The People's Perspective on Medicine

Could Herbal Tea Overcome Your Nasty Cough?

Respiratory syncytial virus can cause a nasty cough. We don't have drugs to treat this problem, but research indicates tea from Japanese honeysuckle helps.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common pathogen that usually causes mild symptoms such as runny nose, fever or sneezing and wheezing. It can also cause a nasty cough in some people, especially babies, immune-compromised individuals or older adults. No antiviral drugs are effective against RSV. However, one reader wrote about his research on a botanical medicine for this infection.

A Natural Treatment for That Nasty Cough:

Q. Recently, there were several news stories about children and elderly people affected by RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). I am a Professor Emeritus who chaired the Pharmacognosy Department at Ole Miss for 15 years before retiring.

My research group isolated organic natural products from Flos lonicerae as inhibitors of RSV in vitro and in vivo. These findings were published in the journal Antiviral Research (Dec. 2005, vol. 68).  The source of the active constituent is the ethnobotanical Flos lonicerae (Chinese or Japanese honeysuckle flowers).

Although I do not regularly follow the literature on RSV and Flos lonicerae research anymore, I was surprised not to find any mention of the use of Flos lonicerae tea against RSV. We have used this tea in our family against long-lasting coughs, and it was very effective.

Honeysuckle Tea for a Nasty Cough:

A. Thank you so much for alerting us to this fascinating research. RSV causes cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose and headache. In severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia or bronchiolitis.

We too are disappointed that no one seems to have followed up on your research directly. We searched PubMed and found studies by Chinese scientists on the constituents of Chinese, Korean and Japanese honeysuckle. Unfortunately, we found no clinical trials. One fascinating study suggests, however, that chlorogenic acid extracted from Japanese honeysuckle inhibits both H1N1 and H3N2 strains of influenza (Ding et al, Scientific Reports, April 10, 2017).

On the other hand, people can easily purchase dried honeysuckle flowers and use them to make honeysuckle tea. In sum, people might try this remedy for a nasty cough that seems to be caused by a virus.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Back in 1979 I was desperate for treatment of severe asthma. All standard medications failed me. My late husband encountered a colleague at work who knew of a Chinese acupuncturist who actually saved my life. Part of her treatment was the honeysuckle tea, along with ginseng. I am here today because of her fine treatments.

I frequently start coughing at night or when I take a nap. When this happens, I turn on an electric heating pad that I keep plugged in near my bed. When I put the warm heating pad on my chest, my cough subsides. At first, I needed to do this every night, but now, after some weeks of this (I can’t tell you how many), my cough is much less frequent.

Where would I buy dried honeysuckle flowers from China, Japan or Korea? To make the honesuckle tea for nasty coughs? I need this badly.

I searched Japanese Honeysuckle Tea on Amazon. I ordered a tea that comes In sachets. I made sure it said “flowers”, some say buds. Haven’t gotten it yet but I’m anxious to try it.

My great grandson seems to have a cold and cough quite often. He’s 20 months old. Can this tea be used for children?

Yes. Here is a link to a study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26958034
You should probably talk with an expert about dosing, though.

I found that Thyme works quite as well as honey suckle. Dosage: one 8oz cup of thyme tea [warmed] 30 minutes before retiring.

Following this thread because currently I have a horrible deep chest cough that isn’t responding to anything.

Honeysuckle tea, or Flor de Jamaica in Spanish, is very popular in Mexico. You can buy it here under the Spanish name in most markets that carry Mexican products. It’s very sour, though, so some kind of sweetener is necessary for most people. I’ve drunk it either hot (in winter) or cold (in summer), like iced tea. Delicious! It’s also known in Mexico as a way to lower cholesterol.

Flor de jamaica is actually hibiscus, not honeysuckle. I like it, and it does have health benefits, but it’s not the same as honeysuckle.

Thank you so much. I will look for dry honeysuckle flowers.

Does the tea need to be made from JAPANESE honeysuckle flowers to be effective?

Most wild honeysuckle in the US is actually Japanese honeysuckle. This plant came to the US as a garden plant, but quickly escaped and immediately prospered. This is the stuff that grows everywhere, with yellow or white flowers, a sweet fragrance, and uncontrolled growth that smothers native plants and trees. Our native honeysuckles are much tamer, and many have orange flowers. One could try gathering honeysuckle during bloom season, usually during the summer. It should work as well as honeysuckle grown in Japan since it’s the same plant.

In regards to the question from Mare: If you mean “Do the flowers have to be grown in Japan?” my answer would be no as that is what the “wild” honeysuckle vine growing all over the southeast is commonly called (Japanese Honeysuckle).

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