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Monday, March 12, 2007

Japanese Honeysuckle, Chinese Medicine

Honeysuckle is a collective name for numerous twining or trailing shrubs with opposite leaves and mildly to very fragrant flowers. The plants are known scientifically as Lonicera of the honeysuckle family. The Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is the honeysuckle most commonly used in Chinese medicine, but several other species are also used.

In Chinese, honeysuckle flowers are called jin yin hua, meaning, literally, gold and silver flowers. The term refers to the color of the flowers of Japanese honeysuckle, which are at first white but then turn to golden yellow. Honeysuckle stems or vines are called ren dong teng, meaning “winter-resistant vine”, which referes to the hardy nature of the vines.

Japanese honeysuckle is a native of Asia but now grows wild in many parts of North America, especially the northeastern United States. Its climbing or twining stem can reach as much as 9 m. (30 ft.) long. Its flowers are very fragrant.

Honeysuckle is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Japanese honeysuckle stems, leaves and flowers have been found to contain numerous constituents including luteolin, luteolin derivatives (e.g. lonicerin), alkaloids, tannins, inositol, loganin, secologanin, chlorogenic acid and saponins. Chlorogenic acid is believed to be the major active constituent. Among the most commonly used honeysuckle species, including Lonicera confusa, L. hypoclauca, and L. dasystyla, chlorogenic acid content ranges from less than 0.5% to almost 7%.

The flowers and the stems, with leaves, of the honeysuckle plant are commonly used in Chinese medicine and are produced throughout China.

Honeysuckle flowers are collected during May or June (the flowering season in China is May to July). Traditionally picked in the morning after the dew has evaporated, they are laid out in thin layers on straw mats and are sun-dried or air-dried in the shade. Harsh midday and early afternoon sun is avoided. The flowers are turned over occasionally to ensure even drying.

Honeysuckle stems (or vines) with leaves are collected in autumn or winter. They are tied in small bundles and sun-dried.

This information is excerpted from Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Chinese Healing Foods and Herbs. This publication includes further information and home remedies using honeysuckle as well as over 45 other herbs. Note: there is also an entry for honeysuckle in Dr. Leung’s encyclopedia, near the back in the section on cosmetic ingredients.

Learn more about honeysuckle and read further about Dr. Leung and his writings! Visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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