If your childhood was anything like mine in the American Southeast, you know about honeysuckle (scientific name Lonicera). I remember summers of hunting down these trumpet like flowers by their distinctive, sweet smell, carefully plucking the flowers off the vine, and gently sucking the single drop of flavorful nectar from the bottom of the bud. Hummingbirds love the stuff, and you’re sure to see at least one or two if you’ve got the wonderful, hardy weed in your yard. That’s right–it’s actually a very successful weed, and it’s found almost everywhere in the South, so you know it’s easy to grow.
Beyond its place as a childhood treat and hummingbird bait, honeysuckle has a growing list of uses in the beauty and cosmetics world. Not only does the plant have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that makes it ideal for use in many cosmetics, but it can help make your clothes better able to block UV radiation from the sun, and that means fewer signs of aging on you. Ren-Cheng Tang and Sha-Sha Sun from Soochow University in China discovered that treating wool with an extract of honeysuckle increased the wool’s natural ability to block harmful UV radiation. This means less risk of cancer as well as the beauty and health benefits I mentioned above. The honeysuckle-treated wool kept it’s enhanced powers even after long hours in the sun and multiple washings.
Honeysuckle has long been used as an ingredient in cough syrups, but that’s not even the first use it was put to. Honeysuckle tea has been used in China for centuries as a treatment for the common cold, fevers, skin rashes, and blemishes. It has great potential in cosmetics and other products, possibly making its way into shampoos and conditioners as natural sunscreen. What’s more, honeysuckle is currently being tested in use against HIV!
This sweet-smelling weed that so entices hummingbirds and kids alike is set to be a major player in the cosmetic world and an even bigger mover in medicine. This plant is easy to grow (it’s a weed) and very productive. Keep an eye on those ingredient lists in your shampoo and lip gloss for the name Lonicera. You’ll be surprised where it might show up.