Genus and Species
Cragaegus, Monogyna, Laevigate, Pinnatifida, oxyacantha
Hawthorn, thornapple, May-tree, quickthorn, white-thorn
Berry, leaf and flower
Sour, astringent, sweet
Degree of Action
Excitation, atrophy, relaxation
Flavanoids, procyanidin, vitamin C, vitamin B, quercitin, triterpenoids, catetegin, rutin
Cooling, moistening, astringent
Because of its strong medicinal properties related to the heart, hawthorn may potentiate beta-blockers and may also interfere with testing for cardiac glycoside medications. Therefore, for those who have serious cardiac issues, they should work with their physician when using hawthorn.Large doses of the leaf or flower may irritate the stomach.
As a tea: I like to combine hawthorn with linden, holy basil, chamomile, rose and cardamom as a delicate and delightful tea for calming the nervous system as well as nourishes the heart. As a tincture: take 3-5 ml every two to three hours for acute conditions and two to three times a day for chronic conditions. David Winston prefers a tincture of 50% berries, 35% flowers and 15% leaves for optimal medicinal properties. This may be easily made by tincturing the berries separate and the leaves and flowers together (these are picked together and usually are gathered in a proportion that is mostly flowers with just small percentage of leaves).A hawthorn berry paste may be made by simply combining a powder of dried hawthorn berries with enough glycerine to make a thick paste. This may be stored in a small container in the refrigerator to be used within a month’s time.
Cardiac weakness, heart related illnesses, high cholesterol, mitral valve prolapse, hypertension, poor capillary and venous integrity, attention deficit disorder, tendinitis, anxiety, depression, allergies, asthma, stagnant digestion
Hawthorn is a genus of about 280 species ranging from small shrubs to large trees. The species most commonly used for medicine making are laevigata, monogyna, pinnatifida and oxyacantha. Hawthorn trees are native to the northern hemisphere in Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The name describes the tree quite well. The name crataegus comes from the Greek word “Kratos” which means strength and “Akis” which means sharp. The common name of Hawthorn is derived from the Old English term “haw” meaning hedge. Hawthorn is truly a strong tree know for its ability to live for over 100 years and producing sharp sturdy thorns. The thorns are so durable that Native Canadians used them as fishhooks. In North America the wood of the hawthorn was also used to make tool handles and fence posts because of its superior strength. In Europe hawthorn often grows in thick hedges along the countryside. Springtime welcomes white flowers on the tree which then give birth to bright red cluster of nutritious berries in the autumn. Cultures around the world reach for these berries to make delicious treats as well as staples of food using both the fresh and the dried berries for jellies, jams, juices, wines, infused vinegars and potent medicines. Hawthorn trees are easy to propagate from a mother tree which produces saplings beneath her thorny branches. If you have a neighbor or a friend who is fortunate enough to have a hawthorn tree in their yard, be sure to ask them if you can dig up one of the sapling underneath their hawthorn.
Hawthorne has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a digestive stimulant and a heart stimulant for centuries. According to Dr. Christopher Hobb, hawthorn’s use as a heart tonic dates back to the 17th century. It was used by homeopathic and allopathic doctors in Europe as an herb for cardiovascular issues from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Hawthorn began to be used in as heart medicine in the Americas in the late 1800’s as well. It is interesting to note that Felter’ Materia Medica dated 1922 talked about its benefits to the heart but stated that it was “a new remedy still on trial”.Today when an herbalist thinks of heart medicine, often the first picture that comes to mind is that of the vibrant red hawthorn berries. It is used as a general heart trophorestorative to strengthen the heart muscle and it the circulatory system to help specific conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, angina, valvular insufficiency and to prevent or eliminate plaque on the arterial walls. We understand that many of the medicinal property related to hawthorn’s affinity for the heart lie in its high bioflavanoid content which decreases inflammation and oxidative stress related to heart disease while both the bioflavonoids and the proancyanidins tone and strengthen the heart muscles as well as the arteries and veins. Hawthorn is known to help decrease high cholesterol levels. A personal experience involving the benefits of hawthorn to the circulatory system came when my brother called me one day and asked if I could suggest anything for my sister-in-law because she had an irregular heartbeat and racing heart for some years and the medication was no longer working. She was schedule to have an ablation. This procedure involves using electrodes measure the heart’s electrical activity. When the source of the heart rhythm irregularity is found the procedure produces scar tissue to destroy the tissue causing the problem. After taking hawthorn for about two-three weeks, she went into the hospital for the procedure. However, the doctor could not finish the procedure. He stated that he was dumbfounded and had never had this problem before but he could not get her heart to race in order to finish the procedure. He could not figure out why! She then informed him she had been taking herbs to help her heart. Hawthorn or coincidence? With her long history of this heart issue, I can’t help but believe hawthorn was helping her heart. Another great use for hawthorn was explained to me by David Winston in one of his monthly “Herbal Salon’s”. He explained hawthorn’s use in helping to restore connective tissue, especially to ligaments and tendons due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Rosemary Gladstar further explained this benefit by stating that hawthorn helps to stabilize collagen. This could also be one of the reasons it is so helpful in building the capillaries (Gladstar – p 146). Matthew Woods gives an important indication for the use of hawthorn. “If the meaty parts of the palm, especially near the wrist are red…if these fatty tissues are depressed with a finger and this is followed by blanching…This is a keynote indication for hawthorn” (Woods – p 211). He also states that that dryness on the back of the hands and wrists is an indication of hawthorn, probably because this indicates a deficiency of lipids being available to the cell walls. It is interesting that traditional Chinese herbalism uses hawthorn for digestion that is slow, especially in the ability to break down meat. In Europe during the Renaissance people often used hawthorn berries when eating meat so that it would be easily digested. When I taste hawthorn, I get a sense of a gentleness yet strength in its properties. Being more of a stagnant type of disposition I first get the sensation of its astringency along with it’s cooling effect.
In a randomized, double-blind study conducted with 40 patients with cardiovascular disease in which physical activity would cause fatigue, heart palpitation, dyspnea or angina pain, patients were given either a placebo or a hawthorn extract standardized to 18.75 oligomeric procyanidins, three capsules daily. After 12 weeks to group who received the hawthorn reported the following: exercise tolerance increased 10.8% vs a decrease of 16.9% in the placebo group. The hawthorn group had a decrease of 26.8% in their blood pressure vs a decrease of only 2.7 in the placebo group.
“Crataegus.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Mar. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crataegus.
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Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: a Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. North Atlantic Books, 2008.Tierra, Michael. The Way of Chinese Herbs. Pocket Books, 1998.Forêt, Rosalee de la. Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal. Hay House, Inc., 2017. Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstars Medicinal Herbs: a Beginners Guide. Storey Publishing, 2012.“Hawthorn: For the Heart.” Dr. Christopher Hobbs, www.christopherhobbs.com/library/articles-on-herbs-and-health/hawthorn-for-the-heart/.“Crataegus.” Crataegus. | Henriette's Herbal Homepage, www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/felter/crataegus.html.Orhan, Ilkay E. “Phytochemical and Pharmacological Activity Profile of Crataegus Oxyacantha L. (Hawthorn) .” Sci-Hub, 2018, sci-hub.tw/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27655074.