Hawthorn: Berry of the Heart

Crataegus monogyna (Rosaceae), is otherwise known by the common names of Hawthorn, Red Haw, Whitethorn, Maybush, & Hedgethorn.

Botany, Growth, and Habitat

Hawthorn belongs to the Rosaceae, or Rose family, in the Almond Subfamily of Amygdaloidea or the Apple group. Like most rose family berries; Hawthorn will sweeten a bit after the first frost and cling to the branch well into winter.  The

 fleshy fruit has a five-pointed star on the bottom next to its serrated leaves, which identifies the Hawthorn fruit, five separate petals (when in bloom), and thorny branches. The berries come in a variety of colors such as black, blue, red, or yellow. Beautiful little white or pink flowers start showing off their colors in late spring and grow in large clusters that are irresistible to native bees and other pollinators alike.

Hawthorn thrives in full sun and well-drained soil, however, can tolerant drought-like conditions once established. It commonly grows as thorny shrubs or small trees in North America. Hawthorn’s cultivation is popular among city dwellers because they are tolerant of atmospheric pollution and grow well in towns, cities, or by main roads and industrial estates.

  History and Tradition

It is known that Hawthorn was popular amongst female healers because of its rose embalmed beauty and feminine-like properties most rose family plants feature. In 1695 an “anonymous healer” known only as a woman practitioner, was recorded to have used Hawthorn berries for supporting heart health, however, the origins of using Hawthorn in European folk medicine of the Middle ages are said to be lost. After Dr. Jennings wrote of Hawthorne in 1896, its beneficial use spread to Europe where its biochemical properties were researched.

Black Hawthorn has many Ethnobotanical uses in British Columbia amongst the First Nations people. They used the thorns for fishing hooks, piercing ears, and probing at skin blisters. The Latin name, Crataegus, comes from a Greek word meaning strength, likely because the wood itself is strong.

Modern Uses

Today, Herbalists understand Hawthorn berries to contain flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin, in addition to pectin. Its somewhat sweet, sour, and astringent nature supports a healthy strong heart. Hawthorn promotes healthy blood circulation and in return may support labored breathing, chest oppression, and coronary circulation. Western herbalists consider this herb when nourishing the heart muscle, therefore labeling it as a heart trophorestorative and use it for long term use in many tonic formulas.  In this case, a smaller daily intake is popular for a longer period of time.

Chinese Herbalists consider the berry essential in formulas addressing food stagnation. These formulas are most likely optimizing digestion of undigested proteins and fats.

Preparation

Hawthorn berry is typically used by tincture or a strong hot water infusion or decoction. However, fresh berries make wonderful syrups, preserves, and even ice cream! The berries are pectin rich when pulped and help set jams and jellies when added.

Hawthorne flower is most popular in Europe and is picked when the stamens are highest in pink pollen. Be sure to let our friendly pollinators get their fill first! 

Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small batch skincare company, and grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently a customer service representative at WishGarden Herbs.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.

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