the warm or room-temperature tea four or five times a day; swallowing the liquid after gargling will provide extra benefits. For portability, put some in a little dropper bottle, and gargle with 3 or 4 droppersful for 30 seconds as a quick fix for an irritated throat.