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Forsythia for Food and Medicine

In this article, I will discuss the benefits and medicinal uses for forsythia.  Let’s get started. 

Scientific name: Forsythia suspensa

Other names: Weeping forsythia fruit, Golden-bell fruit

Properties* Antiscrofulous * Diuretic * Emmenagogue * Febrifuge * Skin tonic * Vermifuge

Here in the Northeast, forsythia is a common sight. You can spot it blooming in yards and on roadsides around mid-April.  Their beautiful bright yellow blooms signify that spring is finally and truly here.  

In addition to their cheery presense, there are a surprising number of other uses for forsythia. Their flowers and young leaves can be eaten and their fruit used for medicine. In this article I will show you the benefits and uses for forsythia as well as how make a  tea,  syrup, infused oil, and salve using this lovely plant. 

How to Identify Forsythia

how to make forsythia tincture
how to make forsythia tincture
how to make forsythia tincture

Before attempting to make any herbal preparation it is extremely important to be able to positively and accurately identify the intended plant.  Luckily, forsythia does not have many look-alikes, making it pretty easy to identify.  I highly recommend purchasing a good wild and edible plant identification guide like this one here. 

uses for forsythia

Forsythias have narrow, dark green leaves with a lighter underside, in opposite pairs, the margin is serrated. There are also a large number of variegated and golden leaved varieties. Yellow flowers, four narrow petals at right angles form a short tube. One to three flowers per node.

Forsythia for Food

While forsythia is not particularly nutritious, it does contain rutin, which has strong antioxidant properties, and which protects and prolongs the activity of another important antioxidant – vitamin C.  

The flowers and very early leaves are edible and can add a pretty touch when sprinkled over salads or used as a garnish on plated food.  They add a simple  fancy element to mealtimes.

Forsythia for Medicine

Parts Used: fruit - hard nut-like capsule

uses for forsythia

After the blossoms of forsythia have gone, in its place will be the fruit – a small, nut-like capsule. These capsules are the part of the plant that contains the seeds.  Forsythia capsules are hard, dry structures that split open into two chambers. These fruits develop from the pollinated flowers. 

Medicinally, forsythia has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese herbal healing. The fruit, called lian qiao in China, is used internally for chills, fevers, headaches, muscle soreness, and expelling internal parasites, and externally for burns, cuts, scrapes, infections, and rashes. 

Forsythia is high in oleanolic acid and is believed to be able to help maintain the heart muscle as well as the ability to help maintain healthy blood pressure. 

Additionally, traditional Chinese medicine shows forsythia to have both broad-spectrum antimicrobial and antiinflammatory properties. It is suggested that preparing a tea of young, tender leaves may help with the symptoms of sore throat, diarrhea and flu. 

Side Effects

I have read that the risks of physical side effects from forsythia are low, however, scientific evidence shows forsythia may slow blood clotting, which means that it carries a risk of extra bleeding and should not be used for at least two weeks before surgery.

Pregnant women are advised not to use forsythia.

Growing Forsythia

uses for forsythia

I have several forsythias in my yard and around my property and have found them to be exceptionally easy to maintain. I have read that they prefer moist, well drained soils in full sun, but I know from experience that they will also do well in less than ideal conditions, and even seem to thrive in poor, dry soil, and partial shade locations. In my opinion forsythia is a great low-maintenance plant for any skill leveled gardener. 

Propagating and Pruning Forsythia Shrubs

Pruning should be done after the shrub has flowered since the flowers form on the old branches and not on the new season’s growth. 

Forsythia is one of the easiest plants to propagate and multiply.

After your forsythia has blossomed, you can cut off some branches. I usually take 2 foot long branches and stick them in about 6 inches of water in a 5 gallon bucket. That’s it.  Just wait a few weeks making sure there is always water in the bucket. Voila! Your cutting should have rooted. 

uses for forsythia

Medicinal Preparations of Forsythia

There are various ways to get the medicinal benefits of forsythia. Some of them are:

  • Tea/decoction 
  • Syrup 
  • Infused Oil
  • Salve

Forsythia Tea

Ingredients: 

  • 1 Cup of forsythia flowers
  • 1 cup of water (well or distilled)

Equipment:

  • Pint Jar

Directions:

  • Gather the flowers from the forsythia bush.
  • Put the forsythia flowers in a half pint jar.
  • Heat your water and pour over the flowers. 
  • Steep the tea mixture for at least several hours to overnight. Enjoy!

The following are the health benefits attributed to this tea:

  • May help fight the virus and help relieve colds, fever and cough.
  • May help in fighting influenza.
  • May help fight allergies.
  • May help decrease inflammations.
  • Believed to help relieve tonsillitis and pharyngitis.
  • May help improve cholesterol levels.
  • May help aid cardiovascular functions.

Forsythia Syrup

This golden hued syrup is delicate, delicious, and the perfect topping for your next pancake breakfast. It smells slightly of honey and forsythia flowers and is wholly pleasant. You’ll be sure to love it’s simple beauty. 

Ingredients for the Forsythia Syrup:

1) Forsythia flowers 1 Cup

2) 1 cup of  water

3) 1/2 to 3/4 cup of raw unrefined honey (I like to use local honey)

Directions for the Forsythia Syrup:

Step 1) Gather the Flowers

Pluck the flowers from the forsythia bush.

Step 2) Steep Overnight in a Water Infusion

Put the forsythia flowers in a half pint jar. Heat your water and pour over the flowers. Let the flower tea steep for several hours or overnight, until it has completely cooled to room temperature.

Step 3) Make Your Simple Syrup

Strain the flowers, then stir the honey into the tea. Add more or less honey to taste depending on desired sweetness level.

4.) Store Your Syrup

Store in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

Dosage: 1 Tablespoon

Forsythia Infused Oil

If you want to use forsythia in skin care preparations later on, then preparing a forsythia infused oil now is a good idea. This oil can be made ahead to have on hand for lotions, creams, soaps, and lotion bars.

Step 1.) Collect fresh forsythia flowers and spread them in a single layer on clean dish towels or paper towels. Allow to air dry for a few days as you don’t want the water content to be too much or your oil may go rancid. 

Step 2.) Fill a jar half-way with your air dried flowers, pour oil into the jar until it covers the herbs completely.

Good oils to use for this are the ones suited for skincare.  I recommend: olive (for soapmaking) or rose hip, grapeseed, sweet almond, apricot kernel, or rice bran for lotions and creams.

Step 3.)  Cover with a lid and infuse at room temperature in a warm, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks before straining and using.

For a quicker infusion place herbs in crock-pot or double boiler and cover with your carrier oil, leaving at least an inch or two of oil above the herbs. Heat over a low heat setting (100º – 140º F) for 1-5 hours making sure not to overheat your herbs. Turn off heat and allow to cool, then strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Bottle your oil in clean glass labeled (with contents and date) bottles. Store in cool, dry, dark place for up to 6 months. 

Tip: Adding vitamin E oil before storage may help to prolong the shelf life of your oil.  Add at a 

Forsythia Salve

This is a basic method for salve making and can be used for many types of skin healing herbs like dandelion, comfrey, plaintain etc… depending on the action you’d like the salve to take. 

Use approximately 1 and a half cups of warmed infused oil (recipe above).
2 ounces of bees wax cut into small chunks or use 2 ounces of bees wax pellets
2 ounces of solid coconut oil

Add the beeswax and coconut oil to the strained warm oil and continue to heat until all oils are melted and combined together. 

Pour into small tins or glass jars. 

This salve will solidify quickly once removed from the heat source.  

NOTE: If you are interested in learning more about creating your own herbal formulations, take a look at this Mastering Herbal Formulations Class through the Herbal Academy! 

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Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional. All information shared here is for information and entertainment only. Do your own research and consult your health care provider before treating yourself with any product, plant or mixture. 

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