Blue Honeysuckle Berries are Hottest New Superfood

Originally published January 29 2009

Wealth Opportunity: Blue Honeysuckle Berries are Hottest New Superfood

by Barbara L. Minton, citizen journalist
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(NaturalNews) Blue honeysuckle is proving to be a hot item this year for nutritionists, survivalists, and potential growers. This attractive, arching bush just arrived in the northern hemisphere from Russia, and is making a grand entrance onto the scene because of its abundant production of blue honeysuckle berries, rivaling other berries in flavor and outrivaling many of them in nutrition and health benefits.

The blue honeysuckle bush, botanically known as Lonicera caerulea, is a hearty plant with all the endurance and pest resistance of other honeysuckle plants. It is easily reproduced from seed or cutting and is extremely drought tolerant. It is cold hardy to temperatures of -50 C. It grows to 4 feet tall, and little pruning is required, just cutting away overlapping or weak branches. It can be grown anywhere from zone 2 to zone 8 on the U.S. Arboretum Plant Hardiness Zone Map. It is particularly comfortable in the northern reaches and the Pacific Northwest.

These bushes are widely grown in Russia where they are prized for their fruit and for berries much larger than blueberries with a flavor described as a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry. Bushes can be placed 4 to 6 feet apart. Small, white, funnel shaped flowers appear in February or March and develop into the delicious, teardrop shaped fruit that ripens in May. This fruit contains a very high amount of vitamin C and bioactive flavonoids. Each bush produces about four to seven pounds of fruit a year.

Research is already documenting the health benefits of blue honeysuckle

The conclusion that blue honeysuckle is a nutritional powerhouse is a given at this point. Researchers around the world are now scrambling to quantify and qualify the extent of these benefits.

Recent research reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, December, 2008, analyzed a phenolic fraction from the berries to determine its nutrients and micronutrients. Researchers determined the content of anthocyanins, with cyanidin-3-glucoside being the most prominent. Anthocyanins are pigments in the plant from which it gets its antioxidant, anti-platelet, and wound healing abilities. Other flavonoids found included the following:

Rutin reduces inflammation, and fights cancer, boosts the effectiveness of vitamin C, maintains blood vessels, and supports collagen so necessary for young, supple skin.

Quercetin neutralizes free radicals to prevent cellular damage, combats cancer, alleviates bruising and varicose veins, enhances cardiovascular health, prevents oxidation of cholesterol, and improves lung health and respiration.

Epicatechin is believed by many researchers to be able to prevent four of the top five killer diseases: heart failure, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. They see a shortage of this phenomenal nutrient as the cause of many diseases of modern times. Epicatechin is considered so important to the body that it is under consideration for classification as a vitamin.

Protocatechuic acid is anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-carcinogenic. It is another potent free radical fighter.

Genistic acid is also another potent free radical fighter.

Ellagitannins convert in the body into ellagic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidants known, and a powerful cancer fighter. Ellagic acid has the ability to inhibit mutations in DNA, and promote apoptosis (appropriate death) of cancer cells. It also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.

Ferulic Acid provides rigidity to cell walls and is a protector of the nervous system. It normalizes blood pressure.

Caffeic Acid and chlorogenic acid work together to protect cerebral neurons. These acids are effective against liver toxicity, promote cell differentiation, and normalize colon function. They have been found effective in halting cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

In this study blue honeysuckle dried fruit was shown to reduce the ability of parasites to form and adhere. These included Candida, Staphylococcus, E. Coli, Enterococcus, and Streptococcus varieties.

The November, 2008 journal Molecules reports a study of blue honeysuckle berries to determine their ability to prevent nervous system disease. Researchers found them to be potent sources of neuron-protective antioxidants that could prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

The Archieves of Dermatology Research, June, 2008, reported a study finding that blue honeysuckle fruit suppressed UVA induced free radical production and decreased intracellular lipid peroxidation while increasing glutathione production. Glutathione is the most potent of the endogenously produced antioxidants.

A study reported in Experimental Eye Research, May, 2006, found that blue honeysuckle berry extract reduced inflammation from eye disease and produced pro-inflammatory mediators in the eye.

A study from China reported in November, 2005, found blue honeysuckle berries reduced inflammatory reaction to food induced allergies.

The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2005, reported that blue honeysuckle works as a potent anti-inflammatory by suppressing production of nitric oxide and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Nitric oxide is a producer of free radicals during inflammatory responses. [EBH: Note that this study involves Lonicera japonica or Japanese Honeysuckle not Lonicera caerulea or blue honeysuckle.]

Researchers found blue honeysuckle berries to possess the highest content of phenolic acids compared to other berries tested, in a study reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, March, 2005. Tested against blueberries, mulberries, juneberries, black currants, and blackberries, the berries from the blue honeysuckle consistently produced the highest level of antioxidants.

What blue honeysuckle may mean for you

Blue honeysuckle appears to be the berry of the future. It is easy to grow in areas not traditionally well suited for agriculture, and has minimal requirements. It produces berries that ripen ahead of other berry varieties, assuring a ready market of customers who want raw berries in early spring. It produces an excellent tasting berry for jelly, jam, juice, freezing, adding to ice cream or yogurt, drying, or eating fresh. For gardeners desiring an organically grown orchard, or for growers looking for a new, popular and easy crop to produce, that future is now.

For those fearing the heavy hand of government intervention, blue honeysuckle bushes on your land will be able to provide a food containing many of the needed nutrients to maintain health. They would also make a great, low maintenance addition to a victory garden or any backyard.

Expect blue honeysuckle berries and berry products to go the way of goji berries and acai. Blue honeysuckle has all the characteristics of another fad in health food. And as more people make the decision to incorporate health promoting berries into their diets, prices for berries will continue to escalate.

Dr. Bob Bors, an advocate for blue honeysuckle, says it will not be long before significant economic activity is being generated by blue honeysuckle. He is especially keen on growing the plants because they are harvested two weeks before strawberries are ready, and the flowers can take temperatures of -7C without damage. Seeds are similar to kiwi fruit seeds. They do not have to be removed and they really are not even noticeable. Blue honeysuckle berries are easily detached and can be mechanically harvested. Bors calls them the easiest to harvest fruit he has ever encountered. He describes the flavor as sweet/sour with a hint of black current. Although most people say they taste like blueberries, Bors does not think so.

In 1997, Bors planted four varieties of blue honeysuckle: Blue Belle, Blue Bird, Blue Velvet, and Berry Blue. He says Blue Belle was the best tasting and most productive with Berry Blue having the best tree shape. Two different varieties are necessary for cross pollination, and he recommends Blue Belle and Berry Blue.

Blue honeysuckle plants often bear fruit just one year after planting. Plants may be obtained from Raintree Nursery, Shallow Creek Nurseries, Green Earth Nursery in Oregon or DNA Gardens in Alberta among others. They can be ordered online.

Sources:

Kim Hummer, Blue Honeysuckle: A New Berry Crop for North America, USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Honeysuckle, Raintree Nursery.

Lonicera, Edible honeysuckle, Shallow Creek Nurseries.

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