“Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing?”

-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

History, Energetics and Nutrition

Known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Lian Qiao, Forsythia suspensa is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in TCM. Forsythia suspensa is commonly grown in landscapes as is Forsythia x intermedia. Here in North America, we recognize Forsythia as a harbinger of spring, his bright yellow flowers blooming early before setting leaves on his branches.

The first blooms of spring, a welcome sight!

Energetically, Forsythia is said to be bitter, and cooling. You can test this by chewing on a dried fruit. The bitterness can be slow to notice, increasing in bitterness as you chew. I find him to also be a bit drying. 

Nutritionally, the fruits contain vitamin P.  Vitamin P fortifies the capillaries. They also contain lignans, also known as polyphenols, such as forsythin, phillygenin, pinoresinol, and pinoresinol-β-D-glucoside, the flavonoid rutin, and triterpenoids such as betulinic acid, oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, β-amyrin acetate, and isobauerenyl acetate.

Forsythia suspensa dried fruits.

Medicinal Uses of Forsythia

Medicinally, Forsythia is said to be antibacterial, antiemetic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antitussive, antiviral, astringent, choleretic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant and laxative. Traditionally the fruit is used, either dried when green or after the seeds have dispersed. The flowers and leaves are also used. Lets take a look at Forsythia’s medicinal uses…

Forsythia is used primarily for clearing heat and eliminating toxins in Chinese medicine. He is often combined with Honeysuckle for treating colds and influenza. He is commonly used for viruses causing upper respiratory tract infections, acute bronchitis, tonsillitis, encephalitis B, meningitis, mumps and parotitis, especially when they are presented with a sore throat, cough and fever. Dr. James Duke likes to mix Forsythia with other antivirals such as Honeysuckle and Lemon Balm for best results. As an anti-inflammatory, Forsythia helps to reduce inflammation in the bronchial passages during illnesses. Taken at the first sign of an illness, Forsythia will stimulate the immune system to help fight off illnesses. Flowers contain 4 petals and 4 sepals.

Flowers contain 4 petals and 4 sepals.

Forsythia’s diaphoretic, febrifuge and antipyretic actions help with reducing fever while his antitussive action suppresses coughs.

As an antibacterial, Forsythia has been shown to inhibit many types of bacteria, including Bacillus typhi, Hemolytic streptococcus, Moraxella catarrhalis, Mycobacterium tuberculi, Pneumonococcus spp., Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus and S. hemolyticus. He is listed by many as a broad spectrum antimicrobial. Notice the lenticels on the stems.

Notice the lenticels on the stems.

For those suffering from acne, Forsythia has shown to be effective in inhibiting the secretion of the sebaceous glands, helping to improve oily skin to lower the incidences of acne caused by oily skin. An an anti-inflammatory, Forsythia can also help to decrease inflammation with acne while his antibacterial action helps to inhibit bacterial growth.

Forsythia has hepatoprotective actions and may be useful in protecting the liver from hepatotoxins. His choleretic action increases the volume of bile produced by the liver.

Leaves appear after the blooms.

Leaves appear after the blooms. Notice the fine hairs on the leaves.

As a laxative, a tea can be useful for combatting constipation.

Externally, Forsythia is used to treat boils, carbuncles and scrofula as well as inflammation and is often combined with Violet, Honeysuckle and Dandelion.

Forsythia has not been studied for use with pregnant or breastfeeding women but would best be avoided as he is an emmenagogue and may induce premature labor.


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