May 11, 2012

Honeysuckle For A Good Cause

Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) was one of the top three vines on the place when we bought it. With it's sweet fragrance, profuse white and yellow flowers and pretty green foliage it is a favorite of Dan's and is certainly the most welcome. The other two, being poison ivy and kudzu were not welcome at all, though these have since shown some use, (see "Immunities & Milk (Another of My Theories)" and "Kudzu For Hay").

Honeysuckle has value as a nectary plant to attract hummingbirds and beneficial insects. It is also used for erosion control and can make a pretty, sweet smelling privacy screen in the summer. On the down side, it can become a nuisance because it spreads and wraps it's way around everything in sight. In some areas it's considered an invasive species and can indeed strangle out what it grows on. I pull ours out where we don't want it, otherwise I let it be.

It also has medicinal qualities, which I didn't pay much attention to until the arthritis in Dan's knees started bothering him. Arthritis is considered a relatively common degenerative disease, characterized by pain and inflammation in the joints. It is considered manageable but not curable. Commonly it is treated with acetaminophen or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammitory drugs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, or prescription strength drugs. Trouble is, Dan can't tolerate any of these.

We started researching and discovered the condition is primarily found in industrialized areas. This is an immediate diet connection red flag. Many natural health gurus immediately recommend a strict vegan diet, citing meat and dairy as the culprit (among other things.) While I definitely agree that diet is key, I also always have vague sense of doubt about this advice, based on what I've been learning from Nourishing Traditions (the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats) and biologist Ray Peat.

What we learned, is that there are a number of dietary factors that can precipitate and aggravate arthritis: hormone imbalance including low thyroid, excessive polyunsaturated fats (i.e. most of the vegetable or plant oils, probably because of the free radicals these oils produce when subjected to heat, oxygen, and moisture during processing and cooking, Nourishing Traditions pg. 10), calcium deficiency, an allergy to carrageenen (a common "natural" food additive/thickener derived from seaweed), and certain amino acids (too much tryptophan, or too little glycine). Unfortunately pinpointing which one is the problem is no easy task because people are different and so may have different causes. Except for pain meds, there is no one size fits all solution.

Dan has more trouble with diet than I do, because he is an over the road truck driver. The foods, ingredients, and additives that we want to avoid are all that's out there, particularly the unsaturated oils/fats and carrageenen. Even though I send him home cooked foods and meals, there are a lot of little things that he ingests regularly that could, according to my research, aggravate his arthritis.

What's all this got to do with honeysuckle? While I was thumbing through The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody (I just love Dorling Kindersley books), I ran across the entry for honeysuckle. I read that one of the constituents of honeysuckle is salicylic acid (which is the active ingredient in aspirin), and the stems are sometimes used for inflammation. I made a decoction by simmering 30 grams of chopped stems in 750 mils of filtered water for 15 minutes.

Dan started sipping on this tea and took a jug of it with him the next time he went out on the road. He also started avoiding packaged snack foods and commercial coffee creamers. Within about a week, the swelling and pain in his knees was nearly gone. I know that seems like a rather dramatic result, and I can't say for sure which it was, except that when he stopped drinking the tea, his knees started bothering him again when he stopped drinking the tea. When he resumed that, the pain and swelling diminished just as quickly as before.

While I would make no claims that this would help everyone with arthritis, I will say that we were fortunate to hit on relief for his particular problem. Well worth a try.

Related Post:
Kris's Turn. Poor Kris - using gelatin for dysplasia & arthritis


  1. How neat! I love learning about the medicinal uses of common plants. :-)

  2. What a fine thing to discover. We "modern" Americans seem to have forgotten that generations before us had their own medicines that worked quite fine. I'm not knocking the advancements of modern medicine, but I'm also not about to discount the old ways, either.

  3. that sounds interesting for my DH as well! I just have to check if the right variety grows here... at the back of my mind there's something about some honeysuckles being slightly poisoinous?
    and I agree, Dorling Kindersley does make books a feast for the eyes:)

  4. Michelle, me too. And I never would have considered honeysuckle. I hate to say it's nice we had a need, but I'm glad to add it to our herbal medicine cabinet.

    FFG, so true. Folks just seem to think that new is better. Plus, the pharma companies are always looking for the next profit margin. Naturals don't help them much with that.

    Eliza, I thought so too!

    Bettina, Wikipedia lists numerous honeysuckles. Perhaps you could find the right one to grow if you don't already have it wild.

  5. That's very interesting. I've heard and read a fair bit recently about what effect diet can have on conditions like arthritis, but Honeysuckle hasn't been mentioned. A good bit of info to tuck away in case it's needed in the future.

  6. What a wonderful post. I've been wanting honeysuckle on our place for a while now, but never got around to planting any. But I guess that this gives me an additional reason to do so!

  7. Wow, nature never ceases to amaze me. Not only can you suck the nectar out of honeysuckle, a favorite childhood activity, but you can use the stems for pain relief.

  8. Very interesting indeed..We learn new things all of the time and I have always believed that God put everything here on earth that we need. - I just love honeysuckle!

    Have a very Happy Mother's Day! xo

  9. 'Tis true that not everything works for everyone, but I believe there are so many natural remedies out there for what ails us . . . if only we had the knowledge to find and use them. ('Course, with your fine researching skills, I think you would be able to come up with whatever you were after! I'm envious of that strong quality of yours.) Eating "out in the world" today is truly damaging to our health. Dan is so fortunate to have you to prepare special things for him.

  10. Nina, I never realized any of this until Dan started complaining that his knees were hurting. We did some research and the description of osteoarthritis fit him to a T. It was providential that the rest fell into place.

    Carolyn, we love honeysuckle. It makes the air smell so sweet! I believe the flowers have a number of uses as well. I'll have to look into that.

    Candace, it is amazing, isn't it? Even more amazing that it worked so well so quickly!

    Sherri, I so agree. I believe we were given everything we need. Who knew relief was right in our own backyard!

    Mama Pea, I agree. There are several other things we're going to try and if they work, I'll blog about them in the future too. I have to give Dan credit though. The honeysuckle worked so well that he was more than willing to go gather it and make the tea himself. In fact he did on at least one occasion!

  11. Great info and I love honeysuckle. It grows wild all over down here.

  12. Hum, guess I'll have to check this out. Does it matter which kind of arthritis you have?

  13. Nice job! Dan is a lucky husband. I have serious, wide spread arthritis in my spine. Today I'm buying a honeysuckle plant for our farm!

  14. how neat! We used to just try to get the nectar out of them as kids.

    I'm so glad it's helping Dan... I wonder if I could talk my mom into taking it? The drug she's on for her arthritis messes with her immunity.

  15. Thank you so much for posting this! My daughter-in-law and I have both been having more problems lately with our osteoarthritis, and I have a little honeysuckle that I planted a couple of years ago. Our weather is not conducive to it taking over the world, but I could prune it a bit, and this sounds like it's worth a try. I knew about willow having salicylic acid, but didn't know that honeysuckle did too. I just remember sucking the blossoms for their nectar as a kid.

  16. Sam, ours does too. But it's a favorite!

    Barb, I don't think so. The herb book mentions both kinds. I do flavor the honeysuckle stem tea with some Celestial Seasonings strawberry tea. The honeysuckle doesn't really have a "bad" flavor, he says slightly bitter but tolerable.

    Donna, it's worth a try. Actually there are a number of plants with anti-inflammatory properties. I plan to do some research and see what else I can add to it.

    Renee, that's the problem with most of those drugs. The side effects create a whole 'nother set of problems. It actually only took about a week for Dan to get relief. It's not a cure, but like aspirin, it relieves the pain and swelling. We're hoping that by eliminating some of those causative foods, we may really be able to bring it under control.

    Sue, I knew about willow too, but never dreamed honeysuckle had it too. Would love to grow a willow tree, but where(?!). I need to research what other plants contain salicylic acid as well.

  17. I learned something today. One of the best things about reading blogs!!
    Thanks for this post, and glad you had luck with it!

  18. This is one of a thousand good reasons to blog. Thanks for sharing. The herbal medicine book is on my wish list!

  19. Ellen from GeorgiaMay 12, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    Did you boil the stems of honey suckle in the water or just let it sit in the water? Thanks Ellen from Georgia

  20. Native Americans used the inner lining of willow bark from what I remember, as a tea which is salicylic acid based. The reason they started making Aspirin instead of using salicylic acid is because it is hard on your throat and stomach, probably more so in the same people who can't tolerate Aspirin so be careful taking salicylic acid, probably best to take it with a meal.

  21. Mama Tea, I think we are one another's greatest resource. :)

    Jody, it's a rally good book. Maybe someday I should blog about all my favorites.

    Ellen, good question. I chop the stems, put in cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. I also add flavoring herbal teas as well. When it's cool enough to drink, it's ready.

    Sunnybrook Farm, you are correct about the use of willow bark. In fact, I was going to purchase some until I learned about the honeysuckle stems.

    Commercial aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)is actually made synthetically. Also, modern science either does not know about or refuses to recognize the synergistic relationship of the constituents in herbs. The trend is to isolate one constituent and intensify it. This is one of the reasons there are so many side effects and problems with chemical pharmaceuticals that do not occur with natural remedies. Of course, this is what enables them to patent their products and make their profits.

  22. I have a lot of honeysuckle in my yard and I've been having a lot of pain. I am definitely going to try this. Thank you!

  23. i love the "Nourishing Traditions" book, i heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in dietary health.

  24. Neat-o :D
    I have Psoriatic arthritis. No honeysuckle in the city, but I will keep an eye out-thanks!

  25. That's very interesting. I didn't know that about Honeysuckle. We have some beautiful pink Honeysuckle growing on our porch, but it hasn't taken over yet. Looking forward to that, though, since the smell is heavenly!

  26. Penny, I hope it works for you!

    Icebear, agreed. That book answered questions no one else could and revolutionized our eating.

    Peaceful, I've not heard of psoriatic arthritis, but then it's a new topic for me in general. I hope it helps!

    Jocelyn, do get an ID on the variety. There are dozens! I'm not sure if they are all equal in medicinal properties.

  27. Very interesting about the arthritis.
    I'm in my 50s with a relative in her 80s and we both found our arthritis type pain went when we took one calcium citrate tablet a day that has added vitamin D. Try it:)

  28. Anonymous, glad you found something to work so well. We use our own goats milk so I don't buy calcium tablets. :)

  29. ok Heres one for everyone Leigh,I'm from back east and everyone knows the south is generous with kudzu vines. There was a guy who extracted juice or something of that nature and put it in a lotion form.I'll look it up and see if I can find the article and post it in my blog. Just a thought .:)

  30. Ok found it and he made soap from it how ingenious.The article is in my blog.


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