Honeysuckle flowers soothe hot, painful sores

WHAT IT IS: The honeysuckle flower has a Chinese name - jinyinhua, meaning gold and silver flower - that is a fusion of two colours and for good reason too.

When the flowers first open, they are silvery-white in colour. After two to three days, they change to golden-yellow, noted the Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica.

Thus, when old and new flowers are collected together, their colours are both jin (gold) and yin (silver).

The flowers are harvested in the months of May and June, said Ms Pansy Yeo, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner at Chong Hoe Health Products Chinese Medical Store.

They are collected during the cool morning dew period to avoid the scorching sun, she added.

Traditionally, only the buds are used in TCM.

These flowers are native to the southern parts of China and Japan.

A 50g packet of honeysuckle flowers is sold at $7 at the medical hall where Ms Yeo works.

HOW TCM USES IT: The bitter-tasting honeysuckle flower is considered cold in nature and, therefore, used to address "heaty" symptoms in the body, said Ms Yeo.

It is thought to move through the lung and stomach meridians - channels through which qi (vital energy) travels - in the body. A good flow of qi in the body is required for good health.

When a person contracts an upper respiratory infection caused by "heat", the health of the lungs is affected.

He will exhibit symptoms such as fever, sore throat, nasal blockages and coughs, be sensitive to the cold and may have yellowish phlegm, said Ms Yeo.

If the upper respiratory infection is severe, throat infections and digestive problems leading to diarrhoea or bloatedness can also result, she added.

Ms Yeo explained the herb is known to be more suitable to treat acute rather than chronic conditions.

These acute conditions may arise from consuming fried and spicy food and from being exposed to hot weather.

When there is "heatiness" in the stomach, a person will have fever and mouth ulcers, Ms Yeo said.

Honeysuckle flowers can be consumed or applied on the skin to treat wounds and sores with signs of "heatiness". These are marked by redness, itch and obvious pain, such as boils and carbuncles.

These sores, in various stages of development, are often accompanied by the appearance of a red tongue, a rapid pulse, a sore throat and mouth ulcers. A fever may or may not be present, Ms Yeo added.

WHO IT IS FOR: People who make a habit of keeping late nights are depriving their bodies of much needed rest, which subsequently generates internal "heatiness", said Ms Yeo.

That, coupled with an unhealthy diet and Singapore's hot weather, can predispose them to "heat"-related symptoms that can be alleviated with the use of honeysuckle flowers.

Ms Yeo advised people to consume between 6 and 10g of honeysuckle flowers in a day.

WHO SHOULD AVOID IT: People with qi deficiency in the spleen and, hence, have a weak digestive system should not use this cold herb, which would aggravate their symptoms, Ms Yeo advised.

They typically have symptoms such as loose stool, diarrhoea, bloatedness and are prone to indigestion after consuming cold drinks.

This area of deficiency arises from a habit of irregular meals, over-consumption of cold food such as salad and sashimi, and high stress levels, Ms Yeo said.

WHAT RESEARCH HAS SHOWN: The antioxidant activity of honeysuckle flowers was reported in the World Journal Of Gastroenterology in 2009.

In that study, rats were induced with heartburn, meaning they regurgitated contents of the stomach (which are usually acidic) into the oesophagus (food tube).

The rats treated with honeysuckle flowers showed decreased damage to the gastric mucosa (lining of the stomach) and less haemorrhage in the stomach, compared with the control group.

It led the authors from two universities in South Korea to conclude honeysuckle flowers could reduce the severity of reflux oesophagitis and "prevent direct oesophageal mucosal damage", they wrote.


Recipe: Steamed fish with honeysuckle flowers
(Serves two or three)


50g honeysuckle flowers
750g snapper or any other fish
4 tbs Chinese rice wine
3 tbs sesame oil
2 or 3 ginger slices
1 tbs light soya sauce
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste


1. Wash and soak the honeysuckle flowers in water for five minutes. Drain the water and set aside the flowers.

2. Clean the fish and cut it into slices. Marinate it with Chinese rice wine, sesame oil, ginger slices, light soya sauce, pepper and salt.

3. On a plate, place the honeysuckle flowers over the fish slices and steam them over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the dish warm.

Source: Ms Pansy Yeo, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner from Chong Hoe Health Products Chinese MedicalStore


Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.