Podcast 104: Hawthorn
The hawthorns are some of our most generous and protective herbs. Hathorn offers abundant berries, rich with heart-supporting medicine – but its thorns mean you can’t just come and take everything in one swipe. Hawthorn demands a careful and respectful approach, and it can bring all these qualities to our physical bodies and – our emotional ones, too!
An ally for everything from high blood pressure, to water retention, to grief and loss, to that not-quite-at-home feeling we sometimes get when family relations are difficult; hawthorn is there for you. Especially at this time of year, when hearts are both agitated and a little more exposed, it’s a particularly important plant to know and to work with.
Mentioned in this episode:
- The Once and Future World, J.B. MacKinnon
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Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.
Hi, I’m Katja.
and I’m Ryn.
We’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. This week we’re going to talk to you about hawthorn. As we promised last time, we’re going to start with a story.
Yes. I’m really excited to talk about hawthorn, especially at this time of year. If you’re listening to these at some other time of year. It is right now, early December and it’s snowing here, which I’m super excited about. This can be a really complicated time for people. I feel like it’s a time of year that just is a hawthorn time of year. So I really wanted to talk about this right now.
As always, we’re going to begin with our reclaimer and we’re going to remind you that we are not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educators.
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice, no state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but we hope that they’ll give you good information to think about and to research further.
We want to remind you that good health is your own personal responsibility and not the final decision when considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician is actually always yours. All right. Well would you like to tell us your hawthorn story?
I would like to tell my hawthorn story and so if you have a nice cup of tea, maybe settle in and get comfy or if you’re going for a walk even better. This story came to me and that’s pretty exciting. I like it when that sort of thing happens.
Was it the first time on that cross country road trip out to go to the herbal conference for the first time in 10 years?
Yes. No, It may have been the one after when we had Amber with us, my daughter.
Right, Cause we drove.
I think that this happened because I was telling her stories because this is the story of the beautiful herb garden. Well this is the story of hawthorn and Crow. Once there was a very old Crow, he was slow in moving because he had a broken wing, but he had long made friends with the hawthorn tree and he loved to eat the red berries. This hawthorn was special. For it was the very first hawthorn, everyday old Crow and hawthorn spoke together. Old Crow told hawthorn many things about the world, for hawthorn was new and old Crow was very old. But then one day a flock of young crows came to the hawthorn and they began to eat the berries. They were young, strong, they flapped, jostled and soon old Crow was crowded away from all of the berries. He could not move fast enough to move around the young crows slapping and jostling. Hawthorn felt sad for his friend and angry at how the young crows were treating the old Crow. Right then and there, hawthorn gathered up his might and he sprouted great long thorns. The thorns were very sharp and the young crows with their flapping and jostling were being poked and pierced by the thorns. They flew away, but old Crow stayed. He moved slowly and carefully among the thorns and they never poked him. Old Crow lived a long time with hawthorn and always had plenty of berries to eat.
I love this little story. I do. I remember the first time you told it there, we were all in our sleeping bags cuddled up after a long day. Yeah it’s lovely because it’s got hawthorn’s generosity in it and also protectiveness.
Yeah. And that’s such an intertwined aspect of how we work with hawthorn and the way that hawthorn shares with us those gifts too, not just with Crow.
Yeah. It’s a very abundant tree, right? You find a hawthorn tree, it’s in berry and it’s the right time of year. You’ll get all the hawthorn you need, they’ve got all the berries you need to take care of yourself the whole year round until this next time together. You also can’t just walk in and start stripping leaves and stripping berries off of the tree willy nilly. You have to approach with some caution.
Yeah, those thorns are serious. They’re like two or three inches long, strong and they’ll poke right through any number of things. They are serious. They mean business.
Yeah. They’re for real. You know I was reading this book once called The Once and Future World. It’s about climate change and about how the world has changed and is changing. There’s a passage in there where the author writes about hawthorn. I was fascinated when I saw what he had to say because it was a comment about the spacing of the thorns on the tree. The author was noting that they’re actually not close enough together to keep a deer from coming in and grazing on the berries or eating the leaves. Right. A deer can fit their agile little mouth around in between the spaces where the thorns are and take them no problem. What’s going on here is that these defenses were actually evolved for a different kind of predator.
Yeah. You would think we all think of deer because that’s like the sort of herbivore that deforests things or defoliates things right now. Munching your garden or whatever. Long ago there were many different kinds of herbivores on this continent and one of them was the giant sloth.
Yes. Giant sloths or slowth if you’re in England, I suppose. Sloth, which is cool because it has the word slow right in it. The giant sloths loved to eat the hawthorn berries. Of course this was all playing out over evolutionary time. Right. You know long period of change and not so much with that. Hawthorn gathering up his might and poking at his thorns and yet as a tree, as a species, they had to evolve some defense and so they came up with these thorns. They’re totally effective for preventing a two ton monster from coming along and just grabbing a branch and drawing his claws down the whole length of it and pulling everything off all in one big handful of salad, hawthorn salad. So those thorns protected them against that kind of a predator.
Heart Health and Protective Qualities
That is often when I’m thinking about hawthorn, when there is a protection aspect involved and in fact you can even tincture the thorns themselves when you’re working with hawthorn. It makes a very special kind of medicine that is really well suited towards emotional health and exactly suited towards what you would imagine hearing those stories. If you feel like you are being stripped of all your resources by a giant two ton prehistoric animal, then that level of emotional distress is what those hawthorn thorns, what that tincture, is perfect to help with. Although the berries, leaves and the flowers are also excellent too. Thorn medicine is just also particularly fun and special. If you are feeling like in your life, there is an entire flock of crows that are, not just like… Somebody’s asking you for things. Sometimes people ask you for things, but you can more or less keep up. But you are being plagued an entire flock of people at work, people in your life or wherever who are asking you constantly for things and it is depleting all of your resources, yeah.
When the asking and the taking are happening in the same breath. Yes. For sure. So, with that as some background in our thoughts around hawthorn, let’s talk about some specific ways we work with it. Let’s start with the physical. We’ll talk here primarily about cardiovascular problems. That’s the system in which hawthorn is most active, the place that has the most affinity in your body to go to work. You know, if we were to list off all the actions of hawthorn, it’d be a long list, but some of the key ones would involve restoring healthy function of the heart. Hawthorn can literally improve the contractile strength of the heart as a muscle. What that can end up doing, there’s all kinds of fancy words for this, like positive Inotropic and negative chronotropic impacts, you know, but it basically means.
I love when you say the fancy words.
If you like fancy words then sometimes you want to say them. What it means is that it can make your heart slow down but beat stronger each time it does. And this is actually a great combo for reducing blood pressure and also improving general circulation.
Well, that’s the thing is that we’re not just saying, Oh, blood pressure’s too high, turn it down. It’s really addressing the issues by creating that strength that allows for…it makes space for the blood pressure to lower as opposed to forcing the blood pressure to lower.
Yeah. It’s a very intelligent effect. Hawthorn also helps to improve blood flow to the heart itself. This we don’t always think of, we imagine the heart as a pump and the blood moves through it, but it’s just like any other muscle tissue it needs to get blood supply directly to those cells
It’s got to eat. Everybody’s got to eat and your heart is no different.
Yeah. So you’ve got some tubes, you’ve got some blood moving tubes in your body that moved that blood right to the heart muscle itself. Hawthorn especially supports those and protects them and keeps them in good working order. So that’s really powerful. Then stepping out a little bit, right? Hawthorn is a berry, and like other berries, it’s rich in antioxidants, anthocyanins and those blue, red, purple compounds that reduce inflammation and help it to be effective but not excessive. Right? Inflammation is necessary, but you don’t want it to just go on and on or get triggered by every little exposure. Hawthorn’s antioxidant berry is going to help to bring in that impact to cool and quiet.
It’s got vitamin red.
It does. Yeah. That’s something too that you can taste and you can see, right? The color counts a lot there. The taste of it is a sour herb indicates that it’s going to have cooling and draining effects. We know when we talk about hawthorn, we almost always center just on the heart, but there is some relevance to your kidneys too, right? With this and with almost any other sour herbs, you’re going to get some draining of excess fluid in the body. Get some more stuff moving through the kidney, help that to feel well, to function well and help you to not be carrying anything you don’t really need right now, which is true on many levels with hawthorn.
Combinations to Nourish the Heart
There are some really fun ways that you can incorporate hawthorn that will really boost these physiological effects. One of them is just sort of the old reliable, take some hawthorn, preferably the berries, take some linden, put them together and make a delicious tea. Boom. Like better, everything’s better.
These two herbs together. We call it old reliable for a reason. That core, that pair, is one of the alchemical pairs of the western herbal tradition. You put hawthorn and linden together and you’re supporting hearts. You’re taking care of hearts with all kinds of different problems, whether there’s cramping and angina or tense pain in the heart there. Whether there’s too much inflammation and excess heat going on, really common expressions of cardiovascular pathology, these two herbs together cover a lot of bases.
Especially because of how intricately… The hawthorn, we were saying that it’s cardiovascular focus but also has some kidney aspects and that’s important for cardiovascular pathology. Linden has that cardiovascular focus, but it’s other big focus is on the nervous system. If you have ever gone to the doctor and been told that you’ve got something wrong with your heart, one of the things they will tell you is you need to get less stress and be like, thanks doc.
Probably try meditating. You know? Yeah.
I know that and linden is a plant who can really help with that. It really relax the nerves and also nourish the nerves in a very similar way that hawthorn nourishes the heart. So, that is also really lovely and it tastes really good. Never had anybody not like it. Since we are talking about this in the holiday gift giving season, you don’t have to be giving gifts, but if you were looking for some nice gift, this is a lovely blend and it tastes good. It’s not bitter, you drink it and you’re just like, wow, that’s just lovely.
It’s also easy to make, which matters a lot for your non herbalist friends. If there’s a four step extraction process and all of that, then they’re probably not going to get there unless you help them along. Still, it’s nice to have things that are super easy and you’re like, yeah, take a couple of spoons of this, put it into a teacup, strainer or something and pour boiling water through there. Let it infuse for a while. Drink it while it’s hot, you’re going to love it. That’s also a pair that you can use as a base to build more complex formulas on top of. Maybe you want to add a little bit of chai spice here, ginger, cardamom, a little cinnamon. Great. That’ll fit in well with these herbs. No problem. You could go and say, all right, let’s get some more of those red antioxidant herbs into play. Because my friend is really fiery, put in some hibiscus and some rose hips and that would be just fantastic.
Now you’re starting to sound like that formula you make some times, that you call red on white.
Yeah, that’s a fun one. That’s a good holiday gift also. So what we do with this is you take a bottle of white wine, I like one that’s not too sweet because the herbs are going to add a decent amount of sweetness here. Get some white wine. Nothing fancy. Get the unfancy wine, right?
Yeah, I do that on purpose.
You’re going to buy it with your plants, right? So then we put in hawthorn berries and I like goji berries, If we’ve got them. We’ll put in the Rose hips and hibiscus. Even a little elderberry in here too. All of these plants that have those red blue anthocyanins in there and put them in a quart size jar, pour in the whole bottle of wine. It will fit.
It will fit. You’ll be surprised, but it will fit. It’ll fit if it’s a standard bottle of wine, if it fits in a Mason jar. That will make you think a little differently about a bottle of wine. I’m like, wait, that’s all right.
You pour it in there, close it up, keep it away from direct lights. I give it a shake every day or so. Honestly with this, in a day, a lot of the color and flavor will come out, but if you really want it to be a little deeper than leave it for about a week, you know, if you forget it and leave it for a couple of weeks, that’s okay.
I recently found a jar that is more than a year old. Well it was more than a year old because I drank most of it. It was fine.
So don’t stress about that too much, but just know that you can have this ready to give in a few days if that’s what you need. So then, after it’s been macerating for that time, you strain it out. You can get a funnel and put it right back into that one bottle can make your own fancy label and put it right on there. Now you have herb infused wine and it has a lovely flavor. I hate to say it, but it reminds us of like a Starburst candy, red Starburst. You know, sweetened and sour and everything together. It’s just really great and it’s kind of fun because you do end up with a red liquid, You know, it looks like a red wine. Yeah.
It looks like red wine and it does not taste like red wine. That’s also fun. Yeah. But you know, you can do this in red wine too, but instead of all those berries, cause that flavor profile would be a little weird in a red. I like to get a real heavy red, like a Merlot, Carménère, Malbec or something like that. Put in some cacao nibs and some hawthorn berries.
Right. Cacao, it’s good for your heart too. It’s got some nice polyphenol content in there. Yeah. There’s some good stuff going on.
Then one single cayenne pepper.
It does not need more than one. Trust me.
You’re going to be fine. One dried cayenne pepper is plenty.
Yes. That doesn’t need a long time either. A couple of days a week is totally fine. You’re going to come out with this wine that is like, Oh my goodness. So all of the resveratrol and antioxidants that were already in the red wine, they’re still there. Now you also have the added heart benefits in the hawthorn, cacao and in the cayenne. So this is a wonderful wine to pair with a heavy meal. That’s really going to give you that heart boost.
Yeah. It’s kind of like you’ve put together some of the best things in the world, right? You’ve got your like Aztec chocolate with that fiery spice going on. Then you have the red wine and beautiful hawthorn berries. Yeah, that’s a good one. Really good. Really nice. If you want to, you could add a little bit of ginger, a little bit of goji Berry, maybe some cinnamon or cardamom or something into there as well. But honestly, try it with just those three. Just the hawthorn, cacao, cayenne sometime. It’s wonderful. Yeah. It’s maybe like a tablespoon of cacao nibs and one or two spoons of hawthorn berries in there.
Yeah. Maybe two tablespoons of cacao nibs is delicious. It’ll fit. Yeah. The funny thing is that when you buy wine and it says there’s notes of black cherry and chocolate and whatever, you’re like, no, there’s actually cacao. It’s real. It’s not notes. It’s actual.
For sure. One more. One more formula to consider and to kind of bring it back into the physicality there, at least to start out with. One of the things that I learned in a philosophical logic class in college was that there aren’t any animals that have a heart, but no kidneys or at least a proto-kidney or something to do the filtration, right? If you’ve got a pump to move fluid around, you’re going to need a filter at some point. Those are very gross generalizations of what these organs actually do. We’ll let it go for today. Right. So we often think about the kidneys and the heart together. When we look at their intricacies in a real body, there’s a lot of communication between them. Hormonal communication from both of these organs, releasing them, receiving them and a lot of connection back and forth. So we think frequently about addressing kidney health when there are heart conditions, especially if there’s fluid stagnation in the body. If there’s a lot of retained water that’s going to drive up your blood pressure just because there’s more fluid in the tubes, It’s also going to put a lot of strain on the kidneys. We want to support them and we think of these two systems as being closely intertwined. So we can start with hawthorn and this can be leaf and Berry and flower altogether. Then we’re going to bring it together with some goldenrod. Hawthorn is, if I only had one herb for my heart, I don’t know, I’d probably reject the premise of the question and stomp out of the room. But if there is a gun to my head, yeah, hawthorn, that’s the way to go. When it comes to the kidneys, there’s lots of options. Nettles a high contender, but goldenrod, it’s right up in there in the running.
It’s definitely my number one.
It’s an amazing plant for the kidneys. It’s got some aromatic elements that stimulate the kidney and get it moving. It’s got some nutritive elements that are going to feed and support, reduce inflammation. It can even help to deal with infection to some extent too. It’s really amazing. The two of them, they taste great together. They’re really fantastic. They’re so delicious. Last time we made this formula, we also included a bit of Heather which is another diuretic like goldenrod, another kidney supportive herb. We also included some Jiaogulan, an adaptogen, and it has a lot of actions on your nerves. It’s also been pretty well studied, like many adaptogens, for improving your blood chemistry, right? I’m thinking not just about cholesterol, but triglycerides and also inflammatory mediators. Jiaogulan has a whole lot of effects there and many of them are about that element of communication, those hormonal messages being received and reacted to appropriately. So it does fit into the work this formula is doing overall. Then a bit of ginger just cause you can never go wrong with a bit of ginger.
No. Ginger helps move the blood as well. Really wonderful circulatory stimulant and anti-inflammatory herb. So it tastes great but it’s doing its share of the work for sure.
Yeah. So this formula is addressing the heart and the kidneys. It’s addressing these stagnant fluids, edema kind of situations going on. There’s another layer to this that since it was your formula.
Well, when I first started studying herbalism, it would be like, you would learn about the herbs and what they can do in the body. Then once in a while there would be like an herb that can help the nervous system and we would talk about it a little bit for some emotional things. To be honest, back then, the way that we talked about emotional health was very frankly primitive still. As a society, not as herbalists, the way that we understood herbs on emotional health was also lacking in nuance.
This was kind of the time when the serotonin theory of depression was really starting to hit its stride and people were super focused on depression as reduceable to a serotonin deficiency.
Actually, even before that it was really. That was kind of the first time that we started talking about herbs and mental health in sort of sciency terms. Before that it was very like, Oh, it’ll magically just help. It just will make you feel better. It’s good for depression and we didn’t have much nuance. Over my career as an herbalist, what I have come to find is that first of all, your emotions are not separate in any way from your body. Everything is connected. I think more and more, the scientific community is coming to a point where they’re going to need to say that also. You don’t log into the cloud in the morning to find out how you are feeling. Which I mean, I guess if you need to log into Facebook or Twitter first thing in the morning, then maybe you do. We don’t store our emotions somewhere electronically, but for a very long time we have talked about them in those terms and that’s just not what’s going on. So when I started thinking about, well, how do herbs really affect emotional health, it’s not good enough to just sort of hand wave say, Oh, it relaxes you. No, tell me more about that. The deeper and deeper that I dig, what I am finding is that herbs function emotionally the same way that they function physiologically. Sometimes it’s hard to see the connection, but the more that you just stare at it and stare at it and really pick at the problem or question, the more that you start to see that. This formula really has this pivot point between the physiological and the emotional health in that the kidneys and the heart are also a seed of endurance. When your heart is weak, your endurance is also weak. You know, like a person. If you are just watching a movie and they want to communicate to you that a person has poor cardiovascular health, then you will see this person get out of breath going upstairs, for example. The reason that they show it that way in the movie is because that is something that we’ve all seen and that we accept, right? It’s not like they’re doing that because it is a way to communicate without words.
When that character has a heart attack later, we’re not surprised. Right?
We’re like, Oh no, I saw that coming. I saw the signs. When we think about grief, that’s in the heart as well, and we don’t fully necessarily understand it and yet our speech is filled with it. There’s a hole in my heart when we are speaking about loss. So when we’re thinking about this formula on the emotional level, what we’re looking at here are herbs that support grief, loss and endurance. Grieving is an endurance sport. It is not something that you get done within two weeks and great, now you move on. That’s not how it works. You go through cycles and cycles of it. It lasts and you think you’re are done and then it comes back. So the endurance aspect of these herbs here, especially the Jiaogulan and goldenrod, the endurance aspect of the hawthorn in terms of nourishing the heart and the Heather here too. Like all of these, if you really drill into the materia medica of the plant, you see how each one of these plays a physiological role in physical endurance. It also plays that same role in emotional and sort of that cross-reference with the grieving aspect. I think that’s so relevant right now because this time of year we’re all supposed to be happy. Everything is supposed to be a big party and that’s just not the way that it is.
Yeah. I mean, that can feel like a weight or a pressure. If you’re not feeling that way, if you have had a loss, you’re grieving something or you’re feeling lonely, you have a heartache, you’re sad. Then this constant barrage of everything’s marry and we’re all cheerful and it’s going to be great
Smile and say nice things to your Great Aunt Sylvia. Yeah.
Yeah. It can be hard, you feel bad because you’re not doing what everyone else is doing and now you feel different and that makes you feel isolated. A lot of this stuff can snowball on you there. So, you know, hawthorn is also one of the first medicines we of for these kinds of heart centered discomforts, right? Hawthorn is just a fantastic herb for when we’re dealing with grief, heartache, loneliness, loss and all of this, especially if we pair it together with herbs that have an uplifting quality, we call them exhilarants. We think about Rose, Tulsi and dandelion flowers, herbs like this that can lift your mood, help you to feel a little less weighed down. Often these are plants that have an upward movement physiologically as well as emotionally like Tulsi is going to stimulate circulation to your brain. It lifts your blood. It lifts your spirits too.
No, you don’t need to boost yourself up so that you can smile and be perky. You’re allowed to be sad, but it might be more comfortable if you have to go interact with people who have expectations of you. If you have to go in, interact with people and you just don’t want to share your sadness with them, that is a hard mask to put on and these herbs can help with that. So this isn’t so much about, well, you know what, just drink some hawthorn and Tulsi and you won’t feel sad anymore. It’s not that so much as sometimes you need to get up a little bit so that you can do the things that are required of you. I think it’s good to not do the things that are not required of you so that you can make space for whatever grief work you need to do. But you can’t just cancel everything like that. It doesn’t always work. Plus sometimes you have to go to work and make money so that you can live in this capitalist society. So, make it more comfortable to do what you have to do.
It’s definitely not about avoidance. Hawthorn can also be helpful if you do need to get into your own hearts. If you’ve been responding as a survival strategy to difficult experiences or emotions by closing down or putting up barriers. This is a defense mechanism. It’s a survival strategy and it’s very common. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.
You do what you’ve got to do sometimes.
But you can’t stay that way forever. When you’ve found safety and you’ve found some measure of comfort, then there is going to be a time when it’s necessary to dig in and do some of that work. Whether that’s grieving or just figuring out what your own emotions actually are. You know, speaking as a man raised in this culture that is not easy. Having an herbal ally to support you in that work is really, really helpful and hawthorn, an excellent choice for that. Whether it’s tea, tincture, flower essence, however you choose to work with it, hawthorn is really good at opening the heart. Think of that physiological opening of the blood vessels that feed this muscle in your body. Think about how that’s going to echo out across the different planes of your being. Hawthorn does help to open your heart and that can be important for you to connect with others, but also just to know who you are and what you need. You have to be able to experience, feel, and define that before you can start to ask for it or assert it.
Just to keep coming back to the tie in here, if you think about closing down your emotions for whatever reason, because you were socialized to do that, you had to do that to survive a certain period of time, whatever it is that’s the same as angina. That’s the same as having a cramp in a muscle that is like you have locked it down and now it is cramped in place. Whether we’re talking about physiologically feeling that cramp or emotionally feeling that cramp, it’s all the same thing. It’s not actually shocking that the same herb is going to be effective in both aspects.
Yeah, for sure.
Combinations to Open & Soothe the Heart
Oh, wait, I wanted to say one thing about rose here. So rose is one of those that also has thorns and I just like the beauty of the medicine that plants with thorns can give us is amazing. I wanted to talk for just a minute about rose because if you get a chance to go out and look at how a wild rose bush grows, it creates like an umbrella and it is literally like an umbrella of safety. Especially if you can go find a wild rosebush in the snow, you can really see it clearly there because it becomes this giant, like a curving bubble of thorn, Bramble and birds. I’m thinking Hawks in particular or foxes really can’t get in. It’s just way too interwoven for that, and of course, thorny. But what you will see is little tracks of small, furry creatures, bunnies and squirrels and chipmunks and whoever who hide and make a safe space in that rose bush. Even the small birds they can get in and around, but the birds of prey cannot. So this is a place where if you’re feeling haunted or hunted by the things that are upsetting you, this is what Rose does. Like physically in the world. Rose is really good at providing this safe space. This is what it does. Every rose bush does this, maybe a little less so. The cultivated rose bush in your garden that you’re growing your prize roses. That’s only because people train them to grow in a very specific way. If you didn’t train them, they too would get viney all over the place and create these protective brambles. So I just can never get enough of the mind blowing amazingness of this like protective quality of these two plants together. Interestingly, they’re also in the same family.
They are. Yeah. I was going to say it’s a little family reunion when you put rose and hawthorn together. That’s pretty nice too. Yeah. So you know, for these feelings of grief, sadness, loss and loneliness, we’ll start with hawthorn. Rose is always a good thing to include, whether it’s hips or flower petals. Just know that with rose petals sometimes a lot of them can add bitterness. So you want to have just a pinch, just a bit in there. That’s plenty that those rose aromatics always come through. Yeah. We also find damiana to be a really good friend here for these kinds of situations. Damiana has some motivation behind it. It has some stimulation of movement and flow in the body and that can help if your emotions have been feeling stuck, you know, and they’ve been kind of locked into one pattern for a while. Damiana can help to break up that stagnation. Others that you think key for this aspect?
You know, you had cacao nibs in here and I think that is a really great idea. I’m going to make a tie into Harry Potter here, right? You know, in Harry Potter, there’s these creatures called the dementors and they suck all the hope out of wherever they are. In order to recover, people eat chocolate. She didn’t just write that because people like chocolate, you know, people like chocolate because…
No, no, it couldn’t. It couldn’t have been like the Red Stripe peppermint candy, it had to be chocolate.
Yeah. It has to be chocolate because chocolate actually can do that. And that’s part of why we do all crave so much for chocolate in times of stress and incidentally when you are consuming chocolate, you are also consuming vanilla even though you may not realize it. Vanilla also has a very strong ability to rekindle hope, re-spark that thing that becomes dull and like torpid. You know?
Yeah. It’s one of those exhilarant herbs that we work with. Vanilla man. That’s fantastic. So, you can, again, you can make a tea with that, you can make an infused wine, you could make a tincture mix. Whatever is the best way for you and your situation. Bringing some plants like this together can really help with those feelings.
I would also, you often will put a pinch of cayenne in a blend like this and if Cayenne’s a little too much, then ginger is also great and damiana has a lot of movement in it. Sometimes you need even a little more because sometimes sadness and grief is very heavy and even trying to stand up with that weight is tremendously difficult. Trying to carry it around your day with you, having something that gives you a little bit of energy as you are trying to move through your day with this weight is really helpful.
Yeah. Damiana has an airy sort of movement, it induces movement, but without necessarily having a lot of heat or fire behind it. Pairing it with a more fiery herbs like ginger or cayenne really enhances that and gives it a double shot. Sometimes we notice, we can realize that there has been that hardening of the heart or that tightening aspect and hawthorn is going to help. If that’s specifically what’s presenting, then we’re going to look for softening herbs, which is going to mean moistening herbs. So we’re going to look to Linden, of course, because of that heart affinity that it has the moistening quality. Next look at violet, right? Very similar, has a moistening aspect to it, relaxing qualities and a heart affinity. So that’s a really good herb to work with in that context too.
It’s really nourishing in that when you’re feeling so depleted and dried out. Your heart is just completely rung out and the only thing that’s left is nothing.
You could take those. Maybe a little hibiscus as well if you want some of that sour note in there, Hibiscus is a moistening herb, especially when we make cold infusions
Also with a lot of direct heart action.
Yeah, definitely. Hibiscus is really, seems particularly well-researched in middle Eastern countries for cardiovascular inflammation, elevated cholesterol due to inflammation in the vasculature. For high blood pressure too. So, another very helpful heart centric herb there. These all have in common, this softening aspect and we find those really helpful to mix together with hawthorn and bring all that quality right over to the heart. All right, so, one other kind of physical emotional pain that we wanted to talk here today was about going into circumstances where you don’t feel entirely welcome or entirely seen in the way that you would like to be recognized for who you are. This can be an issue when you’re hanging out with family, especially if you don’t maybe live in the same place as your family anymore, or you don’t have the same habits. I think the standard story is you went away to the big city and you came back with all these fancy notions, you know?
Yeah. But I mean, I think today especially this is so, family issues have always been complicated. I think as far back as you can possibly go in literature, there are stories about complicated family situations. So that can be comforting. Also we are fed so much propaganda about what a family is supposed to be, what your role in family is supposed to be, what it means to be good, what it means to be right. That stuff is propaganda. It’s crap.
Well, yeah, first of all, a family can be any group of humans that love each other, right? Right. So it’s very common in lots of different ways. In all kinds of directions. Every variation of the political and social spectrum that we find ourselves on for you to feel like you don’t fit. To feel discomfort with that and uncertain how to proceed. So what we find helpful in cases like this are both some things that can soften the heart and help you to relax some of that protective tension you’ve been carrying. At the same time to make sure that your boundaries are still strong. We’ve talked about hawthorn, rose, about the thorn aspect and that protectiveness that they have. How you can’t just walk in and start taking everything and grabbing at it. So with hawthorn, you have both of these qualities kind of contained in the one plant that can warm the heart. It can feed the heart, it can relax the heart, but it can also protect it. Yeah.
Then we can add in some motherwort, which, you know, with the linden and the rose, we’ve got that protection aspect. The motherwort is really amazing for holding those boundaries in a healthy way. If you’ve ever seen a motherwort plant, they have these at the base of the leaves, a seed pod that goes all the way around the stem. Essentially like multiple little seed pods arranged in a circle. They have these spikes on them and they are wicked sharp. They will jab you. You can touch many parts of the plant, but you cannot touch those seed pods without getting jabbed. I liked that a lot. I like that feeling of you’re not completely closed off. The plant is not unapproachable. It’s just that the plant also is protecting the parts of itself that are important. Plus it’s a square peg in a round hole. You know, the stem of the stem of motherwort is the squarest thing you’ll ever find in nature. The seed pod configuration around that stem is a circle. When you look at it, you will literally see the square peg in the round hole. So if you feel like that sometimes, that’s just a really a beautiful way of thinking about it. Even just thinking about that’s the core of the plant and every so often it’s got some boundaries around it, some protection around it.
Yeah. Motherwort it is a heart relaxant. It does relax nervous tension also. So it really covers a lot of bases here that we really need,
Especially if you sometimes feel palpitations around the anxiousness of having to go be in an uncomfortable situation. Motherwort is really helpful for that and can actually relax those palpitations for you pretty quickly.
Today’s Hawthorn Tea
Yeah. Now motherwort is a bit bitter, so I probably wouldn’t go and take equal parts, hawthorn and motherwort, and put them together. But we made a tea today, preparing and thinking for this podcast that came out pretty good. Pretty good. So we had in there, hawthorn, we had a bit of a cacao nibs. We put in some chamomile and some catnip and then a bit of motherwort and some rose. Those are more or less in decreasing order of how much herb got into this mixture.
Yeah. Because both the motherwort and rose will be a little bitter and actually even the catnip, it has a complex flavor but some of it bitter. So that’s fine. Yeah.
I thought we would want to add honey to this, but it turns out that…
No, I love it. I absolutely love it.
But you certainly could if you wanted to add a little bit of honey to that to sweeten it up at the end, it would be so exciting if you had gathered some fresh dandelion flowers this summer and infused them in honey and then put that into this mixture. Now we’re really talking.
Yeah. Or some tulsi infused in honey. I want to mention about the catnip here because physiologically catnip is wonderful when there is sort of like nausea and that rising feeling heartburn of pain and heat up out of the gut. That also describes an emotional state. You know, when you have fear of rejection, fear of being, frankly humiliated, made fun of by your family or by people that you have to go be with or fear of how you’re going to be received. That fear rises up out of your center and can be like nausea. It can be like feeling like you’re going to throw up, but also anger does the same thing. When you are angry about a situation and you are expected to go and sit politely through it anyway and you have chosen to fulfill that expectation. Just choosing to do it, does it mean it’s going to be easy? I really love the catnip in this formula for those kinds of feelings. Like, please, you know, society won’t always tell you that it’s okay to say, no, I’m not going. Even though everyone expects me to, it is okay to say that. Sometimes we choose not to. Sometimes we choose for all kinds of reasons to say this is a terrible situation and I am going to go and it’s not going to be pleasant, but I am choosing to do it. So I think that just a blend like this is very, very helpful in all of those kinds of situations. There’s so much complexity in families.
Herbs can help to make things feel a little simpler. Yeah.
A little more gentle
Just a little easier to recognize that despite all the layers of complexity and history that you’re here, you’ve decided to come be with these people and you don’t want to feel tense. You don’t want to feel agitated. You don’t want to feel like you have to have a big guard up. You do want to be protected, but you also want to be relaxed at the same time. That’s something that, you know, again, these herbs can bring us those sorts of mental, emotional, physical states. I don’t know anything else that can…not as directly. Yeah. All right. So, those are some thoughts on hawthorn and today we were exploring those in the context of formulas. You can see how this will actually play out in real things that we actually drink. We hope that you enjoyed that exploration.
We do have a lot more to say about hawthorn of course. In a number of our courses, like the cardiovascular course, I think hawthorn came up in almost every video. Yeah. And there’s a whole exploration of hawthorn in the materia medica course along with Rose, Chamomile and catnip. I think all the other herbs we mentioned today, including vanilla. So if you wanted to hear a lot more about each of those, then that would be the course for you. Before we close out for the week, let’s do some shout outs.
Yes. to Mountain Mama Katie on Instagram, who said that she loves all of the practical advice in the podcast. I’m so glad because we want you, we want there to be advice that is useful to you. So, yay.
I got a shout out to Randy on Facebook who liked these last couple of episodes the best. Does that include maybe you don’t have to our seven minutes podcast last time.
Yeah, maybe. Also Greenlight health on Instagram who also wrote to say that they love the pod.
Nice. And Omachi who wrote to say that we’re speaking her language and she’s excited to sign up for our online courses to learn more.
I saw that she just did sign up. Yay. Welcome. She used the coupon code 2019 and you can too, because this coupon code will get you 19% off of anything you want until the end of 2019. Well actually, I guess if you’re listening to this, it’s already 2020.
Well, you’re a little late. Don’t worry. There’ll be another sale coming. This is the one for now.
If it’s still 2019 then when you go get any of our online firstname.lastname@example.org. Put in coupon code 2019 you’re getting 19% off.
It’s pretty great. Yeah. Oh, a couple of other shout outs on Apple podcasts to vocab. and also to one of the cowardly Legion, which I want to know more about this. They both wrote us some reviews. Thank you so much. Your reviews help us a lot. They help people find our podcasts. They spread out the herby goodness in the world. We really appreciate it.
Of course. You can also just tell your friends the old fashioned way by stealing their phone and filling up their up next queue with all of our recent episodes. Yes.
Yes. As was foretold in the prophecy. Yeah. Very old fashioned situation there. All right.
Well, Hey, one last thing that I want to say, at this time of year is that you do not have to do it all. I’m so excited, because I have already written the newsletter that’s going out on Monday. I suddenly was like so excited about something I wanted to share that I could, I was thinking about in the shower and I had to write the whole thing right there. I was like, I cannot wait till Monday. I am excited to write it now. So I’m sending it out on Monday and the title of this one is have a good enough holiday and it’s all about not pushing yourself so hard to make everything perfectly perfect. Yeah. How does still find some time to rest in this time of year? So I’m pretty excited about that. If you want to get our newsletter on Mondays to start your week out right then you can sign up for it at the bottom of any page on our website, commonwealthherbs.com.
All right, so we’ll be back next week with some more holistic herbalism podcast for you. Until then, take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.
And take it easy on yourself because you don’t have to be perfect, and this time of year can be hard.
Right, we’ll be back next time.
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