A native plant of Asia, including Japan, China, and Korea, Forsythia (Forsythia suspensa) is a popular plant that is grown for its brilliantly colored flowers, medicinal properties, and usefulness in landscaping. Offering a profusion of bright yellow flowers that bloom early as they usher in the spring season, the Forsythia shrub grows quickly, as much as one or two feet each growing season. Pruning is therefore often necessary, depending on where these deciduous shrubs have been planted. Commonly referred to as “Golden Bell” because of its abundance of yellow bell-shaped blossoms, Forsythia is easily grown from cuttings. Nonetheless, transplantation can occur and should be accomplished in the winter months.
Although Forsythia shrubs grow well in most types of soil, they prefer well-drained soil and annual fertilization, as well as a location offering partial shade, full sun, and anything in between these two. Resistant to insect infestation and disease, this type of shrub is quite hardy and easy to grow. Depending on the variety of Forsythia (Sunrise, Northern Gold, Meadowlark, etc.) and the method of pruning, the shrubs can be limited to a one-foot height or grow as tall as ten feet tall. Typically used to create an informal hedge or for its coloring as a single plant, Forsythia shrubs aren’t fussy about their location.
During the time of the Ming Dynasty, Forsythia was considered an important component of medicinal formulas used to treat the "warm diseases," a classification created to refer to infections occurring in or on the human body. In ancient China, the Forsythia shrub was commonly used in traditional medicinal treatments to detoxify the body or relieve heat-related conditions by expelling wind, alleviating headaches, curing excessive thirst, and reducing fevers. Its fruit was used to cure ailments of the heart, gall bladder, and lungs and particularly ailments associated with overheating of the body (inflammation, flu, fever, boils, swollen glands, swelling, and carbuncles, which grow much deeper than boils).
The fruit of the Forsythia was steamed first, and then it was allowed to dry in the sun. Before using the remaining fruit in herbal remedies, the seeds were always removed and the fruit was ground to a powder. Offering greater medicinal benefits, Chinese herbalists prefer the green fruit of this shrub to the yellow fruit. Called Lian-qiao by the Chinese, Forsythia offers a bitter taste. The active ingredients of Forsythia include lignans, organic acids, flavonoids, phenolic glycosides, triterpene glycosides, quinoid glycosides, and essential oils.
William Forsyth, a noted botanist and the man for whom this shrub was named, brought the Forsythia shrub to the western shores of the world from Asia during the nineteenth century. Today, Forsythia fruit is sometimes sold in Asian markets in dried, encapsulated, or powdered forms. It is often blended with components of the honeysuckle flower, both of which are ground into a powder, for herbal remedies. Although clinical evidence is currently lacking, Forsythia fruit is sometimes used to treat bacterial infections, measles, acute tonsillitis, or upper respiratory ailments. In particular, the fruit of the weeping Forsythia (Forsythia suspensa) is used in medicinal formulas.
In addition to being a symbol for fresh beginnings and the onset of spring, Forsythia holds the symbolic meaning of anticipation and innocence. If a healthy Forsythia bush is a predominant feature of a dream, it can symbolize the beginning of a new romance in the near future as well as simply suggesting peace is on its way to the dreamer. On the other hand, if a withered Forsythia shrub is part of the dream, it suggests unhappiness, ruin, or the loss of vitality and prosperity. Korean legends suggest that the Forsythia shrub is the precursor to a rejuvenation of love.
Forsythia fruit tea is used by those individuals suffering from congestion or the flu. Forsythia is sometimes used in beauty care formulas intended to alleviate the discomfort and pain of skin rashes. Drawing on its early topical uses related to the reduction of swelling and treatment of skin infections such as carbuncles and boils, it is frequently used within the skincare industry for its anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling) and astringent (shrinks body tissue to a more normal condition) capabilities. It has also been noted to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, although further research is needed.