top of page

Hawthorn


 


Hawthorn  Crataegus   Family: Rosaceae  Energetics: slightly cooling/neutral
Hawthorn

Hawthorn

Crataegus 

Family: Rosaceae

Energetics: slightly cooling/neutral

 

Background


Hawthorn has been known for its affinity for the heart for centuries. At the beginning of the 1800s, doctors in America were using it for health purposes, such as circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. Hawthorn is known to remedy cardiorespiratory problems, high blood pressure, chest pains, and heart failure (3). All parts, the leaves, flowers, and berries are used medically. Hawthorn originates from the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America (5). Hawthorns are covered in sharp thorns that serve as a hedge of protection against prey animals.

 

Description

 

The thorny shrub of the rose family flowers around the start of May in the Northern Hemisphere. Hawthorn trees are found in small grooves and hedges, produce a plethora of white to pink flowers, and grow up to five feet in height (3). Following pollination, small berries grow from the leaves in the colors white, red, or pink. Under ripened conditions, a red or black color will appear. A single tree can produce over 2,000 berries, sometimes lasting till/during winter (10).


Some call the herb “May, Maythorn, and thorn apple” (6). You may be able to find Hawthorn in a forest understory or other wide range of habitats such as abandoned fields, pastures, grasslands, shrublands, and more (1).

 

Of Mythology & History



There is folklore behind the cutting of the hawthorn; cutting down the branches may bring bad luck (especially if the branches are brought indoors). Historically, Maypoles were also made from Hawthorn trees chosen for their beautiful flowers that pop in May. Maypoles also usher in dancing, happiness, and food-based celebrations.

 

Hawthorn berry symbolizes hope, love, marriage, and intimacy (6). The large thorns that grow from the stems are used as a symbol of strength and protection. Myth has it, that if one is to sit under a Hawthorn tree, one will be taken into a dream-like world - connected to an underworld (4).

 

Hawthorn consists of sharp thorns which come from the Celtic phrase “By Oak, Ask and Thorn.” Its association with the gateway to the faerie world is long-standing, but Hawthorn’s place in myth and folklore extends well beyond the UK and the Celts. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used Hawthorn to signify marriage or birth ceremonies and associated with the goddess Cardea, a symbol of home.


In Christian traditions, it is associated with the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. In Arabic culture, Hawthorn is associated with death and was used for funeral pyres. In Serbia, the wood from the tree was used for carvings, as well as a defense mechanism to keep vampires away. Since the thorns serve as protection, some see the tree as a protector of all the small, vulnerable, and weak. Among other beliefs, it offers the magic of shelter and protection and teaches us to recognize the connection between what is offensive and what is healing (4).

 

Herbal Preparations


Hawthorn berries can be decocted, jammed, cooked, powdered into supplements, or infused with wine and vinegar. The berries are valued for Vitamin C, flavonoids, and other antioxidants. You can eat the leaves if you pick them off the branch in the spring when they are at their most nutritious, or added to salads with the edible flowers (8).

 

Medical Uses


The first study of Hawthorn under medical view was published in 1896, promising Hawthorn’s ability to help aid those with heart failure (9). Studies continue to look at the berry and its effect on the heart. Today it is used to help control high blood pressure and cholesterol (6).


The berries act as a gentle digestive aid after eating heavy meals. Helpful for increasing blood flow, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, and used traditionally to reduce the frequency of arrhythmias (12). Some people have reported benefit in treating chest pains (3).

 

Pharmaceuticals


Within the past twenty years, more than 150 chemical compounds have been found, separated, and characterized in the leaves, berries, and flowers of Hawthorn (6). From the berry alone we find flavonoids (reduce risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, and blood pressure), triterpenoids (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, liver/ cardiovascular protection), oligomeric proanthocyanidins (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic) and organic acids (reduce gastric pH, prevent pathogens, improve gut health) (21-24).

 

Precautions


Work with a clinical herbalist to get the dosage and preparation right for you; and speak to your healthcare provider.

 

The following medications should not be used with Hawthorn unless your provider approves, including Digoxin, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, Phenylephrine, and nitrates. Hawthorn may also increase or change the effects of blood pressure medications, and heart medications (9). 


This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or cure disease.



Resources

(1) Adamant, A. (2018). Homemade Hawthorn Jelly. Practical Self Reliance. https://practicalself reliance.com/hawthorn-jelly/

(2) De La Foret, R. (2017). alchemy of Herbs. Hay House, Inc.

(3) Hawthorn Information. (2024). Mount Sinai. https:// www.mountsinai.org/ health-library/ herb/hawthorn

(5) Lang, A., Shoemaker, S. (2023). 9 Impressive Health Benefits of Hawthorn Berry. Healthline.

(6) Pivarnik, M. (2019). The History, Mythology, and Offerings of Hawthorn. Herbal Academy.  Hawthorn-offerings

(7) Roles and Mechanisms of Hawthorn and Its Extracts. (2020). National Library of Medicine.

(8) Macfarlane, S. (2023). 5 Ways to Harness the Health Benefits of Hawthorn Berries. Wild Dispensary. https://wilddispensary.co.nz/blogs/news/health-benefits-of-hawthorn-berries

(9) Windsor, R. (2023). Hawthorn: Benefits and Nutrition. Very Well Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-hawthorn-89057

(10) Common Hawthorn Identification and Control. (2024). King County. common-hawthorn

(11) Hawthorn. (2024) University of Rochester Medical Center. Content.aspx

(13) Hawthorn Tree Meaning. (2021). The Present Tree. https://thepresenttree.com/blogs/ tree-meanings/every-hawthorn-tree-has-a-story

(14) Meeks, S. (2022). What To Know About Hawthorn Berries. MedicalNewsToday. hawthorn-berry

(15) Price, A. (2017). 5 Hawthorn Health Benefits that May Surprise You. Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/nutrition/hawthorn-berry/

(16) Ackerson, A. (2006). Hawthorn. Better Nutrition. pdfviewer

(17) Nichols, L. (2021). Hawthorn: Berry of the Heart. WishGarden Herbs. https://www.wishgardenherbs.com/blogs/wishgarden/hawthorn-berry-of-the-heart

(18) Hawthorn Berry Recipes. My Nature Look. https://mynaturenook.com /hawthorn -berry -recipes/

(19) Hawthorn Berry Precautions. (2024). National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/hawthorn

(20) Dr. Eric Berg DC. (2021, August 1). The Benefits of Hawthorn Berry (Video). YouTube.

(21) WebMD. (2023). Top Foods High in Flavonoids. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com /diet/foods-high-in-flavonoids

(23) Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes. (2000). National Library of Medicine.

(24) Azarpajouh, S. (2022). All You Need to Know about Organic Acids. All About Feed.

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page