Top 10 Benefits of Honeysuckle

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

honeysuckle benefits

Story at-a-glance -

  • Fruits from the honeysuckle vine are rich in phenolic compounds ranging from anthocyanins to antioxidants, which are powerful for your health in numerous ways
  • European honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) are the two main honeysuckle types, Japanese honeysuckle having been used historically in Chinese medicine to treat a variety of maladies
  • Honeysuckle fruit is rich in phenolic compounds comparable to those in blackberries, currants and blueberries, which a recent study says makes them a “valuable component of a healthy diet”
  • Chemoprevention, mitochondrial energy metabolism and the scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are some of the dramatic benefits the compounds in honeysuckle in all of its forms can relate to your health
  • Besides being antibacterial, antimicrobial and antibiotic, honeysuckle oil is used in numerous applications; you can use it for cleaning, bathing, aromatherapy and treating infections, which helps demonstrate how powerful it is

Upon hearing the word honeysuckle, most people may think of the perennial climbing vine that bears beautifully exotic orange, pink or white flowers that often grace fence posts and porch columns in a wide range of climates. As a plant, it has a high tolerance to cold, and it grows easily in even poor conditions and rocky soil.

But far beyond being an attractive flowering plant, new research from the Journal of Herbal Medicine shows that honeysuckle can also be described as a fruit or berry;1 it’s also a perennial fruit-bearing plant with many therapeutic properties that offer many potential health benefits.

Being rich in phenolic compounds, there are 2 grams of flavonoids in every 100 grams of dry fruit weight. In terms of your health, this is comparable to blackberries, currants and blueberries, which the study authors wrote rendered them worthy as a “valuable component of a healthy diet.” According to the featured study:

“Among phenolics acting as antioxidants, anthocyanins are particularly important for some health-promoting activities, e.g., heart disease prevention and in supporting the treatment of various eye diseases. In L. caerulea these compounds are represented mostly by derivatives of cyanidin and in smaller quantities, peonidin and pelargonidin.”2

The featured study shows that the properties contained in honeysuckle berries help fight cancer and atherosclerosis — also known as hardening of the arteries — among other serious diseases. It refers to another study from 2016, which explains further that cyanidin is from a plant pigment known as anthocyanidin, a potent chemopreventive agent.3

For further clarification, a study from 20174 shows that peonidin is one of the forms of anthocyanidin, described as flavonoids in fruits like elderberries, cranberries and blueberries, all shown to alleviate inflammation and play a role in mitochondrial energy metabolism, the scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the promotion of neuronal plasticity, all of which are highly significant in overall health. 

Pelargonidin, according to a study published in the Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition,5 is another type of anthocyanidin compound that’s visually detectible in the honeysuckle berry’s deep yellow, orange, pink and red coloring. In fact, the study uses raspberries to describe the same type of beneficial compounds.

European and Japanese Honeysuckle

Although there are many species, two are described in Encyclopedia.com6 as having a long history of traditional medicine: European honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), the latter having been used historically in Chinese medicine to treat a variety of maladies, from fevers to inflammation; diarrhea to skin infections. 

The bioactive compounds in honeysuckle are the main reason it’s identified as “a plant of phytopharmaceutical importance,” according to a 2015 study, which notes that “Flavonoids, alkaloids, phenolic acids, terpenes and steroids were found as the main constituents.” Additionally:

“Lonicera japonica (Honeysuckle) belongs to family caprifoliaceae is one of the oldest medicinal herbs in known history. Lonicera japonica possesses many biological functions including hepatoprotective (heart protective), cryoprotective (cold protective), antimicrobial, antioxidative, antiviral and anti-inflammatory.

The major parts of this plant have medicinal properties, flower buds have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, and leaf has antioxidant and tyrosinase inhibition properties. A few species are used in indigenous medicine as antipyretic, stomachic, diuretic and antidysentric in India.”7

Among the many benefits growers have discovered with this plant is that the fruit ripens early and has an extraordinary resistance to frost, pests and diseases. The botanical name Lonicera caerulea covers varieties with such names as honeyberry, blue honeysuckle, sweet berry honeysuckle, edible honeysuckle and haskap.

How the Phytonutrients in Honeysuckle Relate Therapeutically

Healthy Focus8 shows how honeysuckle can be used in several applications, backing up a number of clinical studies revealing several of the beneficial attributes of honeysuckle in its different forms, noting its use as early as 659 A.D. for removing heat and fever from individuals suffering from fever for reasons ranging from snake bites to childbirth.

Powerful compounds and phytonutrients in honeysuckle flowers, stems and berries have been shown in a number of studies to relate remarkable benefits for your health. The aforementioned bioactive substances have proven to relate just as remarkably in what they destroy as much as in what they promote. For instance:

1. Anti-inflammatory — Honeysuckle oil is noted for soothing aching joints and sore muscles, particularly for arthritis sufferers. A simple way to use it is by adding it to your bath to reduce muscle pain.9

2. Respiratory benefits — An infusion of European honeysuckle flowers is said to make a tea that’s helpful for treating coughs and colds, as well as upper respiratory tract infections and asthma.10

3. Antibacterial  — Partly because of its antibiotic properties, Japanese honeysuckle has been used to treat infections caused by streptococcal bacteria. Part of this ability is due to the naturally high concentration of aromadendrene (a terpene found in plants) that honeysuckle contains, helping to stop bacterial growth.11

As an antiseptic cleaning agent, it’s also a great cleanser with the added benefit of a pleasant fragrance. Try three drops of honeysuckle oil with 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. In cleaning your kitchen or bathroom, it’s a great alternative to use on sinks, countertops, toilets, showers and floors.

4. Antimicrobial — Honeysuckle extracts have demonstrated the ability to inhibit microbial growth, but between the two types, Japanese Honeysuckle has higher antimicrobial content.12

5. Aroma-therapeutic — A few drops of the oil extracted from honeysuckle flowers offer a sweet aroma that can relieve both mental and physical stress and promote a tranquil state of mind.13 You can use the oil in a diffuser or for a massage. In your bath, you can add honeysuckle essential oil with Epsom salts to help it distribute evenly in the water.

For a healing steam, add a couple drops of honeysuckle oil to a pot of hot water, drape a towel over your head and allow your skin to absorb the steam rising from the pot. An added benefit: Take deep breaths and relax as the steam cleanses your pores.

6. Antioxidant — Inhibiting the power of free radicals is one of the ways honeysuckle reduces oxidative stress, and that’s one of the most important ways in which honeysuckle helps prevent cancer and other serious illnesses exacerbated by toxins in your body.14

External Uses for Honeysuckle That Convey Both Inward and Outward Benefits

How do all those germ-inhibiting and antioxidant-promoting plant compounds relate in a way to benefit your health? Numerous studies note how honeysuckle in its different forms can be applied in ways to enhance your life, including the following:

1. Skin care — Exfoliation and facial steam are two ways you can benefit from using honeysuckle, as it can improve such skin irritants as poison oak and infections, as well as cuts and abrasions. Blemished skin is also demonstrably improved with its use.15

Adding a few drops of honeysuckle oil in a spray bottle of water is recommended to fight infection and inflammation on your skin. Simply add it to your favorite (natural) skin cleanser, or it can also be added if you make your own soap.

As an exfoliant, a salt scrub can be made by mixing three drops each of honeysuckle essential oil and grapefruit essential oil, 1 cup of raw Himalayan salt and 1 tablespoon of hemp oil in a short jar. It sloughs dead skin cells from your feet, legs and hands, for instance, to reveal vibrant, younger-looking skin.

2. Hair care — Honeysuckle oil protects your hair from chemically-concocted shampoos, hair dryer use and other harsh treatments.16 Just mix one-half teaspoon of coconut oil with two drops of honeysuckle oil, rub the ingredients together between your palms and smooth through the ends of your hair, avoiding the roots, and dry, brittle hair becomes supple, soft and strong.

3. Massage oil — Mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, honeysuckle can be used for a soothing massage oil to release its relaxing and calming properties. Combined with other essential oils, such as lavender, ylang ylang, orange, frankincense, sandalwood and bergamot, honeysuckle makes a fragrant, therapeutic blend.17

4. Deodorizing — Benefits of honeysuckle oil include natural scents18 (as opposed to harmful “scent” chemicals often used in candles, room sprays, carpet powders). Make a deodorizing spray by adding three drops of honeysuckle essential oil to 6 ounces of water. Try a few drops in soy candle making, which again, can boost your energy and mood.

Beyond Therapeutic: Other Uses for Honeysuckle Oil

Preserving the integrity of personal care products, cosmetics and even foods is big business because of the importance of inhibiting the growth of pathogens and microorganisms like bacteria and fungus. If a product, especially if it’s made with water, is likely to spend much time in a warehouse or on a store shelf, preventing that from happening is important to producers, manufacturers and consumers.

Both types of honeysuckle are used as preservatives due to their antiviral and antibacterial properties. While most preservatives are made with a concentration of less than 2 percent of the weight of the formula, a potential problem with so many preservative agents is the use of chemicals and/or synthetics, as opposed to natural.

One of the studies mentioned earlier also alluded to the benefits in honeysuckle oil, primarily due to the presence of alkaloids, flavonoids, phenols, steroids and terpenoids, again noting that scientific screening helped determine advantageous qualities like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer,19,20 antimutagenic and more.21

Some Considerations When Using Honeysuckle

Healthy Focus22 emphasizes that certain precautions are wise when using honeysuckle, and consulting a physician beforehand is sensible, especially if you’re on any medications, regardless of the condition you may be treating, as it may complicate preexisting conditions and create negative side effects. In addition:

  • Note that honeysuckle essential oil is not recommended for use by pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding or for children.
  • Some people may be sensitive to the use of essential oils, so make sure you dilute honeysuckle essential oil with a carrier oil, and additionally do a “patch” test on a small area of your skin beforehand.
  • Be aware that honeysuckle oil may cause photosensitivity, so keep this in mind if you may be outdoors on a sunny day.
  • Never ingest honeysuckle essential oil or apply near your eyes.