Hawthorn, (Crataegeus monogyna, C. laevigata) is a large shrub, or tree that is in the Rosaceae (rose) family. It makes great hedgerows and is found in abundance in the British Isles. Dense, thorny foliage is great for living borders that are both edible and medicinal. Hawthorn has clusters of white or pink flowers in spring (around May) followed by red berries in the fall. Native to Europe but now found in North America and Australia. US Zones 5-8.
Hawthorn trees can be propagated from seeds, but they take 18 months to germinate, so the trees are usually cultivated from cuttings.
As far as I know, Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) is not the same, although related. If anyone knows if it can be used medicinally let me know. It is also in the rose family, but the scientific name is completely different. It is what I found locally and would love to know if it is worth getting or not. I haven’t found anything in the herbalism department over it as of yet.
Hawthorn is one of the best plants for heart health, and is ranked alongside garlic and cayenne. It boosts the performance of the heart and the circulatory system in general. Vasodilatory action can be induced with the flowers, leaves and berries of Hawthorn.
Berries are usually used, but the flowers and leaves can also be used when making tinctures.
- contains flavonoids that are highly antioxidant
- reduces levels of fat in the blood
- improves heart muscle functions and strength (aka contractile force)
- dilates/widens veins and arteries to decrease blood pressure and stress that can cause heart failure, heart attack, or stroke
- acts as a natural ACE Inhibitor, which are drugs used to lower blood pressure
- helps regulate body’s stress response by lowering cortisol levels to regulate blood pressure (this addresses the psychological side of blood pressure, which is not addressed by pharmaceuticals)
The great value of hawthorn is that, although it can have profound healing effects, it achieves these in a gentle and supportive way.-Conway (2001)
HAWTHORN BERRY LEATHER:
- Pick ripe hawthorn berries and place in a saucepan with half their volume of water. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes and allow to cook. Blend the mixture briefly to loosen the pulp from the seeds or mash it with a potato masher, then rub the pulp through a course sieve.
- Pour the strained pulp into baking trays so that it is less than a quarter-inch thick, and put the trays in an oven at the lowest temperature setting to dry. If you have a food dehydrator, you can put the fruit leather trays in that, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Leave until the pulp is dry and leathery and can be peeled off the trays with out being sticky. Cut up and store in airtight jars.
Eat about a 1 inch square every day to help keep your heart and circulation healthy.
HAWTHORN BERRY SYRUP:
- Slowly bring 1 lb. berries to 1 pint water to a boil. Mash and turn off heat. Leave mixture to stand overnight, and then bring to a boil again. Turn down heat and simmer gently. Berries will lose color, turning yellowish. Decoction may smell fishy at first, but that is okay.
- Reduce to half the mixtures volume. Allow to cool and squeeze out juice. Measure or weigh juice and add equal amount of honey. Heat enough to dissolve honey, then pour while still warm into clean bottles.
- Finished syrup will taste kind of like strawberries. Syrup keeps longer if made with sugar, but honey has its own medicinal properties, unlike sugar.
Take 1 tsp. of syrup p/day as a heart tonic, for abnormal blood pressure, mild angina, anxiety and restlessness.
*The best hawthorn tincture is made in two parts.
- In spring, gather flowers when they are fresh. Remove any large twigs and pack into jar. Fill jar with vodka, cap and shake gently to remove air bubbles.
- Leave for a month or so. Blossoms and leaves will lose their color. Strain off liquid and bottle.
- In the fall, cover berries with blossom tincture in a blender. Pulse to mush and pour into wide mouth jars. Hawthorn have a lot of pectin, which will turn it into jelly, making it hard to remove later in regular mouth jars.
- Leave for another month in a cool dark place.
- Run knife around edge and dump contents into a jelly bag or juice press. Squeeze out all the liquid. FYI: A jelly bag will give you a work-out.
- Bottle and label. Tinctures can keep for several years, but 1 year is a good rule of thumb for the most part.
Take 1 tsp. once a day as a tonic, for abnormal blood pressure, palpitations, irregular heart beat, mild angina, anxiety, and restlessness.
-Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal is a wonderful book that I got the recipes out of. I tweaked them a little, but the foundation of them are from the book.
Caution: Speak to your herbal or medical practitioner if you are on beta-blockers or other cardiovascular drugs before using Hawthorn.
Hawthorn works with the body’s process, so improvement takes time, like with most herbs, but it actually helps the underlying problems, rather than simply suppressing them like modern pharmaceuticals do.
Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you have ever used hawthorn medicinally and let us know what your results were.