By Hwaa Irfan
Native to China, the beautiful golden bell shaped blossoms of the forsythia (an orchid) is a member of the olive family of the plant kingdom, Oleaceae. The name ‘forsythia’ is derived from the director of Chelsea Physics Garden, William Forsyth back in 1770, but the Chinese name is lián qiào. It is flower decked deciduous shrub that can grow to a height of 9 feet with the leaves appearing after the flowers bloom in opposition to each other. Another unusual feature of the forsythia flower is that they can produce lactose the only other natural source of which is milk! The fruits of forsythia appear as winged seeds.
The contrasting grayish-brown bark is rough to the touch. With a preference to rich well-drained soil it can tolerate partial shade although it likes the full sun, and can be grown in containers throughout the year.
The essential oil is extracted through steam distillation of the fruit. When buying look for an almost colorless – pale yellow oil with a fragrant sweet scent. The bottle should be of dark glass, and kept in a cool place.
Some of the bioactive constituents of forsythia essential oil are:
- Cis-linoleic acid
- Flavanoids: rutin
- Isoaromadendrene epoxide
- Myristic acid
Strong antioxidant and antibacterial activity has been identified in Forsythiaside . Caffeic acid has been proven to have antibiotic properties that are effective against the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.
Forsythia essential oil has an uplifting aroma, which is important in vapour therapy for easing depressive moods. Some of the therapeutic properties identified so far are:
- Stimulant (uterus)
- Tonic (liver)
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents!
Forsythia in Traditional Chinese Medicine is used as a blood and liver detoxifier, as well as an antiseptic, and as an antibiotic. TCM also use Forsythia in the treatment for head/ear-aches, fevers, viral infections, and upper respiratory tract infections. As a recent addition to the world essential oils, it should be worth noting that in Chinese Traditional Medicine forsythia fruit has a bitter, pungent, and yet cooling properties. In TCM, the fruit is applied in the treatment of the heart, liver, and gallbladder meridians. It expels hot wind from the body, and is used in the treatment of fevers, chills, upper respiratory tract infections, and head/ear-aches.
As a uterine stimulant, Forsythia essential oil should be avoided by pregnant women. Also it is ill advised for those who have deficient yin energy e.g. heat in blood, or diarrhea as result of a weak spleen.
The oil can only be used for external use, and when used it should be diluted by means of Carrier Oils like Sweet Almond Oil. Drops of no more than 5 should be used for:
General – Fever
Genitourinary – Urinary tract infections
Mind – Depression, migraine
Respiratory – Mumps, tonsillitis, upper respiratory tract infections
Skin – Acne, inflammation, scars, spots, tired/ageing skin,
Systemic – Bladder meridian, blood detoxification, cancer, heat stroke, liver meridian, low vitality
- Vapor therapy – Upper respiratory problems, for facing emotional challenges, depression
- Massage oil – see ‘Bath’ to stimulate the liver and bladder meridians, to improve skin quality, and general vitality.
- When used for daily healthcare, it can greatly improve liver functions.
- Added to a natural cream/lotion – Skincare, and water retention
Duan Wen-lu et al. “Research on Chemical Constituents of Volatile Oil from Forsythia suspensa(Thunb).”Journal of Anhui Agricultural Sciences – 2008-19
“Forsythia Fruit Profile.” http://www.naturopathydigest.com/nutrition_herbs/herbs/forsythia.php
Xi-ying, W et al. Analysis of essential oil of Forsythia suspense(Thunb.) Vahl. by GC-MS and its antioxidant activities.” College of Life Sciences, Shaanxi Normal University, China