Forsythia

Forsythia suspensa

Herbs gallery - Forsythia

Common names

  • Forsythia
  • Lian Qiao
  • Weeping Forsythia

Also known as weeping forsythia, it is a deciduous shrub that grows straight and has curved branches that may often be as long as 10 feet. This plant is also commonly called forsythia. This herb bears ovate, occasionally three lobed leaves whose color may vary from medium to deep green. Its flowers appear in clusters, each containing a maximum of six blooms, during the start of spring. The flowers have a deep, vivid yellow hue. Forsythia is an attractive shrub which blooms very early in the season, with the flowers appearing before the leaves in early spring, and are wonderful for use as cut flowers. The shape of the shrub is akin to that of a fountain and it is often grown as a border plant in the gardens.

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The genus Forsythia comprises flowering plants that belong to the Oleaceae or olive family. In all, the family comprises 11 species and, most often than not, they are indigenous to the eastern part of Asia. However, one species is indigenous to the south-eastern region of Europe. The genus has got its name from the Scottish botanist William Forsyth.

Forsythia blooms copiously. Each bloom of the herb is about 2 cm to 5 cm (1 inch to 2 inches) in diameter having a vivid golden yellow hue. Each forsythia flower has four slender petals appearing during March and April. Each cluster contains anything between one and three nodes together with the branch. The leaves are oval shaped with a pointed end and are roughly 5 cm to 10 cm (2 inches to 4 inches) in length. The leaves of this herb are jagged at the border and appear after the flowers are in bloom.

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Parts used

Leaves, fruit, seeds.

Uses

Forsythia seeds possess anti-fungal, anti-bacterial as well as other properties and have been often employed for therapeutic purposes.

This herb is employed to treat multiple health conditions, including sore throat, fever, vomiting, bronchiolitis (distension of the small airways in the lungs), swellings/ inflammations, pain, heart disease, tonsillitis, gonorrhea, HIV/ AIDS as well as acute skin rashes those that are caused by erysipelas (a bacterium) and accompanied by fever plus vomiting. Occasionally, forsythia is administered intravenously (by means of an IV) combined with other different herbs to treat bronchiolitis.

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Chinese herbal medicine has been using forsythia for more than 4,000 years now and it is considered to be among the 50 basic therapeutic herbs. Forsythia has a bitter flavour with an antiseptic effect. This herb is mainly employed in the treatment of carbuncles, boils, infected glands in the neck and mumps. The fruit of forsythia too has a bitter flavour and its astringent properties help to invigorate the heart, gall bladder and the nervous system. The fruit also encloses vitamin P, which is given to fortify the capillaries. In addition, forsythia fruits are also anti-tussive (a medicine that is used to suppress coughing), antidote, anti-phlogistic (a medicine that works to cure fever or inflammation), and tonic, emmenagogue (a remedy for poor menstrual discharge), laxative, febrifuge as well as diuretic. Forsythia is often used internally to treat severe contagious ailments like mumps as well as tonsillitis, allergic rashes, infections of the urinary tract and other similar conditions. Forsythia fruits are harvested only after they have ripened completely and subsequently dried up for preparing decoctions. The action of this herb is quite akin to that of Lonicera japonica (commonly known as Japanese honeysuckle) and is generally employed after being combined with the latter species with a view to obtain a more potent action.

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The bright golden yellow blooms of forsythia have a wide-ranging anti-bacterial action - for instance, it works to inhibit growth of Bacillus typhi, Haemolytic streptococcus, Shigella dysenteriae, Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculi, Pneumococcus and some others.

While forsythia is said to be vermifuge, it is clearly not stated which part of this herb possesses this property. The leaves of this herb are febrifuge and are used to prepare poultices for treating hemorrhoids and gland ulcers. In addition, decoctions prepared using the leaves and twigs of this herb are used for treating breast cancer. Even the root of this herb is used therapeutically for treating fevers, colds, jaundice and even various forms of cancer.

The sticks of forsythia are used for bowing ajaeng - a string instrument used by Koreans.

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Habitat and cultivation

An early flowering shrub, forsythia is an extremely well liked by gardeners and can be found blooming in parks and gardens during the beginning of spring. Generally, two common varieties of forsythia - Forsythia suspensa and Forsythia x intermedia are grown for their ornamental quality. Both these varieties bear bright yellow blooms during spring. These plants are cultivated as well as are valued for their toughness and being very dependable garden plants. The variety called Forsythia suspensa is a quite large shrub, which can be cultivated in the form of a weeping shrub along the banks. The flowers of this forsythia variety are comparatively paler. During the beginning of spring, forsythia is often grown indoors.

Forsythias can be cultivated without much difficulty and they have the aptitude to thrive in all types of soils. However, these plants have a preference for fertile soils. While they thrive in limey soils, they actually flourish well in heavy clay soils. Forsythia plants have a preference for sunlit places, but they also thrive well in partial shades. However, these plants have a propensity to get leggy when they are grown under tree shades. Forsythia thrives well when grown against walls that are north-facing. These shrubs have the ability to tolerate very low temperatures - as low as -25°C.

The flowers of forsythia appear very early in the spring and possess the aptitude to withstand frosts. The growth of the plants of this species varies between medium and fast. Forsythia flowers appear on the plant wood, which are at least one year mature. If you wish to undertake any pruning of these shrubs, it is advisable that you do so after the flowering season of the plants. While the plants are able to withstand low temperatures, they are quite vulnerable to honey fungus.

In addition to this, the stems of forsythia shrubs may also endure swellings akin to those of tumours, which are attributed to a fungus that infects these plants at places where their surface is irregular or may be damaged. When these swellings are round, they are known as galls, which are caused by the fungus called Phomopsis spp. On the other hand, when the swellings are elongated, appearing like young shoots, they are caused by Corynebacterium fascians, which are not only widespread on forsythia stems, but can also be found on apple trees. The spread of this disease can be prevented by destroying the plants that are heavily affected. While you need to burn all such plants, the lesser affected plants should be pruned to eliminate the parts that have been affected. However, this may not always prove to be effective in getting rid of the disease. Therefore, you also need to disinfect all tools that have been used to cultivate, harvest or prune the plants using domestic bleach or commercially available disinfectants like Izal.

Commonly, forsythia is propagated by its seeds, ideally sown in a cold frame during spring. It generally takes about two months for the seeds to germinate. Once the seedlings have grown sufficiently large so that they can be handled, prick them out individually and continue growing them in separate pots in a greenhouse throughout their first winter, at least. You may plant the young plants in their permanent positions outdoors either during the end of spring or beginning of summer next year when the last expected frost in your region is over.

Forsythia can also be propagated by means of wood cuttings. If you undertake this process, you should preferably cut semi-mature wood, each about 10 cm to 15 cm in length, from a node during the period July-August and sow the cuttings in a frame. They can be planted outdoors either in autumn or spring. The percentage of their survival is very high and usually these cuttings start taking roots in just three weeks. On the other hand, if you are making cuttings from mature wood, you should plant them directly into their permanent positions outdoors in a sheltered bed. The survival rate of the cuttings is very high in this case too. It has been found that forsythia plants have the aptitude to self-layer.

Although forsythia has its origin in China, currently this plant is cultivated almost all over the world. These plants can grow in total sunlight as well as partial shade, and thrives excellently in soils that are well drained and are provided with additional water when the area is hit by long-drawn-out dry spells. It has been found that wood cuttings made from semi-mature wood or green shoots during the spring or the beginning of summer root easily when grown in damp or wet sand. It is advisable that you prune all mature woody growths near the ground level, as it will ensure that the plants have a vigorous growth. When the mature wood is pruned, it promotes new stem growth. It is important to note that all pruning activities should be undertaken only after the end of the flowering season, because the flowers of the subsequent season appear on the stems that develop during the present summer.

The stems of forsythia have a pale brown hue, and have an uneven, rough and course feeling owing to the raised lenticels (spot-like cells on the peridum of the stems that serve as pores). The part of the stems linking the blossoming nodes is also hollow. During the early part of the 1800s, forsythia was introduced into Europe for the first time. As of now, Forsythia comprises seven distinct species as well as five variants that grow in the wild, while as many as 41 named cultivars are catalogued. All these listed cultivars are deciduous shrubs that produce bright yellow colored blooms during the spring.

Usual dosage

You need to consider various different factors, such as the age, health and other health conditions of the user, before deciding on the proper dosage of forsythia. Currently, adequate scientific information is not available to help one decide the suitable dosage range for forsythia. Hence, it is important that you always remember that all natural products are not essentially harmless at all times and their dosage is often of great importance. You also need to ensure that you are following the pertinent instructions on the product labels as well as check with your physician or pharmacist regarding the dosage of these natural products. Prior to using them, you may also consult any other healthcare expert regarding the dosage.

Side effects and cautions

It is yet to be ascertained if taking forsythia orally is safe. However, some information is available that suggest that using forsythia in the form of an injection may be safe for use, especially in children. Similarly, sufficient information regarding the safety of using forsythia by pregnant women and nursing mothers is not available. In order to be safe, it is advisable that such women should keep away from using forsythia.

Since forsythia may possibly inhibit the formation of blood clots, scientists as well as medical practitioners are concerned that using this herb during as well as following a surgery may result in excessive bleeding. Hence, additional caution is necessary if you are using forsythia in such conditions. It is advisable that people who plan to undergo a surgery should discontinue using forsythia no less than two weeks prior to and following the surgery.

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