Medicinal Uses and Indications. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all treatable with hawthorn’s aid. Hawthorn has been shown to increase blood flow to the heart and improve circulation and lower blood pressure in both animal and human studies.
Hawthorn in the kitchen: uses and recipes
Haw berries taste like mild apples, but their flesh is very dense and dry. You can use this in place of ketchup or enjoy it as a jelly with some cheese. Some homemade schnapps and country wines have even been made with haws as an ingredient.
Most hawthorn berry supplements include not only the berry but also the leaves and flowers, though some only include the leaves and flowers. Different manufacturers and preparations of hawthorn extract may recommend different starting doses. Normal dosages range from 250 mg to 500 mg, taken thrice daily.
Blood sugar levels were lowered and pancreatic insulin production was increased thanks to hawthorn extracts.
Hawthorn. Calcium channel blockers like diltiazem, nifedipine (Procardia), and verapamil; beta blockers like atenolol (Tenormin), nadolol (Corgard), or propranolol (Inderal, Innopran, Hemangeol); (Calan SR, Verelan)
Overdose. Dizziness, drowsiness, low blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythms are some side effects that may occur if you take too much hawthorn. Get medical attention or call Poison Control if you think you may have overdosed.
Extracts from hawthorn berries can be taken indefinitely without any negative side effects. The toxicity is quite low, and no adverse effects are known with long-term use, as confirmed by my colleague Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an internationally recognised expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements, and women’s health.
Hawthorn comes from the rose family and is a flowering shrub. Crataegus monogyna, Crataegus laevigata, and Crataegus oxyacantha are just a few of the more common species.
Leaves, berries, and flowers all come from the hawthorn plant and have medicinal purposes. Antioxidant flavonoids can be found in these plants. Hawthorn also appears to affect blood flow from the heart and increase circulation.
There is no solid scientific evidence to back the claims that hawthorn can treat chest pain, heart failure, blood circulation issues, high blood pressure, anxiety, and a host of other conditions.
Traditional Western herbalism has long recognised hawthorn’s heart-loving properties, and the herb’s popularity only increases with time. Crataegus monogyna’s red berries have been used in confections, beverages, and alcoholic beverages for centuries.
Hawthorn, a large shrub in the rose family, is known for its prickly thorns. The berries, which are sometimes spelled hawthorne, are harvested in the fall, just before the first frost. It is common practise to macerate hawthorn berries in herbal vinegars and syrups, to make hawthorn tea from them, or to use them in tinctures.
The heartening effects of hawthorn leaf, flower, and berry have been celebrated for centuries.
Hawthorn was prized for spiritual and ceremonial uses because of its beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and the belief that it would lift and strengthen the physical and emotional heart.
Delicious red berries have been incorporated into a variety of sweets, savoury foods, alcoholic beverages, and non-alcoholic drinks, including candies, jams, jellies, wines, and cordials.
The antioxidant properties of hawthorn help keep the heart and blood vessels in good working order. *
Crataegus is a thorny shrub or tree that typically has hard wood and grey bark, tri-lobed leaves, and white flowers that are similar to those of other genera in the Rosaceae family and that bear bright red berries.
About two-hundred-eighty species have been identified so far; several are employed in alternative medicine and may be considered synonyms. C. laevigata (also known as C. oxyacantha) and C. monogyna are the two most common species used commercially.
C. pinnatifida is used as a medicine in TCM.
The scientific name Crataegus oxyacantha comes from three Greek words: ‘kratos,’ which refers to the wood’s hardness, ‘oxcus,’ which means’sharp,’ and ‘akantha,’ which is a thorn.
The hawthorn was once commonly used as a hedgerow across Europe, particularly in Germany (the word “haw” is an archaic synonym for “hedge”). The light colour of its bark led to another name for this shrub: whitethorn. English hawthorn, or C. laevigata, is a tree that is indigenous to the temperate forests of northern Europe.
The United Kingdom and other countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and Poland supply the vast majority of the world’s commercially grown hawthorn.
In the spring, gather the flowering branches for their many useful components (leaves, twigs, spines, and flowers). If you plan on drying the plant, you should get rid of the stems and spines first. The berries are at their peak flavour and quality when picked in the fall, just before the first frost.
Some accounts of hawthorn use date back to the first century AD, to the Greek herbalist Dioscorides. Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, used it later on (1493–1541 CE).
Hawthorn was “sacred tree medicine” to ancient Druids and was believed to house fairies, especially when grown in close proximity to oak and ash trees, making it a highly symbolic tree with many magical and folkloric myths surrounding it.
But it was bad luck to bring the flowers inside, possibly because the fairies would follow. The Greek marriage wreath included hawthorn twigs and flowers, which stood for chastity and good fortune and were also used to adorn temples dedicated to Hymen, the goddess of marriage and procreation.
When Irish couples wanted to be blessed by the hawthorn tree, they would dance around it during the ceremony. The sprigs were used in two ways: first, to ward off evil spirits by affixing them to a baby’s cradle, and second, to decorate the maypole at the Beltane festival, which honoured the return of spring and the cycle of life.
This tree bloomed on the first day of summer, which this year was in May.
Trees were valued for their leaves, berries, flowers, and wood in European folk medicine. In addition to their aesthetic value, the flowers’ heart tonic and diuretic properties were put to use, while an astringent tea made from the leaves and berries was used to calm sore throats.
Sweet brandy cordial was also produced from the luscious red berries. To make even hotter fires, the wood was also fashioned into smaller items like boxes and combs before being burned.
Although hawthorn, or’shanzha,’ has been used in TCM for thousands of years, the majority of traditional applications have focused on digestive issues. It embodies the dual qualities of sweet and sour and is associated with the spleen, stomach, and liver meridian channels as an energetically mildly warm element.
Current applications include cardiovascular support, and the berries are so popular in China that candies resembling Western “fruit roll-ups” are fashioned from hawthorn.
Many herbalists think hawthorn is the best tonic for the heart. However, it has a wide variety of negative consequences for the cardiovascular system. There are those who believe hawthorn can also heal the heart on a more spiritual or emotional level.
According to herbalist Matthew Becker, hawthorn is especially beneficial for women who are “feeling wounded and hurt.” Floral essences, distilled from the flowers and leaves, are commonly used for treating mental and emotional distress.
Hawthorn is sour and sweet, and has a mildly warm energetic quality.
Please be aware that a white film may form on Hawthorn Berries at times. This is the outer skin’s maturation of sucrose in its natural state.
If you are pregnant, nursing, or currently taking any medications, you should discuss the use of herbal products with your doctor before beginning use.
In some cases, hawthorn trees can reach heights of 40 feet, but more commonly, they are found as much smaller shrubs.
When ripe, the fruits, called pones, become a vibrant red. The thorns, which can reach lengths of over an inch, emerge from the tree’s branches and trunk. Hedgerows made of hawthorns are a common sight in suburban neighbourhoods.
Some of the most abundant bioactive components in hawthorn extract are oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), such as procyanidin B-2, epicatechin, and procyanidin.
Hawthorn extract also contains a number of important active components, including flavonoids like quercetin, rutin, and vitexin. Hawthorn also contains triterpene acids and phenolic acids, among other things.
Even more commonly in the UK, these fruits are used to make jellies and fruit wines.
If the leaves are harvested while still young and tender in the spring, they can be eaten. Hawthorn is also taken orally as a dietary supplement, most often to improve cardiovascular health.
Hawthorns are one of the last fruits hanging on trees late into the fall. Hawthorn berries are one of the last summer fruits to ripen and be preserved before the first snows of winter in Vermont.
While haws are sometimes compared to apples because they both originate from fruit trees, they are more closely related to roses. Similar to rosehip jelly in flavour, hawthorn jelly is made by boiling down the berries of the hawthorn plant.
To make a Hawthorn Jelly
Hawthorn trees are not only a popular ornamental because of their sweet-smelling summer flowers and beautiful fall fruits, but they are also a safe and tasty wild food.
I picked these berries off a hawthorn tree growing near the edge of our woods. Making a tincture or syrup out of them was my initial plan, but I quickly realised that it would require a lot of preparation.
Leaves, flowers, and fruits can all be used to create a tincture from hawthorn. Alcohol is used to steep the leaves and flowers that are collected in the spring. The fruit is picked at the end of the harvest season and made into a syrup with honey and water.
The strained tincture of hawthorn flowers is used to preserve the strained hawthorn/honey syrup. That’s a long-lasting medicine that provides the benefits of the plant as a whole.
The following spring I will have a better idea of what to do with these lovely specimens, but for now they are going into hawthorn jelly.
The Fruit of the Hawthorn Bush
I think it’s more accurate to refer to these tiny fruits as “hawthorn hips” rather than “haws,” because hawthorn trees are actually members of the rose family. Those large seeds inside each one are protected by a fruity, fibrous husk.
To make a cordial, liqueur, syrup, or jelly out of haws, a lot of sugar must be added to neutralise the fruit’s acidity and tartness. The fruit is processed into a syrup that is marketed as a natural remedy for high blood pressure and arrhythmia.
The medicinal value of syrup or jelly is equivalent. That’s just a different delivery system, though. Medicinally, hawthorn is employed to reduce hypertension, normalise arrhythmia, and fortify the cardiovascular system.
Since it also relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure, it is sometimes combined with other calming herbs to treat stress and anxiety.
Fresh hawthorns are one of my favourite fruits, and I think this is because of my genetic make-up and/or my preference for eating tart fruits like cranberries raw. My toddler, who apparently shares my refined palette, would sneak the Hawthorns out of my bag whenever I turned my back.
As I was snapping a photo of the finished hawthorn jelly, he crept back in and stole another berry. Since he is my little foraging buddy and helped me gather these, he deserves a portion.
Harvesting the berries is fairly straightforward. Luckily, the tree in my front yard has many low-hanging branches where I can easily pick the berries. The berries are easy to gather; I just pluck them from the stem and toss them in my basket.
Despite its apparent ease, I must warn you of the enormous thorns that grow on these trees. Careless picking could result in thorn puncture wounds.
Various bowls of wood and glass hold various bowls of coloured botanical ingredients.
All Crataegus species have elixir-worthy berries, but the timing of harvest varies by species. Living in the same place for so long has given me an intuition for when the berries on my tree are ready to be picked.
European Crataegus monogyna (monogyna meaning “one seed”) is the species I have in my front yard, and it matures in late October or early November (though this may differ by the environmental conditions where it grows).
Simple observation may be your best bet for determining the ripening time-frame for your nearby trees, as there are hundreds of different species of hawthorn and it can be difficult to know which one you have. Depending on the variety, hawthorn berries can be a bright red or a dark purple-red when they are fully ripe.
Ripe berries have a slightly pithy texture, like an overripe apple, which is another good indicator of ripeness.
I like to wait a week or so after the berries have reached their peak colour before harvesting them, as they will continue to accumulate sugars and nutrients after ripening.
The colour of overripe berries will fade a bit, but otherwise they should work just as well in this elixir.
Are there any known health risks associated with eating hawthorn berries?
The internet is divided on whether or not you should eat the hawthorn berry seed due to the small amount of cyanide it contains. “Specific data are lacking,” says the American Herbal Products Association.
The fruit has a similar safety profile to that of commonly consumed foods because it has been used in so many different ways as a food: eaten raw, cooked in porridge or tea, and sweetened and preserved as syrups and jams.
Or, to quote herbalist Guido Mase: “You’d get more cyanide from a handful of almonds, to be honest, than from a few tablespoons of hawthorn seeds… and the cyanide disperses quickly, without building up toxicity in the body. Conclusion: I assert that hawthorn seed is not toxic.
During the winter months, when we could all use a little warming, I find myself reaching for a dropperful of this elixir on a daily basis when I have it on hand.
However, because everyone is different, it’s best to seek the advice of a skilled herbalist or other trained healthcare professional for specific instructions on how to use this recipe to achieve your health objectives.