Family: Rosaceae, or Rose
Synonyms and Common names: Mayflower, May tree, Quickset, Whitethorn, Maybush, May blossom, Haw, Halves, Hag thorn, Ladies' Meat, Bread, and Cheese tree.
Description and Habitat:
Hawthorn is a deciduous shrubby tree with smooth thorny shoots, and three-lobed stipulate leaves.
It has small white, or pink, five-petaled flowers, with short triangular sepals are arranged in corymbs, and on long stalks, each with prominent stamens around the nectary and carpels.
Hawthorn’s berry is red with white mealy flesh, and a large stone. It grows in hedgerows and copses throughout Britain and all temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.
Parts used: Flowering tops, dried ripe fruits, leaves.
Collection and preparation: The flowering tops are harvested in late spring and early summer, and the berries in September and October. Dry the tops and berries in a warm dark place, and keep in screw-top jars somewhere where it's dark.
Constituents: Saponins, glycosides, flavonoids, acids, including ascorbic acid, and tannin.
Actions: Cardiac tonic, hypotensive, diuretic.
Indications and Therapeutics:
Hawthorn berries provide us with one of the best tonic remedies for the heart and circulatory system. They act in a normalising way upon the heart, by either stimulating or depressing its activity depending upon the need.
In other words, Hawthorn berries will move the heart to normal function in a gentle way. As a long term treatment, they may safely be used in heart failure or palpitations.
As a tonic for the circulatory system, they find their primary use in the treatment of high blood pressure, again normalising high and low blood pressure. Also treatment for arteriosclerosis and angina pectoris.
Whilst they can be very effective in the aiding of these conditions, qualified attention is essential before using Hawthorn.
Both the flowers and the berries are astringent, and a decoction of these will help ease sore throats.
Should only be used under qualified supervision. Hawthorn may increase the effect of other Cardioactive drugs when taken simultaneously.
Preparation and dosage:
Infusion: 2 teaspoonsful of the dried flowers and leaves, pour over 1 cupful of boiling water and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink this infusion 3 times daily.
Decoction: Decoction is made using one teaspoonful of the crushed, dried berries, pour 2 cupful’s of boiling water over and simmer in a pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink three times daily.
Tincture: Take 2-4ml three times daily.
Additional comments and Folklore:
The botanical name of hawthorn is derived from the Greek kratos meaning hardness (of the wood), oxus (sharp), and acantha (a thorn).
The German name of hagedorn means hedgethorn; haw is also an old word for hedge.
Hawthorn was traditionally used in Europe for kidney and bladder stones and as a diuretic.
In China, the berries of Hawthorn is known as shan zha, are mainly taken for symptoms of 'food stagnation', which can include abdominal bloating, indigestion, flatulence, and diarrhoea. They are believed to 'move' the blood and are used to relieve stagnation in dysmenorrhoea and after childbirth.
Ayurvedic medicine recommends hawthorn for heart and circulatory complaints.
Hawthorn flowers are reputed to have magical properties and are believed to bring about a death in the family if they are taken into the home. This may have something to do with the trimethylamine present in the flower. This substance is one of the first products formed when body tissue starts to decay. Until recently, corpses were kept in the house prior to burial, and people would have been familiar with the odour of death and decay.
Hawthorn is said to have been the source of Christ's crown of thorns.
During the First World War, the young leaves were used as a substitute for tea and tobacco, and the seeds were ground in place of coffee.
The Hawthorn is the badge of the Ogilvie clan.
The Hawthorn tree is considered to represent the female at Beltain festivals, the young maiden. It is also a way into the otherworld.
Hawthorn flowers are white, representing chastity, and fertility, they were woven into a crown for the Maypole at Beltain, and a crown to crown the new Queen. A tree indeed clothed in mystery, myth, and magic.