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In A Nutshell – Hawthorn – Crataegus oxyacantha
by Jill Rosemary Davies

An official drug and food of Europe, North America, India and China, Hawthorn is a beneficial heart tonic and great remedy of cardiovascular complaints. Remarkably, Hawthorn recognises when to stimulate or calm, as necessary. As many as 1,000 species of Hawthorn grow worldwide and, being one of the most common hedgerow plants, it is readily available for home use. Hawthorn is particularly effective as a heart her,  in lowering cholesterol and aiding digestion, and may be used in combination with other herbs.

Contents

Introduction

Exploring Hawthorn

A History of Healing

Anatomy of Hawthorn

Hawthorn in Action

Energy and Emotion

Flower essence

Growing, Harvesting, and Processing

Preparations for internal use

Tincture

Decoction

herbal tea (Infusion)

Capsule

Wine

Hedgerow jam

Medicinal syrup

Natural medicine for everyone

Herbal combinations

How Hawthorn works

Glossary

Introduction

In Western Herbalism Hawthorn is the best-known herb for treating heart conditions. It has also been used for a wide range of other medicinal purposes around the world.

Hawthorn is a dense tree with small, sharp thorns. It can grow up to 10 m (35 ft) tall and is often seen growing wild either as a lone tree or as hedging.

There are over 1,000 different species and hybrids of Hawthorn throughout the world. The two species most commonly used for medicinal purposes in Western herbalism are Crataegus oxyacantha (now known as Crataegus laevigata) and Crataegus monogyna. This is because they contain the strongest quantity of Hawthorn's chemical constituents and are widely available. They are fully interchangeable medicinally and share many of the same characteristics, as well as common names – for example, they are both referred to as English Hawthorn. In Eastern disciplines, both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine use their own native medicinal species.

Crataegus laevigata is also known as Midland Hawthorn or May. The Bread and Butter Tree is another name, derived from farmers' practice of nibbling on the leaves and flowers in order to take the edge off their hunger before breakfast. The oxygen that Hawthorn releases would have eliminated feelings of tiredness and dizziness and helped to ease yawning and general difficulty in waking up.

Other species

Crataegus laciniata – 'Oriental Thorn'

This species is native to China and is planted in Europe as a very attractive ornamental tree. It has few thorns and grows to a height of 4.5–6 m (1520 ft). The white flowers that appear in June are followed by deep red fruit in the autumn. The leaves are deeply cut and downy on both sides but especially on the underside.

Crataegus crus-galli – 'Cockspur Thorn'

This species is native to central and eastern North America. It is often grown for its ornamental value or for hedging. The white flowers open in June and are produced in clusters that span up to 7.5 cm (3 in) wide. The leaves turn a beautiful scarlet in the autumn. It has small fruit, which ripen in October and stay on the tree throughout the winter.

Cratagus pinnatifida – 'Shan zha'

Shan zha is grown commercially for medicinal purposes. The berry is larger than European varieties, at 1–3.5 cm (½1½ in) in diameter.

Definition

The botanical name Crataegus comes from the Greek 'kratos' meaning hardness (of the wood). Oxyancatha comes from the Greek words 'oxus' meaning sharp and 'acantha' meaning thorn; and monogyna from 'mono' meaning one and 'gyna' meaning female (monogya refers to its single carpel).

Exploring Hawthorn

Now that Hawthorn's healing abilities are becoming more widely recognised, more land is being given over to properly managed sustainable resource areas.

Where to find Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a hardy shrub that grows in almost all temperate regions of the world. It can be found in Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, India, China and North America and was introduced to Tasmania and other parts of Australia by early British settlers. It prefers full sunlight but will tolerate most conditions.

Hawthorn is an aggressive settler on disturbed sites and consequently can often be found growing on abandoned fields and overgrazed pastureland, or on the periphery of hedgerows and forests. However, seedlings will rarely become established in pastures that are regularly grazed.

Hawthorn is sometimes considered a nuisance, especially when it encroaches on farmland, because it can be tenacious and difficult to remove permanently.

In Britain and Germany during the period AD 4501520, when farming was at its most widespread, Hawthorn was often laid to make hedging which, before the invention of modern fencing, was an excellent way of keeping farm animals in their fields. In Tasmania, Hawthorn hedges are considered to be part of the country's cultural heritage.

Commercial growers

Because it is so prolific and easily obtainable, Hawthorn is not often grown commercially for medicinal use. Some areas where harvesting for commercial use does take place have been designated 'organic' or 'wild crafted' but usually these are long-established sites that have been claimed by commercial growers. Many of these areas are in National Parks in Europe, predominantly in Hungary, France and Spain.

The British and European Soil Association has set up a committee to encourage more wild and certified organic herb-collecting areas.

France, Hungary, China and India all export Hawthorn commercially. In the United States and Canada, commercial collection areas are in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Soil requirements

Hawthorn appears to prefer alkaline soils and is very abundant in limestone areas. It will grow in almost any type of soil, but grows best in richer, well-drained soils, especially where water flows into ditches and streams; it is rarely found in wet peat and acid soils.

Hawthorn is a useful tree to grow in polluted urban areas, exposed sites, and coastal areas. The species Crataegus laevigata can withstand temperatures as low as -15°C (5°F).

A History of Healing

Over the centuries, a lot of folklore and traditions have grown up around the Hawthorn tree and, as with much folklore, they are sometimes contradictory. Hawthorn is, more often than not, seen as a tree that brings good luck to the owner and prosperity to the land where it stands.

According to legend the god Thor created Hawthorn in a bolt of lightning. Because of this it was believed that Hawthorn would protect against lightning and storms at sea.

Traditionally the Greeks and Romans used Hawthorn blossoms in wedding decorations to increase fertility and bring happiness. The Romans also believed that if you placed Hawthorn in babies' cradles it would protect them against evil. Both these traditions carried over to England. In addition, the tree was thought to protect the house from evil spirits.

Hawthorn was the Sacred Tree of the sixth month for the Celts who called it 'Utah' meaning 'beauty' and the blossoms were used in the May Queen rituals. In the Middle Ages it was seen as a symbol of hope.

The tree was once regarded as sacred, probably from a belief that the Crown of Thorns worn at the crucifixion of Christ was made from Hawthorn and it was believed that placing a branch above the door would ward off negative forces. However, some people believed that Hawthorn's link to the crucifixion meant that it was a sign of bad luck and that bringing any part of the tree, especially the flowers, into the house would result in a death in the household.

The first Pilgrims immigrating to America named their boat 'The Mayflower' after using Hawthorn wood to make some of the vessel.

Many Hawthorns grow to a great age as landmarks or boundary trees. There is a beautiful example in Hethel, near Norwich in England. When the tree was measured in the 18th century it had a girth of 2.8 m (9 ft); it still stands but has now been reduced to a bush. The tree was called the 'Witch of Hethel', possibly because of its curiously contorted branches. According to ancient folklore, it was thought that witches had the power to transform themselves into Hawthorn trees and that they held their rituals under Hawthorns.

During World War I, young Hawthorn leaves were used as a substitute for tea and tobacco and the seeds were ground and used instead of coffee.

Traditional uses

Hawthorn was used to decorate the Maypole because the trees traditionally flowered on May Day. During midsummer festivities, Hawthorn trees were decorated with flowers and ribbons and people danced around them. Blossoms were strewn on paths. Women believed that Hawthorn would keep them looking youthful.

Taking Hawthorn on fishing trips ensured a good catch.

Dioscorides, a Greek herbalist, used Hawthorn in the first century AD. In his writings he referred to it as Crataegus Oxuakantha and the name was partially retained by the 18th-century Swedish physician Linneus in Crataegus oxyacantha. The first written record of Hawthorn may be by Petrus de Crescentis, who used it for gout in 1305.

There is a record from 1695 of an anonymous healer – a woman practitioner  using the berries to treat someone showing the symptoms of hypertension.

In Europe many botanical texts first recorded Hawthorn in the 15th century. Dr Leclerc Green has stated that the use of Hawthorn for heart conditions dates back to the 17th century. An unnamed Irish doctor is known to have used it secretly in the late 19th century to treat heart ailments. It was only after his death in 1894 that his secret was revealed by his daughter.

In the 19th century in Lorraine, France, an infusion of Hawthorn flowers was used for insomnia and palpitations. The first article about the herb appeared in 1896. 

Hawthorn is documented as a useful diuretic, to treat kidney and bladder stones and dropsy. The astringent berries were effective in cases of diarrhoea and a decoction of the flowers and berries was said to be a cure for sore throats.

Hawthorn was also used in the treatment of a wide variety of other disorders including gout, fever, pleurisy, hypertension, nervous tension, insomnia and depression. Before recent scientific findings proved it to be a fine cardiac herb, it was always considered to be a 'digestive'.

Hawthorn faded from use in the 1930s, although herbalists continued to prescribe it.

Glastonbury Hawthorn

The 'Glastonbury Hawthorn' is a type of Hawthorn found in parts of Palestine and England. The tree is said to have been brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea. In his pilgrimage to spread the word of God he carried a staff made from Hawthorn, which he had acquired in Palestine. He is said to have visited Glastonbury in Somerset, England. Weary from travelling, he rested on 'Weary-all Hill' (now called 'Worral Hill'). He stuck the staff in the ground where it took root and grew into a tree. A church was later erected on the spot, now Glastonbury Abbey. The tree was regarded as sacred and was reputed only to blossom on Christmas Day (January 6, which was the day of Christ's birth before the Gregorian calendar was officially adopted). Although Hawthorn trees can still be found in the Abbey, it is believed that the original tree was cut down during the English Civil War in the mid 17th century.

Anatomy of Hawthorn

This bushy, dense and thorny shrub grows to about 7.6–9 m (2530 ft) high. It has clouds of strangely fragrant, white-pink or red blossom in May, and subsequently red berries in the autumn. Its vernal green leaves turn darker and are shed by the first frosts.

Hawthorn belongs to the Rosaceae family, which is made up of a large group of plants, deciduous shrubs and trees usually bearing sharp spines.

Leaves

The leaves tend to be toothed and may also be lobed, and most species have two leafy bracts where their stalks meet the twig.

Flowers

The flowers of all Hawthorn species contain both sexes and are generally produced in clusters. They bloom in May and the blossom is made up of five-petalled flowers arranged in bunches or 'corymbs' on a long stalk, each with prominent stamens, nectary and carpels.

Blossom is usually white, but can be red or pink. The overall effect of a Hawthorn tree in blossom is that of a mass of tiny rose blooms.

Berries

The berries are greenish-red when they first appear in September, turning bright red and finally a purple-red in October and November. Inside, Hawthorn berries comprise meaty white flesh with one or two large pits in the centre.

Crataegus monogyna

The leaves are dark green, wedge-shaped, toothed and deeply lobed. The strong-smelling white flowers are arranged in dense clusters and the red fruit is barrel-shaped. This particular species is less tolerant of shade than other types of Hawthorn.

Crataegus laevigata

This shrub grows to about 6 m (20 ft) in height. It has fewer thorns than C. monogyna. The fruits are oval, about 0.5–2 cm (¼¾ in) long, and contain two or three seeds. The leaves are less lobed than C. monogyna.

Chemical constituents

Hawthorn contains flavonoids including vitexin, quercetin, hyperoside and rutin. These regulate the herb’s cardiac actions. Other constituents are cardiotonic amines, pectin, phenolic acids including crategolic acid, citric acid, chlorogenic acid, tartaric acid, and tannins, triterpene acids, triterpenoids and coumarins.

Hawthorn in Action

How Hawthorn affects the body

Hawthorn's wide-ranging chemistry affects the body in many ways. 

Research scientists have found that Hawthorn is able to inhibit enzyme responses in the blood vessels. 'Angiotensin converting enzyme' (ACE) is responsible for constricting blood vessels, which helps to move the blood along efficiently. However, too much constriction can occur, especially in a situation where blood vessels lack tone and have become inert because they are clogged up with fat and calcium deposits. An enzyme that 'shuts down' the blood vessels further and restricts what little available space there is will contribute to a dangerous situation. The various chemical compounds of Hawthorn override this enzyme and keep the blood vessels open, thus improving circulation.

Hawthorn helps to lessen pain in the heart and adjacent areas and increases warmth in cold hands and feet where the drop in temperature is due to poor circulation.

Other chemical components help to re-elasticate the blood vessel walls and in turn assist their peristaltic and flexing action, thus promoting good blood flow and circulation throughout the entire body. The plant chemical rutin, which is a flavonoid, is partly responsible for this and also helps to rebuild the collagen fibres that maintain the outer layers of the vessels.

Hawthorn's antioxidant and vitamin C-rich chemistry assists in keeping all the circulatory components (the veins, arteries and capillaries) young, active and functioning properly, revitalising, rebuilding and helping to prevent further deterioration. Many people's physical condition does not reflect their biological age  for example, a 40-year-old can be aged 60 physiologically, simply due to the deterioration of the body. Antioxidants can help prevent and sometimes even reverse this trend. Elderly people who have natural age-related heart weaknesses will also find Hawthorn beneficial. The antioxidants in the herb help to reduce inflammation, which in turn can contribute to relieving congestion, stagnation, pain, sluggishness and associated conditions and symptoms.

The triperpene acids contained in Hawthorn can help balance low blood pressure.

Hawthorn can also play a part in lowering cholesterol levels and removing plaque that has accumulated in the arteries.

Effects

  • Normalises and gently strengthens the contractions of the cardiac muscle.
  • Reduces atherosclerotic plaque (fatty deposits, calcium and other debris that block the free flow of blood) and helps to lower cholesterol.
  • Dilates the arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen, blood and fuel. The result is a more efficient heartbeat.
  • Opens up (dilates) all the blood vessels, thus improving the entire circulatory system and those organs, systems, tissues and cells supplied with blood, and potentially helping to prevent a wide range of diseases and conditions such as arteriosclerosis.
  • Relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus, intestines and other areas where abnormal contractions can occur.
  • Reduces abnormal retention of water in the body, including general oedema and the bloating commonly experienced before a period.
  • Aids digestion and the assimilation of nutrients from food and helps curb an over-enthusiastic appetite.
  • Steadies irregular heartbeat and can be taken regularly with no side effects.
  • Protects the heart against harmful effects of oxygen depletion  it is a powerful free radical scavenger.
  • Has a mild sedative action; this is useful in situations where stress affects the heart and vascular, digestive and nervous systems.
  • Aids digestion.
  • Can ease sore throats.

Hawthorn works differently from other cardiac herbs: it enhances activity and nutrition by directly affecting the cells of the cardiac muscle and peripheral circulatory system. Other cardiac herbs such as Foxglove and Lily of the Valley contain cardiac glycoside components, which affect the contractile fibres of the heart.

Hawthorn and the heart

Since the late 19th century, Hawthorn has been used for various disorders of the cardiovascular system and as a heart tonic to regulate circulation. Today Hawthorn is an official drug in the Pharmacopoeias of Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Russia and Switzerland.

As a testament to its popularity, it is (at the time of writing) an ingredient in 213 European commercial herbal formulas, designed mainly for the treatment of the heart and cardiovascular system and sold in Europe and the United States.

Heart problems often arise out of poor dietary habits, where toxins and waste products collect and congest in the bloodstream. If a lack of exercise is coupled with this problem, then the already overly thick blood will move even less efficiently and this poor circulation further inhibits sufficient blood supply from reaching the extremities of the body. The heart and digestive system become burdened and vital components become weakened with the strain. Cholesterol and calcium deposited as plaque can slow the flow even more. Further problems can develop from this clogged situation, such as high or low blood pressure. The bloodstream is prevented from carrying enough of the basics of life  oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, hormones, heat, antibodies and enzymes  through the body.

Hawthorn reduces the heart's workload, partly by steadying the beat itself and also by increasing the heart's tolerance to oxygen deficiency. Hawthorn will normalise and gently strengthen muscle contractions of the heart, thus balancing any heart irregularities. It does this partly by 'binding' to the heart cell receptors, enabling them to use less oxygen and blood by depressing their actions. This is particularly helpful if conditions such as blocked coronary arteries or angina pectoris exist.

Summary

Hawthorn can help treat a large number of diseases known to the medical profession. As a heart drug it can help in the treatment of heart failure, post-infarction recovery, heart valve diseases, lesions and leakages left by previous heart attacks, palpitations, angina, high and low blood pressure, heart inflammation, blood clots, arteriosclerosis, old age wear and tear on the heart, and heart weakness following major febrile episodes. In addition, it is valued for its ability to support the nervous system and is often used for nervous tension and insomnia. Hawthorn is a prime digestive and will help to prevent abdominal distension and poor assimilation of food; it will also assist in stabilising nutritional levels and any conditions associated with these problems.

Another area that is assisted by Hawthorn is the working of the bladder and kidneys; it is a very safe and efficient diuretic, relieving the body of excess water in a gentle manner.

Proven results

When the isolated chemical components of Hawthorn were individually tested in a laboratory, their separate effects proved to be insignificant, but like so many other herbs, the rainbow of Hawthorn's chemistry, kept together as a whole, proved to be an intriguing, powerful and very effective combination. In 1981, a four-year study of Hawthorn was commissioned by the German Ministry of Health. It was a controlled, multi-centre test using clinical trials to see whether the heart function of cardiac-insufficiency patients could be improved. It was found to be a huge success and Hawthorn regained its old European status in the modern world as a heart herb. Subsequently a monograph reporting these conclusions was published. It is long and detailed and strongly indicates that where 'a loss of cardiac function' is observed, then Hawthorn is an ideal treatment. It also suggests that 'where subjective feelings of congestion and oppression in the heart region' exist, then Hawthorn is a good choice and that it is useful for easing conditions in the ageing heart that do not warrant the use of digitalis (a strong heart drug that is derived from Foxglove).

Research in Japan

A controlled study in Japan showed that a Hawthorn berry and leaf combination was effective in improving symptoms of mild congestive heart failure, including poor heart function and increased blood pressure, dyspepsia, palpitations and oedema. Only minor side effects were noted in the case of one particular patient.

Caution

Hawthorn is a specific herb for heart conditions but in the event of any sign of a heart complaint, professional advice should always be sought.

When to avoid Hawthorn

According to the same German monograph published on Hawthorn (see ‘proven results’ paragraph), following four years of trials, no adverse side effects were reported during the use of this remarkable herb.

Hawthorn can be used with many kinds of pharmaceutically produced drugs. However, it is suggested that it should not be combined with beta blockers because this combination could potentially raise blood pressure. More important, it has been suggested that Hawthorn should not be combined with heart-drug herbs containing cardiac glycosides, such as Foxglove (which contains digitalis) and Lily of the Valley (which contains convallaria). However, several studies exist where Hawthorn has been shown to increase the effectiveness of cardiac glycosides such as digitalis, without increased toxicity, allowing a lower dose of glycoside to be used. It has also been observed that, even with long-term medicinal use of Hawthorn, toxicity does not seem to accumulate in the body.

Case study: menopause/palpitations

Jessica was 50 years old and had been having heart palpitations, which were getting worse. They had begun two years earlier at the same time as her menstrual cycle became irregular and started to dwindle. Finally it became evident that she was entering the menopause. She had told her doctor about her palpitations and menopause and the doctor confirmed that they were probably connected. Jessica wanted to try a natural way of treating her heart palpitations and, after looking at various options, decided to try a tincture of Hawthorn. In just one week of taking 5 ml (1 tsp) of berry and leaf tincture 3 times a day, Jessica noticed the difference and soon had her sister collecting Hawthorn leaves for her. After 3 months she switched over to Hawthorn herb tea as an alternative to the tincture and this worked equally well.

Energy and Emotion

In an astrological context, Hawthorn is a masculine plant: its ruling planet and element are Mars and fire. It also has many female connections, especially in the softness of its blossom, which has been used for decorative and celebratory purposes as a symbol of chastity and fertility for hundreds of years.

Hawthorn flower essence:

  • Brings hope and instils the knowledge that your spirit is free and your body strong.
  • Brings balance at times of emotional stress, such as during the grieving process or when experiencing the pain of a broken relationship. It will also help with the physical stresses and strains of everyday life.
  • Helps to promote clear thinking and recall.
  • Encourages people to move forward in life when they need let go of established patterns of behaviour.
  • Clears blocked emotions and helps to disperse confusion and anger.
  • Balances inner feminine energy and sexuality.
  • Improves the function of the immune system.
  • Helps to deal with grief.

Crataegus monogyna brings hope and protects the body, mind and spirit in times of grief and sadness. It instils the knowledge that our sorrows are not without end nor damaging, but just a natural part of life.

Traditional affirmation: 'My spirit is free. My body is a wise healer. My heart can bear this.'

To make a flower essence – standard quantity

  1. Use approx. 350 ml (1½ cups) each of spring water and brandy and a handful of Hawthorn flowers, carefully chosen and freshly picked.
  2. Choose a very quiet spot indoors or a secluded area of the garden or sunny woodland if weather allows. Submerge the Hawthorn flowers in a glass bowl containing the spring water.
  3. Cover the bowl with clean protective cloth (freshly washed white cheesecloth is ideal).
  4. Leave the bowl to stand for several hours – perhaps next to a window if indoors. If possible try to ensure that the flowers have at least 3 hours of sunshine.
  5. After a few hours remove the flowers, using a twig to lift them out of the water. If the flowers wilt sooner than this (they may in fierce sun) then they can be removed earlier.
  6. Measure the remaining liquid and add an equal amount of brandy.
  7. Pour into sterilised dark glass bottles and label carefully.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 4 drops under the tongue 4 times daily or every half hour in times of crisis.

Children: Over 12 years, adult dose; 712 years, half adult dose; 17 years, quarter adult dose.

Plant spirit energies

The spirit of the Hawthorn plant is different from a flower essence which takes its power only from the flowering aspect of the plant. The whole spirit of the plant enables every part of it to share its energy and properties with us.

Although its effects can be quite potent, Hawthorn is quite a subtle herb. It has the ability to give us greater refinement in how we make choices in life. The way in which some of these properties are transferred naturally leads us to a greater focus of energy at the heart centre.

The energy in and around the heart can be quite warming and can remain with you long after the herb has ceased being used.

The spirit energy of the plant appears to have a pulsation that is close to the tempo of a heartbeat. Before taking Hawthorn it is wise to tune into your heartbeat for a few minutes. Hawthorn increases your ability to let go of worries and not only does this have medicinal advantages, such as letting go of stress, but it allows you to release hurt feelings and to permit trust, both in yourself and others. Deep-seated negative thoughts can be diminished or removed and this may even allow you to forgive someone towards whom you previously had bad feelings.

To enhance this heart herb’s activity, it is always good to use it alongside a meditation concentrated both on yourself and on people towards whom you have negative feelings. Although this herb facilitates love and forgiveness for others, it is, in the main, most useful for promoting self-love and self-forgiveness in emotional terms. Hawthorn helps to energise the heart chakra (an energy centre in the body), which naturally balances and aligns the other main chakras.

Hawthorn's spirit energy:

  • Helps to release feelings of disharmony and hate.
  • Reinstates harmony and inner tranquillity.
  • Renews self-love and fortifies the heart.

A traditional affirmation you can use at any time to boost your self-esteem is: 'My courage springs from a heart open enough to offer my strengths without self-consciousness.'

Growing, Harvesting and Processing

Hawthorn grows easily in any garden soil and will tolerate sun or partial shade. Buy a young tree from a nursery or if you are patient, raise the plant from a seed or a cutting.

Growing Hawthorn

Hawthorn rarely needs to be cultivated because it will easily grow from wild seed. The seeds are usually fertilised by carrion insects, attracted by the unpleasant smell of the flower's triethylamines, which can produce an aroma similar to that of rotten meat.

Home-grown

If you wish to plant your own Hawthorn, you can grow it from seed or alternatively use cuttings. Hawthorn can be grown from seed in rich, moist soil but it has a long period of dormancy and may take between 15 and 18 months to show its first roots. It must also be given protection from herbivores – such as rabbits, cows and sheep – for the first three years. If you grow Hawthorn from seed, be aware that it will not flower for the first 20 years. If you wish to use it for hedgerow, grow Hawthorn in seed beds for the first two years then transplant into rows. The young plants are ready to plant into hedges in four years. Regular weeding will help to improve their growth. With the length of germination and the long absence of flowers while the plant matures, it may be preferable (and is certainly easier) to grow Hawthorn from cuttings. It can be propagated this way; indeed one of its popular names, 'Quickset', alludes to its ability to establish quickly, which is a definite advantage if you are considering it for hedging. Water the plants generously, increasing both the frequency and quantity during the summer months. Do not let the soil dry out. Hawthorn leaves like to be misted in dry weather, but do not do it when the blossom is out.

Commercial

Generally Hawthorn is not propagated specifically for commercial use; instead sites where Hawthorn has established itself tend to be claimed and used. Commercial growers of organic and wild crafted plants will obtain certification for their chosen sites. 

Hawthorn hybrids

Hawthorn hybridises freely, so no two shrubs will look the same in a row of ancient trees or copses. Different shapes of leaves and berries and colours of the berries will be evident, but these variations appear to have no detrimental effect on its medicinal qualities.

Harvesting

The leaves should be gathered in the spring when they first unfurl (generally in April) because the tender leaves contain the most active constituents. Flowers can usually be collected in May. They are delicate and are best used fresh; they must be dried carefully if you wish to preserve them. The berries are collected when they have turned a deep red colour after ageing on the tree, towards the end of the season. This is usually from the end of August to October. It is ideal to collect them when they are clean and fresh after a light late-summer rain.

Home-grown

Follow the guidelines above when planning the timing of your harvest. Hawthorn has a marvellous ability to regenerate itself but you should still be careful when harvesting. When picking in the wild it is always important never to take more than a third of any plant family or colony so that you leave plenty of flowers to go on to seed and thus perpetuate the herb.

You can harvest the leaves and flowers by pinching the base of the stalk (where it joins the woody stem) between your fingers and twisting off the flowering top. The flowers are delicate so it is helpful to have a basket lined with cheesecloth held underneath the blossoms to ensure that no wastage occurs. The Hawthorn berries can be harvested by using a modified apple picker in the same way as harvesting the flowers. However it is not necessary to take quite as much care with this process because the berries are robust and easy to handle.

Commercial

The leaves, flowers and berries are sometimes (but not often) harvested by using a 'comb'. The 'comb set' is a little like a dustpan and brush, in that it has a handle and then a ragged, comb-like end that gently pulls off the harvestable parts of the plant. These parts then go into the 'pan' before being transferred to a collecting basket.

Processing

The flowers, leaves and berries should be thoroughly dried. Each part of the plant needs slightly different treatment in order to achieve the best result.

Home-grown

Leaves and flowers must be dried separately because the leaves take slightly longer to dry. However, the method is the same. Put a few flowers or leaves in separate brown paper bags and hang them up in a dry place. Shake the bags frequently to make sure that enough aeration occurs. Alternatively you can place the leaves or flowers on a wire cake rack with a layer of paper towels under them. Leave in any warm, dry place without direct sunlight, shading them if necessary. Replace the paper towels daily until the leaves or flowers dry out. Either method should take only a few days. Take care not to over-dry the flowers, as they are light and delicate and can dry very quickly. Leaves will take a little longer to dry. Check for moisture content by placing one or two leaves or flowers in a glass jar, put on the lid and leave in the sunshine or another heat source. If water droplets appear on the surface of the glass then there is still moisture content and therefore a risk of future spoilage. If this occurs, repeat the process you have chosen until they are dry. 

Berries will take a lot longer than the leaves and flowers to dry because there is more bulk and water content. Placing them in the bottom of a pre-heated oven is one option. Before putting the berries in, turn the oven to 250°C (480°F) and let it heat up for 30 minutes. Switch off the heat and put the berries on a baking sheet and leave in the bottom of the oven for one hour. Then either switch on the heat again as low as possible for a further two hours or finish the drying process in an airing cupboard. When you feel the berries may be dry (they should appear slightly wrinkly), test in a glass jar as before. The berries are very juicy and it is vital to remove completely all the water they contain.

When dried, place leaves, flowers or berries in dark storage jars with a good vacuum seal or simply a screw top. You can also store the leaves in a brown paper bag inside a plastic bag to keep their vitality locked in.

Commercial

Leaves, flowers and berries are collected and processed without the use of mechanical machinery. In China, Hungary and France initially the process is the same: the leaves, flowers and berries are placed on commercial drying racks made from a wooden frame with nylon or cotton gauze stretched across. They are shaded from fierce sunshine and turned twice daily. In some countries sunshine may not be available in the necessary quantities in the spring or autumn so commercial dryers are used in a drying shed or barn.

Note: In Australia, Hawthorn has been declared a noxious weed because of its ability to proliferate so rapidly, taking over land used by other plants.

Preparations for Internal Use

Hawthorn berries have only been used medicinally over the last few decades. Recent research has proved again what the old herbal texts stated: that there is also a great deal of valuable chemistry to be found in the leaves and flowers. Qualified modern herbalists make use of all three.

Triple Hawthorn tincture

Tincturing is a useful method of storing and taking both the fresh and dried herb. The alcohol in a tincture preserves the ingredients indefinitely, with no deterioration. Tinctures are made by first soaking the leaves, blossoms or berries (or all three) in alcohol, then adding water. The alcohol will kill any unfriendly bacteria and fungal spores. The healing properties are best extracted by a mixture of water and alcohol because the flavonoids extract particularly well in water while the other chemical constituents release their components more favourably in alcohol.

Note: Always use utensils that have been cleaned in boiling water – and for good results add one or two drops of lavender, thyme, or tea tree essential oil to the cleaning water.

To make a tincture – standard quantity

  • Use 225 g (8 oz) of dried Hawthorn berries, leaves or flowers or a mixture of all three. If you are using fresh Hawthorn you will need a total amount of 310 g (11 oz). As with dried Hawthorn, you can make the tincture using only one part of the fresh shrub – berries, leaves or flowers, according to the time of year. To this amount you should use a total of about 1 litre (4 cups) of vodka and water mixture. For the vodka, standard 45 per cent proof is effective, but 70–80 per cent proof is better. Proportions of vodka and water used will depend on the strength of the vodka: if using 45 per cent proof, you will use 80 per cent vodka and 20 per cent water; if using 70–80 per cent proof, you will use 40–50 per cent vodka and 50–60 per cent water. 
  • Place the fresh or dried leaves and flowers in a food processor or blender and cover with the vodka (the correct proportion of 1 litre, as above, or add more if this is not enough to cover the herb material). Note that you should not put the whole berries in the blender as the stone can break the liquidiser blade. If using whole berries, add them to the mixture after liquidising the leaves and flowers, or purchase Hawthorn berry powder and add this to the mixture after blending.
  • Blend the ingredients (if using leaves and flowers) until smooth.
  • When smooth, pour the mixture into a large dark glass jar with an airtight lid. Add berries or berry powder if applicable. Shake well, label the jar carefully, and store in a dark place.
  • After 2 days, measure the contents and add the water to make up the rest of the litre of liquid. For fresh berries, leaves and flowers which already have higher water content, add half the amount of water irrespective of the strength of vodka used. Shake well.
  • Leave the mixture for at least 2 weeks, but preferably up to 4 weeks. Shake the jar daily to aid the extraction process.
  • At the end of the allotted time, strain the tincture through a jelly bag, preferably overnight, until you have the very last drop. For best results you can use a wine press.
  • Pour the liquid into dark jars and label clearly. Store in a cool, dark place. For personal use, decant into a 50 ml (2 fl oz) tincture bottle.

Recommended Dosage for Tinctures from Berries, Leaves and Flowers:

Everyday and long-term use: Adults can take 5 ml (1 tsp) of tincture diluted in 25 ml (5 tsp) of water, 3 times a day.

Acute conditions: Adults should increase the dose frequency to every half hour until the severe symptoms have subsided.

Children’s dosages: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Hawthorn decoction

Water-based processes preserve all the qualities of Hawthorn berries very efficiently. Dried or fresh berries may be used, although fresh berries are best.

Making a decoction involves simmering the berries in water for a while then straining off the liquid. This fluid will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. Decoctions are generally used for the harder parts of plants, such as berries and roots.

To make a decoction  standard quantity

  • Use 7 g (¼ oz) dried or 40 g (1½ oz) fresh berries to 900 ml (3¾ cups) of cold water.
  • Put the berries and water in a saucepan (a double boiler is ideal). Bring to a boil for a few minutes then simmer on a very low heat for about 20–30 minutes. During this time the liquid should reduce by about one third and will be quite thick due to the pectin content.
  • Leave to cool then strain through a sieve into a pitcher. Put a little aside for your first cup. Put the pitcher in the refrigerator if storing for longer than a day. If time is limited, strain off the mixture while it is hot straight into a thermos bottle. Have a cup immediately then drink the rest as needed.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 500–700 ml (23 cups) daily.

Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. Children under 12, consult a qualified herbalist.

Case study – heart damage

Jack Dobson was just 37 years old but he had already had two heart episodes (heart attacks), one minor and a slightly more severe one just a year later. The last episode showed a little bit of scar damage on the heart itself. Jack was determined to improve his lifestyle, and taking Hawthorn was part of his new health regime. He had heard that Hawthorn could minimise damage to the heart in the event of a heart episode and would also lessen the likelihood of another episode over the long term, while at the same time improving overall well-being.

Four years later Jack still takes 5 ml (1 tsp) of Hawthorn tincture in the morning and 1 cup of Hawthorn tea in the evening. He feels much fitter and no longer has heart pains or any feeling that he is at risk of another episode.

Hawthorn herbal tea (infusion)

Teas or infusions are usually made from the delicate parts of a plant. In the case of Hawthorn, the young spring leaves and May flowers are used. With both the infusion and the decoction, adults should aim to consume 500–700 ml (23 cups) per day. If you haven’t got a tea sock this tea can be made in a special teapot infuser or in a pot with a plunger.

To make an infusion  standard quantity

  • Use 2–3 g (1 tsp) dried herb or 4–6 g (2 tsp) fresh herb to 250 ml (1 cup) of water. 
  • Put the herb in a tea sock and place in a cup or teapot. Pour on boiling water and let stand for 710 minutes.
  • Remove the tea sock and, if desired, add half a teaspoon of organic cold-pressed honey to sweeten. However, herbal teas are usually most effective drunk without added sweetness. Hawthorn blossom in particular has a very delicate and pleasant taste of its own.

Recommended dosage:

Adults and children should take the same doses as decoction.

Hawthorn capsules

Capsules can be made up from powdered, dried berries, leaves and flowers and like tinctures they can be prepared beforehand and stored ready for use. Capsules are an easily portable remedy. 

To make capsules – standard quantity

  • Approximately 250350 mg of powdered herb fits into a size 00 capsule. Gelatine-free capsules for vegetarians are available.
  • Put a little dried, finely powdered Hawthorn in a saucer and open the ends of a capsule.
  • Using the capsule ends as shovels, push them together until each end is full (one end will have more herb than the other).
  • Slide the ends together carefully, so that you do not lose any powder.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 2 capsules 24 times a day.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Hawthorn wine

The wine is made by first preparing a Hawthorn tea from leaves or flowers, or a decoction from berries. It is also possible to use these together. Sugar or honey is then dissolved in the liquid and it is left to cool. Next live yeast culture is added, which causes the liquid to ferment slowly. After several weeks, the fermentation will be complete, and the brew can be strained, bottled, and stored.

To make Hawthorne wine – standard quantity

  • Use 2.25–4.5 litres (59 pints) of Hawthorn berry decoction, or leaf and flower tea, 1.5–2.5 kg (3–5 lb) of organic sugar, 1 sachet of wine-making yeast (follow instructions on pack before adding to mixture).
  • Mix the tea with the sugar by warming the tea in a saucepan and then stirring in the sugar until it is completely dissolved.
  • Switch of the heat, let cool to a temperature of approximately 18°C (65°F), and then add the live yeast culture.
  • Let it ferment in a wine demijohn with a suitable neck lock so that carbon dioxide can escape freely. While fermentation is taking place, the demijohn should be left in a warm but shaded area.
  • Leave to ferment for up to 6 weeks. The process is complete when bubbles have stopped rippling through the brew and all the sugars have been utilised. It is important to complete the fermentation process, because hurried and incomplete fermentation will produce an unpleasant wine.
  • Upon completion of the process, use a jelly-making strainer to strain the wine.
  • Bottle the wine, label clearly, and store in cool conditions. Remember that cleanliness when making wine is of paramount importance because any contamination can result in a spoiled brew.

Hawthorn added to regular juices

If you are familiar with making your own fruit and vegetable juices and have a machine to process them, then it is useful to know that you can add fresh or dried Hawthorn berries to whatever you are juicing. For a good blood-building and heart tonic formula rich in antioxidants, use 1 part apples, ½ part Hawthorn berries and ½ part beets. Remember that the pectin content of the berries is high and that you must consume the resultant drink immediately after you have finished juicing.

Hawthorn liqueur

A delicious liqueur can be made from Hawthorn berries and brandy. The procedure is very similar to the method for making a tincture.

  • Use only Hawthorn berries for making the liqueur, not leaves or flowers, and replace the vodka with brandy.
  • Use the same amounts of ingredients and proportion of alcohol/water mixture as specified for making the tincture.
  • As you will not be blending the whole berries (as they can break the blade of the blender/food processor), crush the berries and let soak in the brandy for 2 days. Then follow the rest of the instructions given for the tincture. 

No-cook hedgerow jam

This jam is not made in the traditional manner – it requires no cooking. However, the result is surprisingly delicious and tastes very like a cooked jam. It has a delightful flavour and good consistency. It is also very nutritious, retaining its rich array of beneficial vitamins and healthy flavonoids.

To make hedgerow jam – standard quantity

  • Use 2 parts Hawthorn berries, 2 parts Blackberries, 2 parts Elderberries, ½ part Rosehips, with enough pure vegetable glycerine to cover the berries.
  • Pick over all the berries to remove any that are damaged, taking care with the crushable Blackberries and Elderberries.
  • Weigh out the correct quantities carefully. It is important to measure accurately for two reasons: the water content of the Elderberries and Blackberries balances the thickness and sweetness of the glycerine; and the relatively small quantity of Rosehips is because their fluffy seeds would spoil the jam’s texture if a larger amount were used.
  • Place all the berries in a blender and just cover with vegetable glycerine. Alternatively, you can cover them with half glycerine and half maple syrup mixture.
  • You will probably find that it is difficult for the blades to turn, but persist and add more watery berries rather than more glycerine or maple syrup, to avoid making the jam too sweet. The mixture will thicken very quickly, so you will need to work fast.
  • When the mixture is fairly smooth, transfer it to sterilised glass jars. Seal them and label clearly with the contents and the date.

The jam will last for up to a year unopened in the refrigerator. Once the jar is opened, however, you should use the jam within two weeks.

Hawthorn syrup

To make Hawthorn syrup – standard quantity

  • As a rough guide, use 1.1 kg (2½ lb) of dried, crushed berries with enough spring water to cover them. You can also use smaller quantities of berries and water. The recipe also uses brandy and vegetable glycerine.
  • Soak the dried and crushed Hawthorn berries in spring water for 12 days. Use enough water to cover the berries by 2.5 cm (1 in).
  • After this time, process the mixture in a blender or wrap the berries in cheesecloth and crush them once again with a hammer. Leave to soak for another day.
  • Boil the mixture for 2 minutes over a medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Finally, switch off the heat and let steep for another 30 minutes.
  • Strain the mixture thoroughly and reserve the fluid. Squeeze any remaining juice out through a fine but strong cheesecloth bag, or use a wine press. It is important to extract as much of the juice as you can. 
  • Now measure the total volume of all the simmered and strained berry water. Simmer again on a low heat until it reduces down to one quarter of the original volume.
  • Measure the liquid again, and then mix it with an equal amount of a half-and-half brandy and vegetable glycerine mixture (use the best brandy you can afford)
  • Pour into sterilised bottles and refrigerate. It keeps indefinitely.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 90–180 ml (612 tbsp) a day.

Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. Children under 12, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Note: American herbalist Dr Richard Schulze uses Hawthorn syrup as a base for a much more powerful heart tonic: 8 parts Hawthorn berry syrup, 1 part Motherwort tincture, 1 part Ginger root tincture, 1 part Cactus grandiflorus tincture, and 1 part Cayenne tincture. Recommended dosage for adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 38 times a day.

Case study: plaque in bloodstream

Susan has arrhythmia and very cold hands and feet. She had been informed a few years earlier that she had quite bad plaque – a build-up of fats and calcium in the arteries and veins of her bloodstream. She has also been advised that Hawthorn would break down the deposits that had accumulated. However, a year after taking a herbal formula with Hawthorn as a component her condition seemed no better. Upon further advice she increased these doses and therefore the amount of Hawthorn. She also took Hawthorn on its own as well as the original formula. After just one week of taking 5 ml (1 tsp) 3 times daily of a strong Hawthorn tincture, she could for the first time feel a marked improvement. She marvelled at the quick change and was pleased to think that what she felt was surely being reflected internally with reduced plaque levels.

Natural Medicine for Everyone

Hawthorn is considered by the qualified herbalists who prescribe it as extremely safe to take both in the short term and the long term. The British herbalist Simon Mills refers to Hawthorn as one of the safest plants available. Other practitioners refer to it as a 'heart food’, and it has been described this way for hundreds of years.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Hawthorn has been traditionally used in pregnancy to relieve high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, varicose veins and thrombosis. However, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK advises that Hawthorn is best avoided or used with caution during pregnancy, as it has been documented as having 'a stimulant or spasmolytic action on uterine muscle'. For this reason, we advise that you consult a qualified herbalist before using Hawthorn if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Children

Unless a child has been born with a heart problem, Hawthorn can simply be enjoyed as a jam or herb tea on occasions, because the flavonoid and vitamin C-rich content will benefit general health. If there are congenital problems, then Hawthorn is ideal to help repair and protect against a wide variety of conditions, such as high inherited levels of cholesterol. In the UK a greater number of children are being born with heart-related problems or are developing them younger and younger. In the past, certain heart conditions seen by doctors and surgeons in patients over 40 years of age are now being seen in 20-year-olds, due largely to poor nutritional habits. Many children's diets today are far less nutritious and decidedly more harmful in content than those provided in earlier times, even when compared to the diets of underprivileged children in, for example, 19th century Europe. In North America, however, some diet strategies are starting to reverse heart problems.

Follow the guidelines given on the 'Preparations for Internal Use' and 'Herbal Combinations' pages regarding suitability of the different Hawthorn preparations for children. For children of ages below those given, consult a qualified herbalist prior to use.

Elderly people

Hawthorn is one herb that everybody over 50 years old should use daily or weekly. It is an ideal treatment for people who become breathless when walking and who cannot bend down, for those with breathing problems, angina pains or experience of heart episodes (heart attacks).

The herb's qualities as an excellent digestive are also valuable, because this can be a tricky area as we age. Hawthorn can safely be taken alongside many drugs. However, there should be caution when heart drugs based on cardiac glycosides, for example digitalis, are being taken. The same can be said of beta blockers.

Caution

Always consult a qualified herbalist or medical practitioner before embarking on any treatment for a serious illness, or if you are taking other heart drugs or beta blockers.

Herbal Combinations

Herbal combinations are used where the effect of a single herb needs to be complemented in a particular way. However, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a serious medical condition or are taking prescribed medication, you should consult a qualified herbal practitioner before trying any of the following formulas.

Many herbal formulas consist of one main herb and others to support it in varying proportions. A formula may change over time to reflect the changing state of the disease or imbalance. Some heart herbs have varying amounts of cardiac glycosides, which strongly stimulate the heart. These must only be prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner and have therefore not been listed here.

Chilblains

When poor circulation causes cold hands and feet, chilblains can develop. These are areas of skin that have become so tight and contracted due to the cold that they are deprived both of blood and oxygen. Itching, swelling and a burning sensation will result.

Formula: 3 parts Hawthorn berries, flowers, and leaves; 1 part Prickly Ash berries and bark; 1 part Ginger rhizome; ¼ part Cayenne pods (all strong circulatory herbs).

recommended dosage:

Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) tincture 34 times a day.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Heart tonic and restorative

This formula, which should be taken in tincture form, aims to tone and strengthen the heart and support the circulation.

Formula: 6 parts Hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers; 4 parts Motherwort leaves and flowers; 1 part Ginger rhizome; ¼ part Cayenne pods (use the hottest variety or increase the percentage).

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 34 times a day.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Hawthorn is a fine all-round cardiovascular restorative that will help normalise not only heart function but also that of the entire circulatory system. The herb works both in the short term and long term.

Motherwort is a relaxing nervine – that is, it favourably affects the nervous system, helping to dissolve tension and anxiety and at the same time acting as a general tonic for the heart. Where the heartbeat is too fast, perhaps caused by tension and anxiety, this herb will help immediately. Ginger and Cayenne both serve to contribute an extra beneficial effect to the circulatory system.

Atheroma and arteriosclerosis formula

This tincture formula is ideal for any condition that causes thick, fatty, cholesterol-saturated blood. It will help thin the blood, open the blood vessels, and reduce the stickiness of the blood components, while assisting in removing fat deposits.

Formula: 4 parts Red Clover flowers and leaf tops; 4 parts Hawthorn flowers, leaves, and berries; 4 parts Lime blossom flowers; 3 parts Burdock root; 3 parts Ginkgo leaves; 2 parts Alfalfa leaves; 2 parts Garlic syrup; 1 part Cayenne pods.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 34 times daily.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Lime blossom helps to remove cholesterol and prevent future build-ups. Red Clover and Alfalfa thin the blood, and Garlic is rich in sulphurous compounds that beneficially affect blood cholesterol and regulate triglyceride levels. Cayenne stimulates the peripheral circulation, helps thin the blood and disperses fatty deposits. Ginkgo prevents the blood from becoming sticky.

Note: The Garlic is in syrup form in this formula whereas the other components are tinctures. The syrup is made in much the same way as Hawthorn syrup. (See the 'Garlic' e-book for full instructions.) If the syrup cannot be made or consumed in this way, take Garlic separately either in your food (1–3 cloves daily) or in capsules (2 capsules 3 times daily). You can also open up Kyolic Garlic capsules, which do not smell of Garlic, and add to your tincture.

Stress-based heart and circulatory weakness

Lots of heart problems are either initiated by or made much worse by anxiety and stress. 

Formula: 3 parts Skullcap leaves; 3 parts Hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers; 2 parts Black Cohosh root; 2 parts Valerian root; 2 parts Lime Tree flowers; ¼ part Cayenne pods.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 3–4 times daily.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Skullcap deals with conditions ranging from depression to seizures. It helps renew the actual components of the nervous system: taking it over a long period of time ensures lasting renewal can take place. Black Cohosh is a powerful relaxant and normaliser of nerve impulses. Valerian works similarly to Black Cohosh, but it is particularly helpful if sleep is difficult. Lime Tree flowers calm the nervous system and treat high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, by helping the veins and arteries function more efficiently. Cayenne helps the circulation.

Poor memory

This formula, taken as a tincture, will help to clarify the thought processes and improve the memory, particularly useful for older people but also helpful to the young.

Formula: Equal parts of Ginkgo leaves, Hawthorn berries, leaves and flowers, Prickly Ash bark and berries.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 3–4 times daily. 

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. Children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Ginkgo is a cardiovascular herb, like Hawthorn. It can thin sticky blood, guard against blood clots, and very strongly improve cerebral circulation, aiding memory and concentration. For this reason it is also used in the treatment of early senile dementia. Hawthorn will support Ginkgo in this work. Prickly Ash encourages forceful blood circulation, providing almost instantaneous blood surges to the brain.

Varicose veins

Personal genetics and constitution, a lifestyle in which lack of exercise is combined with long hours of standing, or even pregnancy are all factors that can cause poor circulation, which in turn can result in varicose veins. Veins are described as ‘varicose’ when they become enlarged, swollen, and sometimes twisted. They can occur at any age and anywhere in the body, but they are generally associated with the legs.

Formula: 3 parts Hawthorn leaves, flowers, and berries; 3 parts Prickly Ash bark and berries; 1 or 2 parts Dandelion root; ½ part Ginger rhizome; ¼ part Cayenne pods.

RECOMMENDED DOSAGE:

Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 3–4 times daily. 

Hawthorn opens up the arteries and veins and enables better circulation. Prickly Ash, Cayenne and Ginger are also strong circulatory herbs and will tackle the problem very quickly.

The Dandelion is included in case there is also water retention; if there is not, it will not unduly force the kidneys, but it is optional and can be removed from the formula if it seems unnecessary.

Also buy a gel, lotion or ointment of Horse Chestnut and apply topically to the veins. Horse Chestnut will strengthen the blood vessels – which is important because they will be weak and will need to bear the force of the increased and vital circulation. It also reduces fluid retention by decreasing permeability of the capillary walls.

How Hawthorn Works

Hawthorn is composed of a wide range of exciting plant chemistry that works best as a whole rather than isolated components, allowing 'herbal synergy'. 

Hawthorn can be used either long term or short term, but do not assume it is a slow herb; it is capable of dealing with situations very quickly.

Hawthorn preparations can vary in their potency, according to how they have been made.

  • Hawthorn’s flavonoids are responsible for the cardiac actions of the plant. They increase the efficiency with which the heart uses oxygen and help metabolise enzymes. They also act as a mild dilator of blood vessels away from the heart; this lowers blood pressure and relieves the burden on the heart.
  • Four such flavonoids (or bioflavonoids) in Hawthorn include vitexin, quercetin, hyperoside and rutin. The flavonoids also aid the stabilisation of collagen, helping to prevent and treat diseases such as atherosclerosis. Flavonoids are very potent, particularly here in the circulatory system, where they can help prevent the deterioration of the whole system. The walls of the blood vessels are strengthened and kept elastic, flexible, dilated and relaxed.
  • Cholesterol levels can be lowered and the amount of plaque in the arteries reduced by Hawthorn.
  • Hawthorn also contains cardiotonic amines, a nitrogen-type derivative of amino acids. They include phenylethylamine and tyramine, which are believed to have all manner of cardiac-balancing effects, for example promoting better circulation and lowering high blood pressure.
  • Pectin also occurs in large quantities in Hawthorn berries (in fact it makes a solid jelly minutes after the berries are liquefied). Pectin is known both to remove all manner of toxins, including heavy metals and radiation, and to enhance the physiological function of the digestive tract through its physical, chemical and antibacterial properties. (Pectin is not found in the leaves and flowers.)
  • Hawthorn contains phenolic acids, including crategolic acid, citric acid, chlorogenic acid, tartaric acid and triterpene acids, the last of which increase coronary blood flow. Citric acid is cleansing and cooling, having an alkalising effect on the body; it also stimulates bile production and assists in good digestion. Foods that create a sick body are often highly acidifying.
  • Hawthorn's ability to remove water is partly explained by its tannin content, which promotes the release of water by helping to 'rigidify' and dry out cell walls. Tannins are also useful as an anti-infection agent.
  • Hawthorn contains triterpenoids, which have anti-inflammatory, painkilling and oxygen-supplying effects.
  • The blood-thinning and plaque-dissolving qualities of Hawthorn are partly due to its coumarin content. In the plant world, coumarin is prevalent in spring greens.

Main heart/cardiovascular effects

  • Dilates peripheral circulation and that of the heart itself.
  • Increases the tone (strength) of the heart, providing oxygen and either decreasing or increasing heart rate, as needed.
  • Sedative effects of Hawthorn lower high blood pressure and the cardiotonic effects raise low blood pressure.

Glossary

Angina Pectoris

A sudden intense pain in the chest, caused by a momentary lack of sufficient blood supply to the heart.

Antioxidants

Substances that protect cells from free radical damage. 

Arrhythmia

Any deviation from a normal heartbeat.

Arteriosclerosis

Hardening of the arteries.

Beta blockers

Drugs used in the treatment of angina, hypertension, migraine, and anxiety states.

Cardiac Glycosides

Compounds that cause a reaction in the contractile fibres of the heart, strongly stimulating it.

Chakras

In Eastern medicine, chakras are believed to be the body’s energy centres. They exist along the mid-line of the body, in line with the spinal column. They are located in seven regions of the body: the base of the spine, the genitals, the abdomen, the heart, the throat, the centre of the forehead, and the crown of the head.

Cholesterol

A waxy, insoluble substance found in almost all body tissues. High levels of cholesterol in the blood are linked to heart disease.

Coumarins

Substances with anticoagulation properties. They are also sedative, calming and uplifting.

Decoction

A process used to prepare the tougher parts of a plant, such as berries and roots, for consumption. The plant parts are simmered in water, and the liquid is strained off for use.

Flavonoids

A type of plant antioxidant.

Free Radicals

Molecules that exist for a brief period before reacting to create a stable molecule. This reaction causes damage to another molecule and so over time they are capable of causing damage within the body.

Immunity

The capacity and function of the body to fend off foreign bodies (fungi, viruses, bacteria), and/or disarm and eject them.

Infusion

Infusions are water-based herbal preparations used to extract the active qualities of leaves and flowers. They are drunk as tea.

Mitral Stenosis

Narrowing of the mitral valve by inflammation, nearly always caused by rheumatic fever.

OEDEMA

Excessive accumulation of fluid in the body tissues.

Phlebitis

Inflammation of a vein.

Plaque

In this context, plaque does not refer to the substance we try to eradicate from our teeth; however, it does have similar properties in that it is a build-up of undesirable matter – fats and calcium – in the veins and arteries.

Steroids

Fat-soluble organic compounds that have important physiological actions. They include sterols (for example, cholesterol), bile acids, hormones, vitamin D, cardiac glycosides, and sapogenins.

Tincture

An alcohol and water-based preparation. It is made from various parts of a plant, in combination or individually.

Triglyceride

A fatty acid ester of glycerol and carboxylic acid. This is the form in which fat is stored in the body.