Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, is an evergreen vine that spreads very quickly, covering entire structures if not carefully maintained. This quick spreading vine produces long, tubular flowers with sweet edible nectar that can be safely consumed in the spring and summer. Used in Asian medicine for centuries, however, many modern authorities argue that this plant's toxicity outweighs its medicinal value.
Japanese honeysuckle is native to Eastern Asia including Japan, Korea and China. Ancient Asian legends speak of hunting tribes dropping large quantities of the berries into streams and lakes to kill the fish. This perennial vine was introduced in America during the 1800's and was originally intended for ornamental and ground cover purposes.
Honeysuckle does have medicinal properties when used under a physician's supervision. The plant is high in calcium, potassium and magnesium. The leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. The entire plant is used in naturopathic treatment of high blood pressure, water retention and in treating infection. The stems can be consumed for treatment of mumps, rheumatoid arthritis and hepatitis. Finally, the flowers work as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as pneumonia.
The plant's berries are toxic when eaten in high amounts. The berries are black and shiny in color. They are small and juicy with seeds on the inside. The berries are small and grow in clusters near the leaf petioles.
Effects on fish and other sensitive animals include appearing stupefied with possible fainting or convulsions. Effects on humans who consume large quantities of the berries include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, chills, respiratory failure and coma. According to the North Carolina University Extension, the berries are cyanogenic glycocides with carotenoids.
If children consume any large portions of the plant, contact poison control immediately for instructions on treatment. Do not self-treat any ailments using honeysuckle. Always seek the advice and guidance of a trained naturopathic physician for treatment protocols. To avoid accidental poisoning of pets, do not plant honeysuckle in areas of access.