Botanical and Common Names
- Family Caprifoliaceae
- Lonicera caprifolium (Honeysuckle/Honey Suckle, Common honeysuckle, Dutch Honeysuckle, Goat s Leaf, Woodbine, Wood-Bind)
- Lonicera periclymenum (European Honeysuckle, Woodbine)
- Lonicera japonica (Chinese honeysuckle, Jin yin hua)
- Lonicera villosa (American honeysuckle)
- Family Acanthaceae
- Justicia spicigera syn. Jacobinia spicigera (Mexican Honeysuckle, Firecracker Plant, Desert Honeysuckle)
- Spanish: Muicle, Muitle, Chuparrosa, Trompetilla, Mayotl, Mozote, Yerbe de A il
- Nahuatl: Mohuitl
- Maya: Yich-kaan
- Do not eat the berries of the red honeysuckle as they are toxic.
The honeysuckle plant is deciduous and native to southern Europe and the Caucasus. L. japonica is semievergreen and native to China and Japan. A perennial climber, the honeysuckle is commonly found growing along walls or forming hedges which, if given suitable support, can reach heights of twenty feet. The shrub has light green oval leaves, which sometimes merge across the stem rather than growing in pairs one on each side. The pink-tinged creamy-white flowers grow in pairs and are basically tubular with diverging lips. The colour of the flowers can vary, but some species produce yellow-orange or yellow-white colours. Poisonous small berries appear after the flowers. The flowers and leaves are gathered in summer just before the flowers open.
The Mexican Honeysuckle is native to the Americas and is a showy plant, producing orange or red flowers that bloom all summer and attract hummingbirds. This bush is favoured in gardens throughout the southwestern US, but it should not be confused with a another plant (J. californica syn.Beloperone californica) which has similar flowers, but very few leaves.
History The Latin name caprifolium means goat's leaf, reflecting the belief that the leaves were once a favourite food of goats. It may also reflect the shape of the leaves, which resemble goat's ears.
In Europe, it was traditionally used as a treatment for asthma and other chest conditions.
Pliny recommended it be taken in wine for spleen disorders.
First listed in the Tang Ben Cao, written in 659 CE, it remains one of the most important Chinese herbs for clearing heat and poisons from the body.
Honeysuckle was one of the many medicinal herbs that John Gerard grew in his private garden.
The Aztecs used their species to cure dysentery and scabies and to reduce menstrual flow.
- promotes vomiting
(b) Chinese Honeysuckle
- mild diuretic
- salicylic acid
- volatile oil
(b) Chinese Honeysuckle
- volatile oil (mainly linalool and jasmone)
Flowers, leaves, bark
The main active principals are saponin and luteolin.
Chinese research indicates that jin yin hua inhibits the tuberculosis bacillus and counters infection. Because it is from the same genus as honeysuckle, that plant could prove to have similar effects.
Honeysuckle is one of the Bach Flower Remedies used to counter feelings of nostalgia and homesickness.
Infusions, made from the flowers, are used for coughs and mild asthma. They are especially helpful for these conditions when combined with such other expectorant herbs as cowslip, elecampane, or mulberry.
Syrups can be made from the flowers and used for coughs or combined with such other expectorant flowers as mullein or marshmallow for more effectiveness.
An oil expressed from the flowers, and gently heated, is used to restore circulation to the extremeties that have been numbed by cold. The plant has vasodilative properties that can increase blood flow to the surface of the skin. These active principals are readily absorbed by the skin with the oil.
Honeysuckle has long been used in Chinese medicine to clear heat and to relieve toxicity, especially that of such inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, abscesses, sores, inflammation of the breast, and dysentery. Decoctions made from the Chinese honeysuckle flowers are taken in the early stages of a feverish cold characterized by headache, thirst, and sore throat. Tinctures are used for diarrhea or gastroenteritis related to food poisoning. Decoctions made from the stems are used like the flower bud decoctions and are especially effective if there is joint pain that accompanies such conditions as influenza.
Although rarely used in Western herbal medicine today, its traditional usage indicates that various parts of the plant had different therapeutic benefits. For instance, the bark has diuretic properties and taken to relieve gout, kidney stones, and liver problems. The leaves are astringent and make a good mouthwash and gargle for sore throats or canker sores. The flowers relieve coughs and act as an antispasmodic used in the treatment of asthma.
Apart from its medicinal value, the Mexican Honeysuckle has been used to make a natural bluing agent for laundry rinses or as a blue dye. However, its most common medicinal use is that of a tonic to "purify the blood".