A welcome herald of springtime, the yellow forsythia (Forsythia suspense) blossom brightens neighborhoods around the world. The familiar shrub is also known as “golden bell”, due to the shape of its flowers. Although its medicinal use is not well known in the United States, it is highly esteemed in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese practitioners use the powdered fruit in herbal remedies for a variety of ailments, including colds and bronchitis.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to AcupuntureToday.com, forsythia, known as lian qiao in China, is classified as bitter and cold, and is associated with the heart, lung, and gall bladder meridians. Practitioners prescribe it as a blood detoxifier, and for fevers, headaches and viral infections. Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends the green fruit, which is steamed and dried for medicinal use. Forsythia is often combined with honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) in remedies.
Herbalist and author James A. Duke, PhD, writes in “The Green Pharmacy” that forsythia, honeysuckle, and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) share proven antiviral compounds. He recommends preparing a tea from all three herbs for viral infections such as cold and flu. The tea is most effective when taken at the first sign of a viral infection.
In China, forsythia is a respected remedy for chest ailments such as bronchitis. Duke describes a 1993 Chinese study, in which children suffering from bronchitis were divided into three groups. One group received herbal treatment (including forsythia), another group received antibiotics, and the third group received herbs and antibiotics. The group receiving only herbs experienced the greatest relief from their bronchitis symptoms, with no reported adverse reactions. Duke, however, takes issue with the study’s intravenous administration of the herbs, and recommends the herbs in tea or tincture form only.
Chinese practitioners recommend forsythia as an antiseptic antibiotic. Its antibiotic properties make it a popular remedy in China for ear infection. Duke recommends forsythia for earache relief. Although the powdered herb is effective as a tea, Duke notes that it can be sprinkled on applesauce when given to children.
Always discuss the use of this or any remedy with a doctor or licensed practitioner. The Food and Drug Administration has not recognized forsythia’s medicinal value, and has not included the herb in its list of “generally regarded as safe” herbs. According to the American Herbal Products Association, pregnant women should not take forsythia. Forsythia is not known to interact with any drugs.
AcupunctureToday.com recommends preparing a decoction by adding the powdered fruit to boiling water. Do not take more than 6 to 15 grams of forsythia daily.
“The Green Pharmacy”: James A. Duke, Ph.D.; 1997