The “Hedge Hag”
Common Names: May bush/tree, Haw, Tree of Chastity, Thorn-Apple, Whitethorn, Cockspur, English Hawthorn, Mexican Hawthorn, etc.
Botanical Name: Crataegus spp.
Plant Family: Rosaceae, Rose Family
Parts Used: Flowers, leaves & Fruits
Actions: antioxidant, adaptogenic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, hypotensive, lithotriptic, nervine, nutritive, rejuvenate, relaxant, stimulant, trophorestorative and dilates blood vessels
Vitamins & Minerals: aluminum, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin (B2), selenium, silicon, sodium, thiamine (B1), tin, vitamins A and C and zinc.
Habitat: This dense shrub lives on the edge. It is a species within the hedge that creates a “boundary” along properties or just a shift from open prairie into woodlands. You can find Hawthorn along the roadside, in a hedgerow, near a riparian environment, or growing somewhere in the open where a bird deposited her seeds. Hawthorn is native to Europe and has relatives in North Africa and Western Asia. This shrub is scandalous in that it breeds with many different varieties. It’s hard to identify in that way too. Most commonly you’ll see red and black fruited plants, varying in shape and size. Enjoy a trip to the edge in search of this thorny shrub.
“Haw” is an old English word for “hedge.”
“Hawthorn” = “Thorny Hedge”
Collection: The flowers are collected in the Spring (between March-May) and the berries, or haws, are collected in the Fall (between September and October). I learned to harvest the flowers with the anthers are still pink (look in the picture above to notice those pink anthers). Beware of the thorns that protect the heart of this shrub!
“Hawthorn is a heart tonic- period.”
-Michael Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West
Hawthorn normalizes the heart. It stimulates or depresses the heart’s activity depending on the need. According to Rosemary Gladstar, “most naturopaths and herbalist feel that hawthorn preparations are safe to use in conjunction with allopathic heart medication, because hawthorn works through a nourishing and supporting mechanism, rather than druglike chemicals.” She also advices to check with your doctor if you are taking heart medication before taking hawthorn. Hawthorn is not for acute illnesses.
Hawthorn’s berries, leaves and flowers are rich in bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and procyanidins, which tonify the heart. Hawthorn is gentle. It works with the heart in a supporting, nourishing and protecting way. David Hoffman says, “As long term treatment they (referring to the berries) may be used in heart failure or weakness. They can similarly be used in cases of palpitations.” Hawthorn’s properties as a cardiotonic, trophorestorative and rejuvenate aids the circulatory system in treatment of high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, weakness of the heart muscle, degenerative heart disease and healing from heart attacks. Hawthorn’s ability to dilate blood vessels helps open up circulation, which can help reduce the effects of hardening arteries and also helps lower blood pressure.
So, to say the least Hawthorn strengthens the heart muscle while regulating blood pressure.
In order to receive these benefits, take your time with Hawthorn. For best effects, nourish yourself with Hawthorn infusions or tea for 3 months or more. The benefits received from Hawthorn with be retained after you stop taking it.
Grief & Sadness
The herb of the heart, the hearth, the center, hawthorn. Spiritually it is said that Hawthorn helps with grief and loss. It provides love for the broken hearted. And blankets you when you need to be supported and protected (think about those thorns protecting its berry and flower medicine). One of my teachers claims that Hawthorn was too “damp” for her. Its blanket was heavy and she felt smothered… others believe that Hawthorn is gentle and protective without being forceful. I’m curious what you feel when your heart is in need of support and love.
If you are experiencing the “winter blues” or diagnosed with SAD, then Hawthorn can help bring light into the dark months. The nervine and antioxidant properties in addition to the bioflavonoids of this herb can aid deep-seated grief.
As a flower remedy it can help by giving an endless supply of faith and hope through life’s difficulties. It is grounding and solid.
2 cups fresh or 1 cup dried Hawthorn Berries
4 cups of water
Bring water to a boil. Add Hawthorn berries and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 25 minutes. If it’s not strong enough, use less water or infuse berries longer.
Hawthorn Syrup by Kristine Brown
2 cups fresh or 1 cup dried Hawthorn berries
4 cups water
1 cup raw honey
This is a great way to get your daily dose of Hawthorn. It can also be used on pancakes, waffles, French toast and ice cream for an extra special meal.
Place the herbs in a saucepan and add the water.
Bring to a boil then slowly simmer until the liquid is reduced to down to 2 cups.
Strain off the haws and return the liquid to the saucepan.
Add half the amount of liquid measurement in honey which should be 1 cup.
Turn the heat back on and stir while heating until the honey starts to thin.
Turn off the heat and stir to combine.
Store your syrup in the refrigerator.
If using as medicine, use the following dosages:
General Dosage (once daily) Adults: 1 tablespoon Children: 2-6 1 teaspoon 7-12 2 teaspoons
Herbal Roots Zine; Heartfelt Hawthorn by Kristine Brown
Medicinal Herbs; A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
A Kid’s Herb Book for Children of All Ages by Lesley Tierra
Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth by Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore