Posted on: 13 November 2014
Reports in the national press in early October about the use of
“honeysuckle” as a remedy for ‘flu apparently triggered a 264 per cent
increase in sales of honeysuckle tea on Amazon with the supplier, Bella
Shop, reportedly offering 10 tea bags for a hefty £25.59, and said to be
running low on supplies.
Enthusiasm for the herb followed
publication of a study at Nanjiang University which found that mice
absorbed a molecule from honeysuckle tea which suppressed flu, leading
the researchers to refer to the plant as “virological penicillin”.
None of the press reports I looked at actually specified either the
species of honeysuckle or the part used so anyone heading for their
garden climber and hoping to make a suitable tea from the last of this
year’s leaves or stems would probably be disappointed at the result.
Flowers from the Chinese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) have been used for treating colds, fevers and upper respiratory tract problems for centuries. The herb is known in China as jin yin hua – which translates as gold and silver flowers: yellow and white blooms that are quite different from the pinkish tinges of Lonicera periclymenum which is the common European variety of honeysuckle. Jin yin hua is
specific for “hot” types of colds and should be avoided if there are
“cold” symptoms (feeling cold with thin watery catarrh, for example,
rather than running a high temperature and with thicker yellow catarrh
blocking the nose).
As always with Chinese herbs the plant is
rarely prescribed as a “simple” to be taken by itself. More commonly it
is combined with a long list of other herbs to use in decoctions or made
into powders or pill. Yin qiao san, for example, contains
honeysuckle flowers and forsythia berries plus eight other herbs and is
used for certain types of feverish disorders.
However, if you want to take your honeysuckle tea neat, then try searching for jin yin hua
on the Internet rather than “honeysuckle flowers”. Typical prices are
£8.20 for 100g which sounds rather more reasonable than more than £25
for 10 tea bags – or you can always buy direct from China for as little
as ¨US$3 a kg” – although the postage charges might just be rather
higher than home sourced supplies. Remember too, that, taking excessive
amounts of any herb can produce unwanted side effects and the usual dose
for jin yin hua is no more than 10-15g,