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.

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Let’s Create Some Herbal Medicine – Syrups.

herbal syrupSyrups are useful for coating your throat and are helpful if you {or your children} have trouble swallowing capsules or pills. Any herbal tea can be concentrated and added to a sweet base to create a syrup. Because this process concentrates the herb’s active constituents, a syrup can be very effective at treating and healing a wide range of ailments, especially upper respiratory infections and sore throats.

After making your syrup, bottle it, label it, and store it in the refrigerator. If no preservatives are added, the syrup will probably last 2 to 3 weeks. You can add a few drops of an essential oil or vitamin C powder {1/2 to 1 level teaspoon to 1 cup of syrup} to increase its refrigerated shelf life by 1 to 2 weeks or even longer. If it’s impractical to store the syrup in the refrigerator, add the vitamin C powder and grain alcohol so that the finished product is 25 percent alcohol and 75 percent syrup. These additions are particularly helpful for keeping syrup viable and safe for consumption when you are traveling. Take 1 teaspoon two to three times daily or as needed.

Sweet Syrup Bases and Herbal Syrups:

Sweet Syrup Base: If you are using sugar for the sweet syrup base, you will want to make a simple syrup by dissolving 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water by simmering it for 30 to 40 minutes. Add this syrup to the strained tea. Add the vitamin C or alcohol and bottle, label, and store your finished syrup.

To create an alternate sweet syrup base using honey, you can combine 1/2 cup each of honey and barley malt, or combine 3/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of glycerin; either of these two additions will create a smooth consistency.

Herbal Syrups:  If you are including scented leaves and flowers such as anise hyssop, basil or tulsi, catnip, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, oregano, peppermint, sage, spearmint, or thyme to make syrup, keep in mind that the plant material itself shouldn’t be boiled. These aromatic herbs contain volatile oils that will be lost when subjected to the high heat of boiling. You will want to add them to the liquid after you have finished simmering it, and steep them for 20 minutes.

If you are only using aromatic herbs, follow these guidelines for making syrup: Reduce the water from 5 cups to 1 1/2 cups and steep your herbs for 20 minutes. Strain and compost them, and then add the sweet syrup base and optional essential oils.

Basic Syrup:

Use the amounts below for each cup of finished syrup; you can double or triple the recipe.

1 – 1 1/2 cups fresh or 1/2 – 2/3 cup dried herbs

5 cups purified water

1 cup of a sweet syrup base, such as dehydrated cane juice, sugar, or honey

Essential oils {optional}

1/2 – 1 level teaspoon vitamin C powder or 1/3 cup alcohol {optional, to preserve}

Blend or process the herbs to a coarse or fine consistency. Combine the herbs with the water in a saucepan, stir, and gently simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes longer. Strain and compost the herbs. Pour the liquid back into the pan. Simmer and reduce the heat, and gently simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. {If you’re using sugar, add it halfway through the reducing process to make sure that it dissolves and thickens properly.} Let the mixture cool until warm, and add the sweet syrup base. Add a few drops of the optional essential oils and vitamin C powder or alcohol. Bottle, label, and store.

Garlic Syrup:

An excellent way to take garlic as an antibiotic preventative when a cold is coming on.

2 – 5 cloves of garlic

1 cup sweet syrup base

5 drops oregano essential oil {optional, for an antibacterial boost} or 2 or 3 drops peppermint or orange essential oil {for a flavor lift}

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, sweet syrup base, and essential oil. Blend or process until creamy. Bottle, label, and store.

Cough Syrup:

This tasty syrup coats your throat, reduces irritation, and calms a persistent cough.

3 – 4 teaspoons fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried echinacea leaf, flower, and/or root

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons fresh or 3/4 teaspoon dried licorice root

2 heaping teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried marshmallow root

3 – 4 teaspoons fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried orange peel

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons fresh or 3/4 teaspoon dried sage leaf

3 – 4 teaspoons fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme herb

5 cups purified water

1 cup sweet syrup base

Optional Ingredients:

2 – 3 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried wild cherry bark {Prunus serotina}

3 – 4 teaspoons fresh or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried horehound leaf {Marrubium vulgare}; this herb adds extra cough-reducing power, but also has a bitter taste}

7 drops orange essential oil

3 drops peppermint essential oil

Pinch of stevia per cup of finished liquid {optional, for sweetness}

If you are using fresh herbs, whir them in a blender, and if you are using dried, grind the herbs to a coarse or fine consistency. In a saucepan, simmer the echinacea, licorice, marshmallow, orange peel, and optional cherry bark in  the water, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the sage, thyme, and optional horehound. Steep the entire mixture for 20 minutes longer, then strain and compost the herbs. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan, return it to a boil, reduce the heat, and gently simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. Let it cool until it’s warm and add the sweet syrup base and the optional essential oils. Stir well, bottle, label, and store.

Directions For How To Make Rose Oil Using The Cold Infusion Method.

rose essential oilWork with intention, allowing space in your busy life to be present. It is fitting to say a short blessing or prayer that the final product is an effective healer.

Rosa centifolia and Rosa damascena are the most commonly available Roses and are well-suited for herbal skin care.

1) Fill a clean jar ¾ full with freshly dried or dry rose petals and buds. You can break up and bruise the petals gently.

2) Fill the jar to the top with carrier oil of choice. I use extra virgin olive oil most commonly, though sweet almond or coconut (melted) would work well.

3) Cap and shake to distribute the herb.

4) Label with the herb used, where it is from, the oil used, quantities of each, the date and the method of preparation.

5) Allow the jar to sit in a cool, dark place, shaking daily.

6) At 4 weeks/28 days/1 moon cycle, strain the oil into a clean bowl, squeezing the herb to get every drop. I find it helpful to use an old t-shirt or cheesecloth to catch the herb. Then lift the t-shirt with herb in it and squeeze that.

7) The strained liquid is your finished oil. Essential oil can be added or it can be left as is. It will have the sweet scent of roses, though it may be light. You could always make a double or triple infusion, where you would use the filtered herbal oil as the carrier oil for a fresh batch of rose petals.

Rose Oil can be used as any other herbal oil, for cosmetic, massage and medicinal purposes.

Therapeutic Benefits of Roses 

     Aside from providing an aesthetic appeal, which contributes to the overall pleasure and feeling of well being, roses have a genuine practical use in our regimens of good health. Rose oil and rose water are derived from the flowers and rose hips have many valuable properties.

     It is suspected that the rose was probably the very first flower from which rose oil and rose water were distilled; possibly in the 10th Century Persia. Today, most of the rose oils are still produced in that region of the world. A very large quantity of rose petals is needed to produce a very small quantity of oil. Thus, it is very costly. Thankfully only a small amount of rose oil is needed in therapeutic preparations. It is not used in its concentrated state, but rather in a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, and grapeseed.

     Generally rose oil and rose water (a by-product of distillation) are used topically rather than internally; with the exception of aromatherapy.In this case the rose essence may be inhaled, via steam or diffusion. Three varieties of rose are used in commercial production of rose oil and rose water: Rosa Centifolia, Rosa Damascena and Rosa Gallica. The product will vary slightly in colour between these species but the therapeutic benefits are the same.

     The use of the rose is far and varied. It has a long history in its use in folk remedies, especially in the area of skincare. It is suitable for all skin types, but it is especially valuable for dry, sensitive or aging skins. It has a tonic and astringent effect on the capillaries just below the skin surface, which makes it useful in diminishing the redness caused by enlarged capillaries. It is important to ensure that the product contains the genuine natural rose oil. Many manufacturers label their products containing rose essence but it could be synthetic. Synthetic rose ingredients have no therapeutic value at all! Remember, with authentic rose oil, a little goes a long way.Certainly rosewater is a less expensive way to provide skincare. It is very soothing to irritated skin.It is also a tonic and antiseptic. Rosewater has been shown to be very valuable as an antiseptic in eye infections.

     The rose also offers a soothing property to the nerves and emotional /psychological state of mind. It is regarded as a mild sedative and anti-depressant. It is increasingly used in treatments for conditions of stress: nervous tension, peptic ulcers, heart disease, among others. There is indication that rose essence may also positively influence digestion, bile secretion, womb disorders and circulation. In addition, a tea made with rose petals (pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1 /2 grams of rose petals) often soothes a mild sore throat.

     Rose hips (the flowers which have swollen to seed) are an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, D and E. They also contain bioflavonoids, citric acid, flavonoids, fructose, malic acid, tannins and zinc. Taken in the form of tea they are good for infections, particularly bladder infections. Rose hip tea is also used in the treatment of diarrhea. It is an especially good source of vitamin C.

     To best use rose oil for topical purposes (i.e. skin care), use approximately 8 drops of essential rose oil for every 10 ml of carrier oil. Apply directly onto skin. Rosewater may be used with abandon. There is no such thing as too much of it. For emotional wholeness and wellness, rose oil may also be used in a room diffuser, aromatherapy ring (a brass ring placed atop a hot light bulb will work to evaporate the essential essence throughout the room) or in steaming hot water on the stove. Whatever works!

     To brew rose hip tea, which by the way is truly delicious, roughly chop up entire rose hips. Cover with distilled or purified water and boil for 30 minutes (longer if desired). Strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth and add a bit of honey if desired. One can also find Rose Hip Tea in the local health food stores.  The essence of rose need not only be used to treat ailments. Whether inhaled and enjoyed from a freshly cut bouquet of sumptuous blooms or splashed on as rosewater after a shower or bath, it is simply a pleasure to be enjoyed by all!