hawthron large Hawthorn

Hawthorn| Crataegus oxyacantha/laevigata/monogyna

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include hawthorn, maythorn, quickthorn, whitethorn, thorn apple.

Hawthorn exists in many countries including the UK and Europe, Asia, North America with around 280 different varieties.

It is a small tree or shrub often seen in hedgerows or sometimes as a stand alone tree. it is a member of the rose family and grows to around 35 feet if uncut. It produces sprays of distinctive smelling white flowers (to me they smell of rotting flesh!) in spring (May in particular) followed by bright red berries or 'haws' in the Autumn. The branches are laced with sharp thorns.

Besides its use as both a medicine and food it also has a long history of magical and esoteric use in British and northern European folklore. As a symbol of marriage and relationships it was the original maypole tree of choice, representing the magic that happens when the female (soul) and spirit (male) come together as equals.

 

Organic hawthorn dried and tinctured flowers and berries are available to buy in our herbal shop.

 



harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

Choose a wild hawthorn tree if possible and avoid the fancy garden variety cultivars. Both flowers and berries are used as medicine, berries being much more widely scientifically studied than flowers.

Hawthorn flowers and flowering tips can be collected in May when the flowers are fully opened, before they begin to brown. Pinch off the flowering tips (a few soft twigs and leaves are fine to include) and spread out on paper to dry for future use.

Hawthorn berries are collected in the autumn when the berries are fully ripe and before they are softened by frost. Lay out on a tray lined with paper and fully dry before storing for future use. The fresh berries can also be whizzed up in a blender with a splash of water, the stones strained out and the resulting flesh will set like a firm jelly due to the high pectin content. Store in Kilner type jam jars in a dark cool place.

 
I like to add the fresh berries to other tastier jams and jellies (blackcurrant, blackberry, elderberry etc) as they provide a good amount of pectin plus their medicinal gifts too. In fact they contain so much pectin that if you whizz up the fresh berries, strain out the pips and leave it in a jar, iy will set into a solid jelly like cake!
 
The leaves, flowers and berries are all edible but don't have a particularly pleasant taste (in my opinion!). In China however, the berries are threaded onto a stick, dipped in sugar and sold as a street food.
 
Be sure you have the correct berries, the tree will have thorns on the twigs and the berries of the common hawthorn have one large stone in the middle if you squeeze it, occasionally 2-3 stones, depending on variety. Berry flesh is waxy and yellowish cream in colour.

Organic hawthorn dried and tinctured flowers and berries are available to buy in our herbal shop.


 


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

The hawthorn tree is a really generous tree in terms of therapeutic actions, both the flowers and berries having valuable medicinal properties and even the leaves and small twigs too. Perhaps the most important aspect of hawthorns healing abilities are its profound action in protecting the heart and blood vessels from disease, a real heart tonic.

 

For maximum benefits from the cardiovascular protection offered by hawthorn, use the berries or both the flowering tips and berries in combination.

 

 The berries

Hawthorn berries have some remarkable effects on the heart and entire cardiovascular system. These include :

* a very high antioxidant content which protects the heart muscle considerably from oxidative stress (a major factor in ischaemic heart disease).

* have a positive inotropic effect (increases the strength of the heart muscle contractions).

* prevents dangerous distortions in the heart caused by damage e.g. prevents scarring after a heart attack, restores distorted valve chambers to original shapes, prevents thickening or thinning of heart walls etc. This to me reinforces the idea that hawthorn can be taken as both a preventative and restorative medicine.

* dilates arterial blood vessels, allows better blood flow to the heart and throughout the whole cardiovascular system.

* prevents platelets from clumping and forming sticky masses that can travel and block vessels/organs etc.

* is anti-inflammatory, by products of inflammation are implicated heavily in many cardiovascular diseases.

* prevents the thickening of blood vessel walls in response to damage and /or inflammation, wall thickening leads to hardened and narrower arteries, raises blood pressure, reduces blood flow and forces the heart to work harder.

* protect and strengthen blood vessel walls against leakage.

* protects organs and tissues from the effects of ischaemia (llack of blood supply) and from reperfusion (renewed blood flow after no blood flow).

* corrects arrhythmias (abnormal heart beat rhythms, rapid, irregular etc).

* has a lipid lowering effect (lowers high cholesterol levels).

* lowers arterial blood pressure.

 

All the above actions are discussed in detail here.

 

The above actions mean that hawthorn can be very useful in the following conditions. To help to both prevent and protect the heart from the effects of heart attack, chronic heart failure, congestive heart disease, encourage increased blood flow to the heart muscle so can also help prevent heart attacks and angina pains, improve exercise tolerance (the heart copes better with exercise), can help lower high blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, can help prevent sticky clumps forming in blood vessels such as in arteriosclerosis & atheroma, enhance blood circulation, tachycardia, palpitations, dilates blood vessels and lowers vascular resistance which relieves the pressure on the heart plus protects blood vessels, orthostatic hypotension (dizziness when rising after sitting/lying etc), fainting, strengthens blood vessels and capillaries, cardiac asthma, emphysema, water retention caused by a weak heart, stroke, embolism, thrombosis, phlebitis (inflammation of the veins), help prevent aneurysms, heart murmours and valve disorders and mitral regurgitation.

Their effects on the heart and circulation can also make them very useful in disorders such as hyperthyroidism where undue stress is placed on the heart.

Their blood moving properties can help in tiredness, exhaustion and general fatigue and help improve stamina if used regularly.

It can be useful in cases of dementia and Alzheimers.

Male impotence may be helped by hawthorn when the cause is tension and poor blood flow related. Many herbalists add hawthorn to formulas for infertility also.

The berries can also help protect against the damage caused by exposure to gamma radiation and the damage to heart and blood vessels caused by chemotherapy.

They are rich in antioxidants which protect against the effects of free radicals and are anti-inflammatory.

They have protective actions against the effects of high cholesterol on the gastro-intestinal system, including the liver.

Hawthorn can also be invaluable in the treatment of tinnitus, chilblains and Cushings syndrome (protects the heart).

In Asian medicine, the berries are used for diarrhoea, to stimulate the appetite and to aid the digestion and assimilation of foods.

My personal experience with hawthorn is that it is very safe and effective. Many patients and family members with high blood pressure have benefitted from it over the years (as part of a herbal formula) and suffered no side effects even when continuing to take prescribed high blood pressure medicines. Often people will start to wean themselves off their prescribed medicines so as to be able to fully commit to herbal and natural remedies. Be sensible and inform your doctor if you wish to do this, watching carefully for any signs and symptoms.

They also have a mild sedative action and can be added to formulas for tension and anxiety.

Their high pectin content also acts as a gentle tonic to the bowels, the soluable fibre acting as a gentle cleanser which improves and regulates bowel movements.

 

The flowers and flowering tips (including a few young leaves) are very similar in action to the berries and are virtually interchangeable. Hawthorn flower tea can ease sore throats.


 

A nice little article by herbalist Christopher Hobbs on the medicinal properties of hawthorn.

Another article by herbalist Susun Weed on the medicinal uses of hawthorn.

A detailed page on the uses and safety of hawthorn in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

An article with yummy sounding recipes containing hawthorn berries.

A lovely page detailing the many magical uses of the hawthorn tree.

And finally, a huge collection of articles and photos of the many ways to use hawthorn as a medicine from Henriettes Kress.

 


 

 


dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

* Hawthorn (berry and flower) is considered a very safe remedy and is generally very well tolerated even with long term use (over years).

* Caution is advised when taking any medications for the heart or cardiovascular issues as hawthorn may increase or decrease their action. Over the years however, I have given hawthorn preparations to many people taking various medications for high blood pressure with only positive results.

 
* Avoid if you have a slow heart beat.
 

* Uncommon side effects from larger doses of berries include dizziness, nausea and gastro-intestinal upset.

 

* Some useful notes concerning using hawthorn with other cardio prescribed medicines.

Adult 

 

Tincture: Berry - 5 mls 3 times daily. You can combine both flower and berry tincture to make up the 5 mls if needed.

Dried herb in tea form: 1 teaspoon of dried flowers per cup, up to 3 cups daily. Simmer 1 heaped teaspoon of berries in a cup full of water for 15-20 minutes, strain and drink 3 cups daily, or add 3 teaspoons of berries and 3 cups of water before simmering to make a batch for the whole day.

 

 

Children

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
 

 

 

 

 


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