Out of all the smoke, fire and tragedy come to Hayfork Cooperative’s next meeting to focus with presenter Amanda Barragar on the clear, uplifting Trinity Alps and being safe in wildlands.
I love hawthorn. It is an exquisite and beautiful tree and it is absolutely my favorite herb to harvest. Every year in early May I spend a blissful few hours picking hawthorn flowers and leaves. They are soft and have a mild sweet aroma. I feel happy when I am in the hawthorn tree surrounded by its flowers. My personal experience with hawthorn is that it is the best herb for alleviating grief. Although it is acclaimed for its ability to help the heart physically, I think its emotional effects are valuable too.
In Europe hawthorn has been used for fine wood products, firewood, hedges and liqueur. The wood has a fine grain and was used for making small objects. The root wood was utilized for making boxes and combs. Hawthorn makes the hottest fire of any wood. Thick hedgerows of hawthorn grow in Ireland and England; a liqueur was made from hawthorn berries soaked in brandy. After a 4 year study by German Federal Ministry of Health, Hawthorn was recognized as a heart remedy in Europe.
Hawthorn is a cardiac tonic, a premium heart herb, a specific remedy for most cardiovascular disease. Hawthorn feeds tones and strengthens the heart muscle. Hawthorn dilates arteries and veins, letting blood flow more freely. It aids in releasing vascular constrictions and blockages thus improving coronary circulation. Hawthorn directly affects the cells of the cardiac muscle, enhancing the activity and nutrition. Hawthorn is great for preventing heart attacks and for treating heart problems. It is recommended for mitigating cardiovascular degenerative disease, coronary artery disease (arteriosclerosis), angina pectoris, mild congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeat, inflammation of the heart muscle, nervous heart problems, weakness of the heart muscle or loss of function due to old age. Hawthorn offers a gentle but sustained reversal of degenerative, age-related changes to the heart. Hawthorn is commonly used for enhancing recuperation from heart surgery or heart attack.
Hawthorn for hypertension.
Hawthorn can be used to normalize and regulate blood pressure, weather it is high or low blood pressure.
Hawthorn for grief.
Hawthorn promotes a general feeling of well being and is a good herb to take when grieving.
Hawthorn strengthens capillaries which makes it useful for people who bruise easily.
Hawthorn is a diuretic. Hawthorn can contribute to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Hawthorn is useful in stabilizing collagen and supporting the health and repair of ligaments, tendons and muscles. Hawthorn is an astringent and, as a decoction, can cure sore throats. Hawthorn can relieve nervous conditions, especially insomnia.
Hawthorn is a hardy tree that will thrive in many different environments. Although it is easy to grow, it grows slowly. Its size varies from small and shrubby to a large tree (~30 ft) and can live more than 200 years. Hawthorn can grow in full sun or partial shade. It prefers rich alkaline soil, but will do well in many soil types. Often the best way to grow medicinal hawthorn is by digging up and transplanting a baby plant dug up from under an established tree.
The leaves, flowers and berries of the hawthorn are all medicinal. Hawthorn flowers are usually ready to harvest in early May. There is about a week long window of opportunity to pick the flowers which are best harvested when the majority of flowers are open but before they start to turn brown. I pick the flowers (some will be unopened) with the leaves below them. Then I dry the flowers and leaves. The berries are picked in the fall after the first frost when they are fully ripe and then dried. The ideal preparations are made including the flowers, leaves and berries since they each contain some unique constituents.
Hawthorn flowers and leaves (fresh or dried) make a very hearty and tasty tea. A good friend likes to mix hawthorn flowers and red clover for an everyday tea to combat high blood pressure. The berries can be eaten fresh or simmered to make a decoction that is also very tasty. The berries can be made into syrup, jellies or jam.
1 part hawthorn flowers with leaves
1 part red clover blossoms
Cover with hot water and steep for 30 minutes.
2 parts hawthorn flower and leaf
1 part lemon balm
1 part st. john’s wort
1 part catnip
Cover with hot water and steep for 30 minutes.
Take hawthorn berries and simmer for 2-3 hours until you have a strong decoction. To 1 part of the strong decoction add 2 parts honey; stir constantly until it is the consistency of syrup. Bottle and use when desired in place of tea or tincture.
Cautions: Hawthorn enhances the effect of cardio active drugs and can reduce the dosage needed. Please consult your doctor before taking hawthorn if you are on any pharmaceutical heart medication.
References: Medical Herbalism by Hoffman, A Modern Herbal by Grieve, Medicinal Herbs by Gladstar, The Herb Book by Lust, Making Plant Medicine by Cech.
Note: You can now find my products or come talk to me at the Hayfork Farmers Market, Fridays 4pm-7pm May - October