Hawthorn is often categorized as an “exhilarant” in old herbal literature – strongly uplifting to the spirit. Along with Rose, Vanilla, Vetiver, and others, Hawthorn is a great “rescue remedy”. Whether it’s sadness from a deep loss or just baked-on, caked-on gloom and doom, Hawthorn can help. I love to make an elixir of Hawthorn tincture, Elderflower liquor, and Rose infused honey with some Reishi extract to ground the sweetness somewhat. It’s a precious sweet medicine for lifting you up in painful times! Hawthorn also blends beautifully with Vanilla, Calamus, and Wood Betony for a deep, grounded calm and clarity.
Hawthorn is such a protector plant, physiologically and emotionally! Obviously we think of the berries and their many heart-supporting attributes, but I also think of the thorns when I’m thinking about Hawthorn’s medicine. In The Once And Future World, MacKinnon mentions that Hawthorn trees developed their thorns as protection not against the grazers we have today – deer are nimble and can nibble easily in between the thorns – but for protection against the giant sloth. The name may sound like a teddy bear whose lap you could sit in, but the giant sloth was actually quite an enormous and formidable four-ton creature. The protective aspect of Hawthorn is like that: when you need emotional protection from really, REALLY big things, Hawthorn has you covered.
Those heart-supporting Hawthorn berries are bursting with antioxidants, which is exactly what you want for repairing damage in the circulatory system. A great deal of that damage is caused by “free radicals” (which sounds more like a hippie band that a molecular structure!), leaving wounds on the arterial walls which must be scabbed over to heal – enter cholesterol! Cholesterol actually serves many important purposes in the body – one in particular in the cardiovascular system is that it helps heal interior wounds. But too many interior wounds with big clumps of cholesterol “scabs” is definitely NOT good for you. Antioxidants to the rescue: they clear out the free radicals and protect you from those arterial wall injuries, which means your cholesterol levels stay lower because you don’t need so many scabs. A very common source of dietary free radicals is the kind of oils used in snacks and processed foods, so drink Hawthorn berry tea and cut back on Cheetos and you’re on your way to a healthier cardiovascular system!
Gut Health and Emotional Health
Hawthorn berries also have pectin – in fact, Hawthorn berries are the most pectin-y thing I know. That’s great if you’re making jam, but that’s not all: pectin is a pre-biotic, which means, it’s food for your probiotic friends! Hawthorn has a long history of helping with grief and sadness and depression because of its association with the heart, and because of its exhilarant action. But now science is also recognizing the strong link between gut flora and mental health, and Hawthorn shares those connections. Hawthorn has strong effects directly on the heart and cardiovascular tissues, and it ALSO promotes strong healthy gut flora – two great actions that work great together to lift your spirits and boost your heart!
Hawthorn Cranberry Sauce
I love to put Hawthorn in Cranberry sauce. It’s better to cook the Hawthorn berries down separately and sieve them, because they have big pits. Then I add them to organic Cape Cod Cranberries, raspberries we pick at a local farm, a couple of apples, ghee, Cinnamon, Vanilla, a little Vermont maple syrup and a splash of water to keep from burning. Often I also add orange peel and fresh baby Ginger. Quick-canned and stored in the refrigerator, this Cranberry sauce will last up to a year, though we usually eat it faster than that!
What’s YOUR favorite way to work with Hawthorn?
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