Botanical name: Crataegus oxyacantha
Parts used: leaves, flowers, berries
Properties: slightly cool/dry, cardiac trophorestorative, relaxing nervine, digestant, astringent, diuretic, antioxidant
Used for: heart related illness, cardiac weakness, stagnant digestion, regulation of blood pressure
Plant preparations: tea, tincture, vinegar, syrup, honey.
There is nothing that pleases me more than using native, abundant plants that are growing all around us and just waiting to restore health and balance to our bodies and minds. And this time of year is such a treat as “berry season” is in full swing.
Today I want to talk about our wonderful Hawthorn. Such a familiar presence in the Irish countryside, almost “common”, and also having a long medicinal history in the Eastern traditions and the American traditions. But what we often pass by is the incredible health food that it bears right throughout the year that if used correctly can be a wonderful annual tonic to support heart health. Yes, our very own Hawthorn is one of the most nourishing heart herbs around.
What parts should I use?
The young leaves harvested in spring and the flowers in early summer are used as medicine, and can be prepared in a strong infusion as a heart and also as a digestive tonic. However the strongest medicine is said to be in the berries, which are dripping from the trees right now!
What is Hawthorn good for?
Well Hawthorn is what is know as a cardiac trophorestorative. In layman’s terms this means that it restores balance to the heart. It also indicates a herbs that if used for a period of time and then discontinued, the benefits are maintained and lasting. It is a tonic herb that can be taken over long periods of time without concern and is safe with most medications. The one contraindication is for people on blood thinners such as Warfarin or aspirin. In these cases one should consult with their prescribing doctor.
A list of aliments that Hawthorn can support –
• Regulates both high and low blood pressure.
• Regulate cholesterol levels.
• It is rich in antioxidants, reducing oxidative damage to capillary walls.
• It reduces the impact of stress on the heart due to its relaxing nervine properties.
• It has been used to settle people who are restless, irritable and unable to focus.
• It is also a powerful support for emotional heartbreak to ease the burden on the physical and emotional heart.
How do I prepare the Hawthorn?
There are a number of ways to prepare the Hawthorn to use over the winter. Some include infused honey, vinegar, tincture, dried for decoction (strong herbal tea). However, my favorite preparation is Hawthorn Berry Syrup, which will last longer and is delicious as well as so good for you. So this is the recipe I will share today.
So any of you who feel moved to take action, now is the time. The berries are everywhere. Remember basic rules about wildcrafting such as not next to a busy road! The way I see it is we all have a heart and it’s pretty important on all levels so everyone of us could do with getting this into us! And the added benefit of harvesting and preparing a medicine yourself should not be underestimated. This is about empowerment & preventative medicine. So if you have a heart of any description get yourself a bucket and get out there this weekend. What a lovely thing to do for yourself!
Hawthorn Berry Syrup Recipe
• Put your fresh hawthorn berries into a pan and fill with filtered water to the level of 2 inches above the berries. Heat and simmer under 130F for 20-30minutes, stirring.
• Remove the mixture from the heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid off and set aside in a clean container.
• Mash the remainder of the berries and cover with filtered water again to the level of 1 inch above berries.
• Heat again and simmer while stirring for approx.. 20 minutes.
• Strain the liquid and press the excess liquid from the berries, ideally with muslin cloth.
• Combine the 2 batches of liquid in a clean pan, heat and simmer to a syrup, approx. ¼ of the original volume.
• Take off the heat and add ¼ volume of vegetable glycerin or honey. Mix well and let cool.
• Finally add ¼ of the volume of good quality brandy. Mix well and bottle. Store in cool dry place for up to 6 months.
• Once a bottle is opened it should be refrigerated. Recommended dosage is ½ tsp. 3 times daily.