Honeysuckle, an attractive, fast-growing vine, has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, both in Europe and in Asia. Salicylic acid, a compound similar to aspirin, is found in both the honeysuckle's leaves and blossoms and may be helpful in treating fevers, headaches, pains and arthritis. The fragrant flowers and buds, both fresh out of the garden and dried, can be used as a tea, and when you dry your own you can be more assured of their freedom from chemical residues. There are many species of honeysuckle available, but the one most often used in Chinese medicine is the Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica. The European species, also used as a medicinal herb, is L. periclymenum, often called woodbine.
Pick honeysuckle flowers early in the morning, taking fully formed blossoms that are just about to open, elongated but without the trumpet shape of the mature flower. You may also pick the smaller, round, tightly closed buds. Fully mature flowers, those where the mouth of the flower has opened, may be dried but may not be as high in active chemical compounds.
Spread flowers out on a flat surface so air can circulate between them, covering a square yard with a pound of flowers. You may lay them out between newspapers if the ink is nontoxic, or on a tray between layers of cheesecloth.
Place the tray or newspapers in a shady spot with good air circulation and low humidity. Let the flowers dry until they are brittle and break apart easily. This may take a few days to more than a week, depending on the humidity of your air.
Put dried flowers in airtight containers, preferably opaque jars to reduce the damage from light to the essential oils and chemical compounds. Store in a cool place.
To make a tea, pour a cup of boiling water over 1 tbsp. of dried honeysuckle flowers. For medicinal purposes, more may be used, but follow the advice of a health professional.
Things You Will Need
- Honeysuckle vine
- Newspapers or cheesecloth
- Dried honeysuckle flowers should be used within a year of harvest, so plan on making the picking and preserving a seasonal activity, perhaps marking a summer holiday as your "new honeysuckle tea" day.
- Never eat the berries of honeysuckle plants. They are poisonous.