By Dr. Amy Loschert, ND, FABNO
Hawthorn Finds It’s Home In The Heart
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is a small tree or bush with white flowers and bright-colored edible berries. There are over 100 species of native and cultivated hawthorns in North America. The native species in the Pacific Northwest have deep green leaves and blue-black berries. It is a member of the rose family and acts on both the physical and emotional heart when we need it most. The tasty berries, flowers, and leaves of the tree are used medicinally to strengthen the heartbeat and reduce pressure in the arteries. It has been shown to protect against oxidation of cholesterol into the harmful LDL form and increase our body’s natural reserves of other antioxidants that protect us against heart disease (Zhang, 2001). Hawthorn’s effect on the body is gentle, so the medicine in tea or liquid extract form can be taken as a long-term heart and circulatory system ally. As a nutritious herb containing antioxidants and vitamin C, it is an excellent herb for repairing damaged tissue. It is also a well-known remedy for calming the nerves when going through difficult situations. It supports joint integrity, veins, tendons, and ligaments. It also improves circulation, improving blood flow to the extremities.
The history of Hawthorn as a plant friend to the Northwest Native People is explained by local herbalist and teacher, Elise Krohn. “In addition to the flowers and berries being used as a medicine, the large blackthorns were used to make fishhooks, sewing awls, and lances for probing blisters, boils, and for piercing ears. The wood is unusually hard and has been fashioned into tools and weapons. It also makes long-lasting and hot fuel.”
The Heart As a Sense Organ
While this plant is so beneficial to the physical heart and circulatory system, Hawthorn’s therapeutic reach extends far beyond the physical realm. Author Sarah Baldwin writes, “The plant spirit of Hawthorn is one of the most beneficial for healing and opening the energetic heart. This is a critical medicine, as Western culture suffers greatly from physical heart disease and emotional heart blockage alike.
The heart chakra, or energy center, is literally at the very center of our being, the middle ground between the earthly, lower chakras and the heavenly, upper chakras. The heart is what allows us to rise above mere survival, pleasure, and will-power and to feel true love for others and for life itself. Our hearts connect us to our families, partners, and friends, as well as to the world at large. The heart is now being recognized as a primary organ of perception, with the ability to sense information from other living beings from a much farther distance than our brain’s ability to perceive them. Our hearts process our emotions and allow us to feel the greatest feeling of all—love. Getting the heart pumping with feelings of gratitude and joy also boosts our ability to manifest our desires. Clearly, caring for our hearts, both physically and metaphysically, is of immeasurable value to our lives.”
Encouraging an Attitude of Gratitude
One way we can attain a more love-filled life is to transform our thoughts. An exercise that can be amazingly effective is to focus on gratitude through journaling each night before bed — writing down three things in your life or that you acknowledge from your day that you feel grateful for. A thankful heart doesn’t just exist. Our minds are programmed to fulfill desires focused on achievement and accumulation of “things.” To go beyond these material desires, which only lead to discomfort and pain in the long run, we must flex and work out our mental muscles to change our thoughts. This, in turn, leads to the opening of the heart in ways we never thought possible.
Hawthorn Syrup for the Heart
from one of my favorite herbal sources, Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon
Yields about 1/2 gallon of elixir.
- 4 cups fresh hawthorn berries (or 2 cups dried organic hawthorn berries)
- 2 organic vanilla beans
- 2 organic Cassia cinnamon sticks
- 1 Tbsp. organic cardamom pods
- 1.75 L brandy
- 1 cup raw, local honey (or to taste)
- Put herbs into a half-gallon jar.
- Pour brandy into a jar.
- Infuse for 4 to 6 weeks (or until the winter solstice, if you’re harvesting in autumn).
- Shake daily!
- Strain into another half-gallon jar.
- Stir in the honey until dissolved. Use, depending on how sweet you want elixir.
- Decant elixir into dropper bottles.
- Create a pretty label for the dropper bottles.
- A gift to friends and family!
Baldwin, S. (1970, January 1). The Spirit of Hawthorn: Healing the Heart. Retrieved from http://moonflowersarah.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-spirit-of-hawthorn-healing-heart.html
Hawthorn. (2020, January 28). Retrieved from http://wildfoodsandmedicines.com/hawthorn/
Mason. (2019, January 25). Homemade Hawthorn Berry Elixir for Heart Health. Retrieved from https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/hawthorn-elixir-for-the-heart
Zhang, Z., Chang, Q., Zhu, M., Huang, Y., Ho, W. K., & Chen, Z.-Y. (2001). Characterization of antioxidants present in hawthorn fruits. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 12(3), 144–152. doi: 10.1016/s0955-2863(00)00137-6