The term Hawthorn refers to an entire genus of trees and shrubs that are members of the rosaceae family. Alternate names for the plant include crataegus, may tree, thorn apple, hawberry, and whitehorn. Native to the northern hemispheres of Europe, North America, and Asia, Hawthorn only grows in temperate regions.
Often recognized by its bright red berries and delicate 5 petaled flowers, the thorns on the Hawthorn are very sharp. The leaves grow in a spiral, and the flowers hang in a graceful drop from medium sized stems.
As a food and shelter source for a number of small mammals and birds, Hawthorn also feeds many moths and butterflies, as well as providing pollen for many pollinators. The haw, or fruit of the Hawthorn is eaten by humans, as well as the leaves and flowers of the tree when young.
Health Benefits of Hawthorn
For at least 2 millennium, the Hawthorn fruit have been used in medicines and concoctions. Since the famed Medieval times, Hawthorn has been associated with positive heart health. The flowers, leaves, and berries of the tree are all employed in holistic and homeopathic remedies.
The hypotensive properties inherent to the tree allow for the human blood vessels to relax or expand. Additionally, when combined with a healthy diet and stress management, hawthorn can be used as an effective long-term treatment for:
- Digestive issues
- Cough or sore throat pain
- Intestinal infections
- Heart failure
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
How to Use Hawthorn
Hawthorn is generally only taken as a tonic or tincture. By brewing the tree’s parts into a tea, or infusing it into a decoction, the important tannins, flavonoids, and purine derivatives retain their healing properties.
If the tonic is taken daily, the overall strength of the tonic builds within the body over a period of time. This means that the benefits of the supplement are not always immediately seen, but after a time they become very apparent.This also means that if a dosage is missed, the important aspects of the Hawthorn plant do not immediately bleed from the human system.
To make hawthorn tincture, steep the berries into brandy or vodka (apple cider vinegar for those who can’t use alcohol) for 2-4 weeks, then filter. You can get one dose from fifteen drops.
- 3 to 4 cups fresh hawthorn berries
- Enough brandy, vodka or ACV to cover the berries
- 4 8-ounce mason jars and lids
- De-stem the berries into a bowl and rinse well
- Fill a clean and sterilized jar with berries (two-thirds the way up).
- Cover the berries with alcohol or apple cider.
- Close the lid tightly, and store in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 weeks.
- Shake the jars daily.
- Your tincture is ready after 3 to 4 weeks
- Strain the berries out and pour the liquid out into a jar. Store in a cool, dry area. You can also use dropper bottles to make the dispensing easier.
To make hawthorn tea, pour one cup boiling water over 1 tsp. hawthorn leaves or flowers (or both); let it steep for 10 minutes, strain, and sweeten to taste. Drink one cup twice per day until symptoms subside.
To use the berries to make tea, cover some in a teapot with boiling water and steep for 8-10 minutes. The longer it steeps, the stronger your tea will be.