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Botanical name: Lonicera japonica
Common name: Honeysuckle vine, Lonicera vine
Literal name translation: winter-resisting vine
Family: Caprifoliaceae, honeysuckle family
Part used in Chinese medicine: caulis (stalk and stems)
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Clear heat, resolve toxicity, dispels wind-dampness, soothes sinews,
unblocks channels and collaterals, cools blood
Lonicera japonica is a vigorous, woody, evergreen or semi-evergreen twining climbing vine. It is found throughout China, Japan and Korea, both wild and cultivated. It is often planted to cover walls and fences, and cultivated for its very fragrant flowers. There is a popular variety of Lonicera japonica that has purplish stems and an outline of pink on the flowers. Besides their use in Chinese medicine, the flowers and leaves are sometimes used to make a soothing summer beverage, and the roots and young leaves are considered suitable food in times of famine.
Historical accounts say that along with rose petals, the Dowager Empress liked to add honeysuckle flowers to her tea. Her tea was served in a white jade cup with gold lid and saucer, along with two similar cups, one with rose petals and one with honeysuckle flowers.
In North America the vine is often considered to be a weed as it is very vigorous and aggressive. Birds eat the berries and excrete the seeds, allowing the plant to propagate and quickly spread over a wide area. It grows extremely fast, up to 48 feet in a single year, and can choke surrounding vegetation, especially small trees and shrubs. For this reason it is not recommended for cultivation in the U.S., in fact there has been some effort to eradicate the plant.
Growing and Propagation
Japanese honeysuckle will grow in almost any soil, and can be propagated easily by either seed or cuttings. It bears fragrant white flowers that turn yellow as they age, blooming for a long period from spring to late summer, followed by blue-black berries. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 10.
Harvesting and Preparation
The stems of the plant, Ren Dong Teng, are harvested in fall and winter. They are cut off, sorted and soaked in water until uniformly moist, then cut, tied into small bundles and dried in the sun. Good quality consists of young twigs, slightly reddish in color, with a small number of leaves.
The dried flowers of the plant, Jin Yin Hua, are harvested just before opening. Good quality consists of yellow flower buds that are whole and unopened, without stems and leaves.