Honeysuckle tea vs. the flu and Ebola viruses

The honeysuckle plant is part of traditional Chinese medicine, but the plant, a vine with small, tubular flowers, is no longer found only in Asia.…

Could honeysuckle tea be used to combat Ebola? (Shutterstock)

The honeysuckle plant is part of traditional Chinese medicine, but the plant, a vine with small, tubular flowers, is no longer found only in Asia. Honeysuckle has found its way to the states and thrives in many of the western and southern parts of the country. This widespread availability has granted many more people access to the medicinal benefits of honeysuckle, which may include protection against the flu.

Like most herbal remedies, however, honeysuckle therapies have been primarily based on folklore and ancient medicine, with little recognition given to the plant by the mainstream medical community. Every once in a while though, a research project will pop up, giving validity to a plant and its use against illness. Honeysuckle tea has been used in China for centuries against the flu, but only recently has medical science decided to verify the tea’s benefits.

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The study on honeysuckle tea has recently been published in the journal Cell Research; a team of experts have identified a molecule in the honeysuckle plant that may prove effective against influenza A viruses (IAVs), a family of viruses that includes H1N1 Spanish flu and avian flu.

According to the report, the molecule under investigation is identified as MIR2911, and it is present in the plant even after being boiled in water for tea.

MIR2911 suppresses the replication of flu viruses by affecting two specific genes that have been identified as being essential for influenza viral replication: PB2 and NS1. This is the first time a plant has been found to target a virus directly, said researchers in their report, which suggests it has the ability to be used as a broad-spectrum antiviral medication.

“With this in mind, plant MIR2911 is an ideal reagent for suppressing IAV infection,” wrote the authors, as reported by MNT, “and it is fully expected that MIR2911, as well as MIR2911-enriched honeysuckle decoction, will be widely used for [the treatment of IAV infections].”

Honeysuckle may also have antibiotic properties, according to information from George Mason University, and this medicinal benefit is attributed to the chlorogenic acid luteolin and found in honeysuckle. Combined, the substances offer antibiotic, antioxidant, radical scavenger, anti-inflammatory, carbohydrate metabolism promoter, and an immunity system modulator properties.

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Traditional uses for the plant include treatment for digestive issues, fever reduction, a contraceptive aid, and topical antibiotic therapy though no major studies have been done to verify it for these purposes. Individuals should also practice caution when using honeysuckle, as experts caution it has the potential to cause dehydration when taken in large doses. Because of its rumored contraceptive abilities, women who are looking to become pregnant should consult with their doctors before use.

Honeysuckle tea may also one day provide a treatment for Ebola. According to the researchers, MIR2911 directly targets Ebola virus in addition to the flu virus. While it isn’t likely to cure an individual of Ebola, it is a viable option to add to a current treatment regime, especially in areas where medical technology and supplies are limited.