A 55-year-old former paint contractor has regained his health and has a new career in Pingtung County courtesy of Japanese honeysuckle — a highly valued plant in traditional Chinese medicine, in which it is called jinyinhua.
Huang Ying (黃穎) was diagnosed with asthma and pneumonia more than 20 years ago in Taipei, where he worked in the paint engineering industry, after long-term exposure to toxic chemicals.
Failing to find a cure, Huang returned to his hometown of Jhutian Township (竹田) in Pingtung.
“I continued to do paint work and at the same time studied Chinese medicine and grew herbs on my father’s land,” he said.
He learned about jinyinhua at Pingtung Community College.
The plant is referenced in Compendium of Materia Medica, a medical book published in the 1500s in China, as a herb used to address excess heat conditions, such as fevers, rashes and sore throat.
In traditional Chinese medicine, excess heat is essentially inflammatory processes involving heat, redness, pain and swelling, often due to external pathogenic factors such as bacteria and viruses. The cold nature of jinyinhua is considered to counteract heat-related conditions.
Huang said that after he started to grow jinyinhua and use the flower as an ingredient in herbal medicine, his asthma cleared up.
In Taiwan, most jinyinhua is imported from China. However, Huang said that imports often contain excessive levels of sulfur. However, he found the climate, air and water Pingtung to be perfect for cultivating the plant.
Now, he sells fresh jinyinhua, dried jinyinhua tea bags and is trying to integrate the herb with other products such as coffee.
Fresh jinyinhua sells for NT$500 per 600g.
“It is an industry with potential,” he said.