Honeysuckle

Better known for its sweet-smelling flowers, honeysuckle has also been valued for its medicinal properties for centuries. Believed to have originated in Asia, honeysuckle was introduced to the United States as an ornamental in the 19thcentury. However, modern science is discovering more about its health benefits and potential uses.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Honeysuckle
  • Scientific nameLonicera
  • Plant typeVine
  • Native regionAsia
  • Main producer(s)China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal, Cosmetics, Culinary, Gardening, Herbalism, Aromatherapy, Floriculture, Ornamental
Honeysuckle

Native from China, Japan, Korea, and far eastern Russia, honeysuckle was introduced to the West as an ornamental vine in the 19th century. Sought mainly for its strong, pleasant scent and its beautiful flowers, honeysuckle is also considered valuable for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAnalgesic, Antimicrobial
  • Key constituentsSalicylic Acid, Chlorogenic Acid, Luteolin and Isochlorogenic Acid
  • Ways to useCapsules, Food, Tincture, Poultice, Ointment
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingUse with caution

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle

The Eastern countries where honeysuckle originated have been benefiting from the medicinal properties of the plant for many years. Some of the treatments recognized early on included those for urinary infections and respiratory discomfort. Modern research confirms that honeysuckle has a lot to offer in regards to health remedies. It can be useful mainly for:

  • Fighting viral and bacterial diseases. Honeysuckle contains several antimicrobial components. This means it can help combat the common cold, as well as a wide range of bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli.
  • Relieving headaches. The leaves and flowers of honeysuckle contain a substance similar to aspirin, which can help dispel headaches and nausea.

Additionally, honeysuckle may help with:

  • Cooling body temperature. The coolant effect of honeysuckle can be beneficial to those suffering from menopausal hot flashes, fevers, sunstroke, and infections.
  • Relieving irritated skin and acne. When applied topically in the form of a lotion or cream, the properties of the plant will quickly soothe rashes, psoriasis, and stings, as well as help to clear acne.

How It Works

Honeysuckle leaves and flowers contain a compound known as salicylic acid, an important component of aspirin, which has the ability to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory lipids. This means that it can help reduce swelling and redness, as well as lower body temperature.

In Japanese honeysuckle, there are three main compounds that give the plant antibiotic effects. These are chlorogenic acid, luteolin, and isochlorogenic acid, and they are present in the stem of the plant.

Analgesic properties are also present in cayenne and cloves, whereas calendula can provide similar antimicrobial benefits.

Honeysuckle Side Effects

Overconsumption of honeysuckle is likely to cause a laxative effect, which in turn can cause dehydration. The plant should be consumed in moderation, and supplements only should be taken as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Honeysuckle Cautions

Berries produced by some species of honeysuckle are poisonous and should not be ingested.

Sufferers of sensitive skin might react to topical honeysuckle treatments. To avoid this, a skin test should be carried out before extensive use.

It is advised that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with a doctor before using any honeysuckle preparations.

How to Consume Honeysuckle

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFlowers, Leaves, Stem
  • Edible usesColoring, Beverage

Medicinal preparations are often the preferred method of consumption, as they contain a more concentrated solution. These are made using the stem, leaves, and flowers.

Remedies

Main preparations: Tea, tincture, capsules, ointment, oil, poultice

  • Tea. Honeysuckle tea is a popular option for those wanting to consume the plant in order to stave away colds and sore throats. The warmth and steam help to soothe and clear sinuses.
  • Tincture. This preparation can be bought, but it is also easy to make at home. Tincture is a quick way to consume the medicinal properties of honeysuckle; a few drops can be diluted in water for drinking, or it can be used topically.
  • Capsules. Capsules are deemed to be a good option for those looking to relieve headaches or colds. They initiate a cooling effect to soothe these.
  • Ointment. This can be applied to skin to treat irritation and inflammation. The coolant within honeysuckle should help to calm the affected area and reduce redness.
  • Oil. Honeysuckle can be bought in the form of an essential oil. This is favored in aromatherapy, as it has a pleasant scent that is said to help people relax.
  • Poultice. This can be made by crushing the whole plant into a pulp and applying directly to an inflamed or irritated area. It may be particularly useful in treating sore bites and stings.

Food

Honeysuckle flowers are appearing in cooking more and more frequently. In gastronomic circles, they are valued for their pretty and colorful appearance, as they can be used to diversify a simple green salad. They can also be added to fruit salads, blended into drinks, and used as an edible decoration on cakes and desserts.

The flowers contain a sweet nectar in the center, which can be sucked directly from the plant.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySpecialized health stores, Online health stores

Fresh and Dried Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is a common plant that can be found all over the world, in gardens and woodlands alike. It is therefore easy to find it to use fresh, or to pick and dry for making tea or tinctures. Cultivated plants or seeds can be bought at garden centers for replanting at home. Teas and tinctures can be bought in alternative health shops or online.

Honeysuckle Supplements

Other health supplements can be purchased online and in health shops. There are a wide range of honeysuckle preparations available, each recommended for a variety of ailments. A health professional should be able to advise which option is most suitable based on the needs of the consumer.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFlowers, Leaves, Stem
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilWell-drained
  • Growing habitatTemperate climates
  • Pre-germination seed treatmentNone
  • Planting timeEarly spring
  • Plant spacing average0.6 m (1.97 ft)
  • Potential insect pestsAphids
  • Potential diseasesPowdery mildew
  • Potential animal pestsBirds

Honeysuckle is found in many different environments, and it is surprising how hardy the flower is considering its delicate appearance. Opinions differ on whether this plant is a pretty addition to gardens, or whether it is a nuisance weed. In fact, honeysuckle requires minimal attention and can easily by grown at home, to be enjoyed ornamentally or harvested and used in herbal remedies.

Growing Guidelines

  • Honeysuckle will grow in some shade, but full sun is optimal.

  • It will flourish best if regularly watered - soil should be kept moist.

  • A strong scaffold such as a trellis will help support the vine, encouraging the plant to spread.

  • Two inches (5 cm) of mulch on top of the soil is advisable in the winter months to protect the plant from frost.

  • Plants should be spaced two to three feet (60 - 90 cm) apart.

  • Honeysuckle can be cultivated indoors, but it will not flower.

  • Fertilizers are not essential, but will encourage growth.

More detailed information about growing honeysuckle can be found in our herb garden section.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesDye, Perfume, Soapmaking

Plant Biology

The largest variety of honeysuckle is grown in China, but there are many species to be found elsewhere. It is a perennial evergreen climber, the vines of which reaching up to 20 feet (6.1 m). The stems, flexible and resilient, twist as they grow, which accounts for how the plant can spread across obstacles that come in its path. The honeysuckle flowers, made up of thin petals that curl at the ends, are usually green-yellow or pink, and can be both male and female. However, only the female blossoms will produce fruit.

  • Classification
    Honeysuckle belongs to the genus Lonicera and it is also part of the Caprifoliaceae family, which comprises around 180 species across 11 genera. Up to 17 of these species are considered safe for human consumption; however, further scientific investigation is needed.
  • Related Species
    Of the vast array of honeysuckle varieties, the most common ones to be utilized in food and for medicinal purposes are L. edulis, L. kamtchatica, L. altaica, L. boczkarnikovae, and L. japonica. L. japonica - or Japanese honeysuckle - has been studied extensively and it is said to be a diuretic and cleanser of the digestive system.

Historical Information

Honeysuckle was introduced to the United States in 1806. It first appeared as an ornamental plant, and was also used for cosmetics due to its pleasant scent.

The genus name Lonicera was appointed by Lonicer, a 16th-century German physician who greatly promoted the herb for its medicinal value.

Popular Beliefs

In the 17th century, people associated honeysuckle with feelings of love and lust. This is apparent in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which the playwright uses the plant to suggest an image of lovers sleeping entwined together.

The twisted stem of the honeysuckle plant was once used to make walking sticks for men. It was said that these would help the user to find his perfect woman. It was once also believed that pouring a few drops of honeysuckle oil onto a pillow at night would give a person erotic dreams.

Other Uses

Because of its pleasing fragrance and pretty appearance, honeysuckle is used in variety of non-medicinal ways. People make potpourri with the leaves and flowers, and also put the concentrated essence of the plant in candles, incense, perfume, soap, and assorted bath products. The colorful flowers can also be used as a natural dye, in food or cosmetics. The bright, nectar-filled blossoms attract wildlife, namely hummingbirds.

This sweet-smelling, pretty flower is greatly valued in medicinal, culinary, and horticultural circles. Although many argue that the honeysuckle plant can be invasive, if properly attended to, it can be an attractive addition to any garden, where it can be enjoyed aesthetically as well as used for a variety of health purposes.

Bibliography

  • Backyard Medicine, Honeysuckle, Woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum), pp. 70 – 71
  • U.S. National Park Service Plant Guides, Shrubs & Subshrubs, Amur Honeysuckle
  • Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Plants in Shakespeare
  • Royal Horticultural Society, Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • American Chemical Society, Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Aspirin – It’s All About Salicylic Acid
  • 21st Century Herbal Health & Wellness, pp. 33
  • Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen, pp. 36-37
  • Edible & Medicinal Flowers, pp. 44
  • George Mason University, Medicinal Plant: The Japanese Honeysuckle
  • Healthy Focus, 7 Benefits of Honeysuckle Essential Oil
  • Medicinal Properties of Herbs and Plants
  • Myths and Legends, Honeysuckle or Woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum)
  • Native Trees, pp. 163
  • The Natural Health Dictionary
  • Molecules, Phenolic Profile of Edible Honeysuckle Berries (Genus Lonicera) and Their Biological Effects, 2012
  • National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus, Salicylic Acid Topical
  • Penn State University, Extension, Forest Resources, Bush Honeysuckles