All my fellow herbalists residing in the northern hemisphere are surely enjoying the abundance of flowers and herbs this time of year (spring). Personally I’ve been up in Oregon visiting family, going on walks around my mom’s favorite trails of her childhood. On any walk I always take along a cloth bag and trimming scissors to collect pink clovers, nettles, cleavers and the subject of this post: Hawthorn!
Hawthorn trees are native to Europe and have naturalized all over the world, particularly in temperate climates of the north, though there are even a couple growing in the farm where I live most of the time in Argentina (South America). Now, however, I am wandering trails and catching up with family in the United States, where I grew up. I so appreciate this time of together-ness after two years away and all the stress and fear we all experienced these last 18 months. For this very reason I felt this is a good time to praise some of the herbal allies that helped me so much to manage stress & uncertainty during this time.
Hawthorn is one of those magical, medicinal plants with many uses – though in this article I will just go over the heart medicine that Hawthorn brings into our lives despite being very much under appreciated. Hawthorn lives mostly in hedge rows – natural fences made of bushes and trees, you can see my sister pointing to a stand of Hawthorn just on the other side of my grandparent’s backyard. My grandma professed to “hating” Hawthorn for it’s thorns and wild way of growing. This is an opinion shared by many as Hawthorn is a tenacious grower and sometimes not so attractive in ornamental landscaping. But, as you will soon read, the properties of Hawthorn way outshine the wildness and weedy-ness of her appearance.
Medicinal Properties of Hawthorn:
The leaves, flowers & berries of Hawthorn are all edible and make a delicious tea. I love an infusion of fresh or dried leaves and flowers or a tincture of the red berries, collected in late summer, then macerated in brandy. Hawthorn is traditionally used for strengthening the heart, both the physical organ and the emotional heart. I myself have never dealt with serious heart conditions but, I think everyone who has experienced heartbreak, depression, or loss should consider taking hawthorn tincture & my personal experience can attest to the efficacy of this herbal remedy.
But How?? On the physical heart, Hawthorn aids circulation and increases blood flow to the heart as well as the strength of heart contractions and regulates blood pressure. And as I just mentioned, I personally have experience with using Hawthorn as an emotional medicine. And to be honest I can’t say exactly how it works though I suspect that regulating the heart has something to do with Hawthorn’s calming affects. We are all living through times of intense stress and sometimes fear. Our bodies respond to this intensity, our hearts begin to race which increases feelings of dis-ease. In moments of panic, a few drops of Hawthorn tincture or a cup of Hawthorn tea can ease a racing heart. And taking Hawthorn regularly decreases fatigue and the feeling of shortness of breath.
Hawthorn, Rose and Motherwort Formula:
Lastly, I wanted to share one of my favorite tincture combinations for heart healing and emotional support. This formula has supported me and those close to me during crisis moments over the years, especially during this last year. The tincture consists of Hawthorn berries collected near my grandparent’s house as well as rose and motherwort collected in my mom’s herb garden.
I combine equal parts of each herb in a large jar. The herbal material can be freshly wilted or dried and then will be covered with vodka or brandy. The mixture will macerate (steep) for a whole month in a dark cupboard and will finally be separated and stored in clean tincture bottles. This is a formula to take daily during boughs of depression or in moments of stress, 10 – 15 drops per dose, no more than 3 times a day and avoid taking during the first trimesters of pregnancy.
Since moving to this farm I have gotten to know a truly magical tree that lives on the edge of the woods. This tree is called Hawthorn and is abundant with medicine – flowers in the spring and bright red berries in the fall. Last spring I collected and dried a huge jar of the flowers and now I am working on recipes to encorporate the heart healing medicine of the berries.
Besides hawthorn, quince and rose hips are also in season so I made a marmalade with all three plus a little ginger & cinnamon to add some extra warmth as I we plan to eat these during the winter months.