JUNE – HONEYSUCKLE
As we round the corner of Summer and the days grow hotter, the sweet smells of honeysuckle are in the air. There are over 180 varieties of honeysuckle, and each one has a fragrant, iconic smell. The sweet nectar that is found deep in the trumpet-like flowers is loved by many birds and insects from butterflies to bees and hummingbirds. Plant a honeysuckle bush in your yard and you’ll never be short of wild friends.
Lonicera periclymenum has been used for thousands of years, making an appearance in the Tang Ben Cao an ancient Chinese herbology text written in 659 CE. It is said to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbology. A plant native to North America and Eurasia, different species were used for different ailments.
In Eastern traditions, the flower was dried and smoked to stimulate the nervous system and support respiratory issues. Native Americans also use dried blossoms for asthma. In ancient Roman times, Pliny the Elder, a naturalist (AD 23/24 – 79), brought up honeysuckle in his book for spleen disorders. Aztecs (13th century) also took a fancy to the plant using the native variety to cure scabies and decrease menses.
The Japanese variety, Lonicera japonica, was brought over to North America during the early 19th century as a decorative plant that was also useful for erosion. Being invasive, it spread like wildfire.
GARDENING – GROWING TIPS
If you would like to enjoy this beautiful climbing vine, we think it goes nicely on the side of any structure. There are also shrub and bush varieties so this wonderful plant could also be used as a property or garden perimeter. Anything goes!
For the vines, try Trumpet Honeysuckle. It’s non-invasive so you don’t have to worry about it exploding! Winter honeysuckle is a lovely shrub with white flowers, but it can be invasive so be wary. Early Spring is the best time to plant your honeysuckle – Make sure all threats of frost have passed. Honeysuckle loves to reach up its flowery arms to the sun, so full sun is best. Partial sun is okay, but there won’t be as many blooms and the leaves may not flourish as much.
As for soil, moist but well-drained is what the plant likes the most. Honeysuckle is fairly drought resistant although it won’t thrive as much as it would with access to water. Since the vine honeysuckle loves to climb, ensure there are supports nearby for them to grab ahold of. A trellis, pillars, wall or arch would be perfect. Honeysuckle is a perennial, so it will come back year after year. That being said, it would be wise to do some upkeep and pruning so the foliage doesn’t get too out of control. Maybe hire some goats, as honeysuckle is a favourite of theirs.
Being the flower of June, collect the leaves and flowers for medicinal purposes during this month and be very serious about identification of the variety before doing so. While the flowers and leaves are edible, most berries are toxic and some vines and stems of certain varieties can be toxic as well.
As a symbol of love and affection, many of honeysuckle’s stories reflect this symbolism. In the Greek myth of Chloe and Daphnis, the long-distance lovers could only see each other when the honeysuckle bloomed. Frustrated with this decree Daphinis asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to prolong the blooming season of honeysuckle. His prayers were answered and Aphrodite made sure that the honeysuckle bloomed many times throughout the warmer weather seasons.
In Italian folklore, a man named paolo was in love with two different women. When he made the decision that he would choose the first woman who brought him flowers, the two women were distraught as the weather had turned all the flowers were dead. One of the women, named Bianca, prayed to the goddess Venus to bring her flowers and as she did so she cried. From her tears grew the first honeysuckle vine with beautiful, sweet-smelling blooms. Entranced by the smell, Paolo chose Bianca as his lover.
During Victorian times (1837-1901), young teens were not allowed to bring honeysuckle into the house as parents believed it encouraged erotic dreams. Nowadays, you can use the oil to rub on your forehead if you’d like to encourage vivid dreams – Although the level of eroticism is probably up to you.
As a revered plant throughout the ages, honeysuckle is still highly useful in herbal medicine. As we mentioned, honeysuckle blooms or leaves can be very helpful for respiratory ailments – Specifically asthma and coughs. The Japanese variety is potent in antibacterial properties, and is often used for skin abrasions, inflammation, bites, and infections.
Honeysuckle syrup is a favourite of ours to make and is mighty supportive for digestive spasms. This quelling of spasms is also the key to its affinity for respiratory and uterus problems. The properties of honeysuckle are drying and cooling which is why it is so great when inflammation needs to be brought down and mucous needs to be dried up.
In homeopathy, a honeysuckle state means to be living in the past. Thinking that the best days are behind. Nostalgia and homesickness are also considered to be part of this state. While one might feel as though there is little to look forward to, the honeysuckle remedy may support them in learning to recall and be grateful for the past (and how it got them to where they are) without needing to or wanting to be there.
Rubbing some honeysuckle bloom on the wrists (or anywhere really) is also such an incredible way to carry the memory of the past and the joy and love of the present and future with you.
“Sometimes I like to run naked in the moonlight and the wind, on a little trail behind our house, when the honeysuckle blooms. It’s a feeling of freedom, so close to God and nature.” — Dolly Parton
So as you step outside in the evening air of early Summer, pause and take in a deep breath. The intoxicating aroma of honeysuckle will be stronger as the plant increases it’s scent to attract nocturnal moths that pollinate it. May it remind you of the simple joys that nature gifts us.