Getting to the Heart with Hawthorn

As flowering plants bloom in the spring, hawthorn makes its unpleasant (I'll explain in a minute) yet beautiful arrival. Hawthorn has been revered much longer than traditional May Day festivities in it's indigenous habitat of West Asia, North Africa, and most of Europe. It's own genus name, Crataegus, reveals the true age of this plant - dating back to 140-170 million years ago. The ancestors of the human race would forage for the leaves, flowers, and bark of the shrub-like tree for various medical and survival purposes. We weren't the only creatures who sourced hawthorn; other wild creatures of the land ate the hearty berries. There are over 300 species of hawthorn, but in this post we'll focus on a single species: C.

laevigata.


History and Folklore

The botanical name Crataegus oxyacantha derives from the Greek kratos, “hardness”, oxcux, “sharp” and akantha “thorn”(1).


In Celtic mythology, the faeries and wee folk guard and protect the hawthorn tree. Hawthorn was often found isolated, or with other hawthorn tree, in the country sides throughout Europe and thus served as a time portal when humans would communicate with it. To harm a tree in any way would result in an uproar from its protective guardians.


Around May Day festivities, blossoms were incorporated into decorative garlands. These assorted garlands could be placed anywhere but in the house, as the people deemed it as bad luck. It was reported that the blossoms wreaked of the Great Plague in London. Later, scientists discovers that the chemical trimethylamine resides in the blossom, which is also present in decaying animal tissue.


This mystical plant is associated with fertility


Ethnobotany

Body Affinity

circulation, heart, kidneys, and nerves


Constituents

- flavonoids (higher content in flowers)

- oligomeric procyanidins (higher content in leaves)

- proanthocyanidins


Herbal Actions

anti-arrhythmic, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-ischemic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardio-tonic, chronotrophic,diuretic, hypotensive, sedative, vasorelaxant


Medicinal Use

Traditionally, Native Americans harvested hawthorn to treat rheumatism. Hawthorn is incorporated to assist with digestion issues in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Many cultures around the world have treated cardiovascular disease with hawthorn, and finally science proves its effectiveness.


Over the past two decades, studying the phytochemical synergistic interactions of herbal medicine, to include hawthorn, has widened its use in modern medicine. Hawthorn has been used (with a health care provider's provision) for health conditions such as congestive heart failure, angina, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrhythmia (2).


Spiritual Herbalism and Medical Astrology

Magickal Properties

Chakra: Heart

Element: Fire

Energetics: Cool and dry

Planet: Mars

Associated with: love, protection, health, and death


As I strolled the local occult shop a couple years ago, I entered into the room radiating aromatically of herbs. I was lead to pick up hawthorn after collecting the herbs on my list. I've read about its remarkable effects in regards to the heart, but hadn't tried it myself. Sometimes we disassociate ourselves from what an herb has to offer because of the knowledge we have of it's medicinal properties. I want to challenge you to discover the holistic spirit of an herb and what it has to offer. After concocting the hawthorn tincture, I celebrated with a warm cup of hawthorn tea. Knowing I hadn't experienced the plant solely, I sat in silence while my pathway from my mouth to my stomach vibrated in warmth and love. To put simply, it was an eye opening experience. It was awhile since I've been in a state of joy and peace.


In times of solitude and reflection, hawthorn may be incorporated into your spiritual practice. As it's correlated to the heart chakra, your perspective is projected from your heart. Many of us have an outward look with the mind; which is necessary, but there needs to be a balance between the two affinities. Hawthorn brings up unresolved issues of the heart that may be blocking the energetic flow through the heart. It holds a mirror to wounds so you may look at them with a heart overflowing with love and forgiveness. The healing that hawthorn offers is profound.


Preparation and Methods of Delivery

Infusion: Simmer hawthorn in water for 5-15 minutes. sip up to three cups daily. For a stronger brew, seal into a jar after simmering and allow to sit for 4-12 hours (3).

Tincture: Take 2-4ml up to three times daily

Flower Essence:

Jams, Wine, etc: This is a great way to preserve hawthorn berry. It's best to harvest the fruit in autumn. May be spread out to dry or made into jams and jellies to be served as desired. Drink responsibly ;)

*friendly reminder* in respect to the plant kingdom, ask for permission and give thanks to your harvest (foraged and bought)


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References

2. Tassell, M. C., Kingston, R., Gilroy, D., Lehane, M., & Furey, A. (2010). Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Pharmacognosy reviews, 4(7), 32–41. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.65324

3. Ferrell, V.H and Cherne H.M. (2010). The natural remedies encyclopedia. Harvestime Books; Seventh Edition

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About

The herbalist, chemist, and medicine maker at Asili Apothecary, Gloria created this space to facilitate healing and learning for yourself and those around you. The apothecary and homestead is based in Fayetteville, NC. Gloria enjoys time with her family and Mother Nature.

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