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Monday, March 26, 2007


Forsythia fruit is the ripe fruit, with or without seeds, of Forsythia suspensa (Thunb.) Vahl. (Family Oleaceae).

Forsythia fruit is one of the most common components in Chinese herbal formulas for treating the common cold, influenza, and allergies (e.g., hay fever). With continuous documentation of at least three thousand years, it is traditionally considered a detoxicant for treating so-called "toxic" and "hot" conditions. These conditions correlate with modern inflammatory and infectious diseases, including viral and bacterial infections, as well as allergies. The properties and uses of forsythia fruit now appear to have considerable scientific support.

In recent laboratory studies, Chinese scientists have found its decoction (water extract) and other extracts (e.g., alcohol extract) to have antiviral, antibacterial, antiinflammatory, antypyretic, antiallergic, and antioxidant activities in vitro and in experimental animals. Chemical studies have revealed various active constituents, including relatively large amounts of oleanolic acid (0.73 to 2.28%) and other triterpenes, phenols (e.g. forsythol), sterols and flavonoids. Although oleanolic acid has antiallergic and liver protectant and forsythol antibacterial activities, they cannot account for the varied biological effects and total traditional properties of forsythia fruit. Again, this is nothing new when it comes to scientific investigation of herbs using the typical single chemical drug appropach, where researchers are only looking for a one-to-one effect. In herbal medicine, there is no such thing. At best you are looking at a rare occasion where a single chemical of an herb is responsible for one or two of its specific properties, such as ephedrine from mahuang (Ephedra spp.), berberine from huanglian (Coptis spp.) and quinine from chichona bark. However, these specific chemicals with specific effects don't account for the total traditional properties and uses of these herbs.

Like other scientists, I don't have a clear idea how forsythia fruit works in taking care of colds, flus and allergies. But based on personal experience with this and related herbs and after almost twenty years of intensive searching and accumulating traditinonal and modern Chinese herbal data, including a collection of most of the major Chinese herbals ever published and over sixty modern Chinese journals (quarterly, bi-monthly and monthly) on traditional herbal medicine, I can tell you that traditional Chinese formulas for treating "toxic" and "hot" conditions are superior to modern cold, flu and allergy medicines. Some of these formulas have been safely used for hundreds of years.

While modern medicines only offer temporary relief of symptoms (often simulataneously causing toxic side effects), the traditional Chinese herbal formulas take care of the virus ("evil") as well as strengthen the body, with many fewer toxic side effects, if any at all. My family and friends have been using two or three of these formulas with considerable success. I would be very upset if I were forced to use modern drugs by some biased and self-serving bureaucrats; so would my family and friends.

Extracts of forsythia fruit are now also used in numerous types of cosmetic products, including hair care (e.g., hair growth liniments and antidandruff shampoos), skin care (e.g., acne cream) and foot care (e.g., athletes foot) products for their antimicrobial and traditional detoxifying properties.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including forsythia on pages 30-32.

For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit www.earthpower.com.


Jennifer said...

Hi Dr. Leung,
I am searching for info on Forsythia for my blog, and came on your site. I would be honored to link to your post. Also, I was particularly looking for how we can use forsythia on our own. Can we collect the twigs, leaves, etc and make teas with them? Does it matter on the subspecies? How would we make the tea? Can we have plain forsythia tea or have to add other herbs?
Thank you. Regards, Jennifer.
My google email is jenkumar at gmail

Dr. Albert Leung said...

Usually the dried ripe fruit is used, boiled in water with other herbs. It is seldom used alone. If you are looking for herbs to treat colds, cough, or allergies, you can find others on our website: www.earthpower.com
Thanks for your interest in herbs. Feel free to link to our blog.