Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

Other common names: Mayblossom, whitethorn, hawberry, hagthorn, may tree.

*Note: There are a number of hawthorn species that are used in cooking and medicine. The ones most commonly used are C. monogyna (common hawthorn) C. laevigata, C. oxycantha and C. pinnatifida.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Family: Rosaceae

Actions:

Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, cardiac tonic, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, vasodilator, cholagogue, diuretic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory.

Harvest:

Pick the berries when they are bright red and fat, usually they are ready in August or September.

Common hawthorn flowers. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Common hawthorn flowers. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Part used: Berries

*Note: The seeds of the berries contain cyanogenic glycosides and can be toxic if they are eaten raw. Hawthorn should be cooked/processed/purified in order to be used safely for medicinal purposes. It’s best to use berries that are prepared by someone who has knowledge and experience in preparing them.

Constituents: 

Polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids (including rutin, quercetin, vitexin and hyperoside), tannins, triterpene acids, oligomeric proanthocyanidins, B and C vitamins and others.

Indications:

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart health maintenance, heart arrhythmia, chest pain, heart racing from anxiety, poor circulation, artherosclerosis, migraines, muscle spasms, acne, sluggish liver (it increases bile production), urinary/fluid retention.

Diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Medicinal preparations:

Internal

Hawthorn can be used in jams (and other culinary dishes), tinctures, capsules, vinegars, tea decoctions and other internal preparations.

External

Hawthorn extracts (and even sometimes an infusion of the flowers) can be used in products for acne and other dermal conditions.

Contraindications:

Do not administer medicinally to children under 18. Allergic reactions to the berries have been documented – if you begin to experience a rash, dizziness or other side effects, stop taking hawthorn and get medical attention. Do not use in medicinal doses if pregnant, nursing, or if you have a cardiac illness (without talking to a physician). Also speak with a doctor prior to use if you are taking any medications (especially phenylephrine, or meds for heart disorders, male sexual dysfunction, or blood pressure regulation – taking it with digoxin, nitrates or calcium channel/beta blockers can cause a fatal interaction). Do not take in excessively high doses. Overdosing can cause chest pain and heart arrhythmia. Do not take in medicinal quantities without the guidance of a qualified herbal medicine practitioner.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Energetic/traditional use:

Hawthorn has been revered as a heart tonic throughout history. Not only for physical heart health, but also for emotional conditions of the heart. People suffering from grief after a loss, or broken relationships, would use hawthorn jam or other preparations to help them find strength.

The first may poles were crafted using hawthorn. The plant was energetically associated with unconditional love, forgiveness, cleansing of the soul, and attracting guardians from the fae realms. It was considered to add potency to spells and rituals, making it easier to communicate with other realms. It was also used to boost fertility, and bring good fortune to a household or relationship. Some, however, believed it was bad luck to bring a hawthorn branch into the house if it had blossoms on it.

Some say that the Welsh goddess Olwen created the Milky Way by walking across the universe and leaving a trail of hawthorn petals behind.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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