Hawthorne – A Gentle, Yet Powerful Heart Medicine
Crataegus species, known commonly as Hawthorne, is a tree that belongs to the rose family. And like the rose, it has thorns. Amongst the thorns, lies a medicine that is a gentle, yet powerful heart medicine. The parts of the plant that are used for the medicine are the leaves, flowers and berries. The leaves and flowers are harvested in the springtime, and autumn is the time that the berries are harvested. It can be used as a tea, tincture, powdered into a capsule, or as a food source.
Hawthorne has been used for many years by herbalists, naturopathic doctors, and other natural health practitioners, to support and nourish the heart and overall cardiovascular system.
Hawthorn’s Healing Actions –
Hawthorne has an affinity for the coronary arteries and heart tissue. The healing properties include helping to increase oxygen flow to the heart via increasing blood flow through the coronary arteries to the heart tissue. Hawthorne helps to regulate heart rhythm, improves vascular integrity of the cardiovascular system, regulates healthy cholesterol levels, helps to lower blood pressure and overall, strengthens the function and structure of the cardiovascular system.
Hawthorn’s Healing Compounds –
Pharmaceutical companies will use herbs, but will isolate one specific compound from a plant that has a very specific action on a very specific part of the body. In turn, there is much more risk of side effects. In herbal medicine, the entire plant part is used. That means, there are hundreds of compounds integrated into the medicine. They work together and enrich the action of the medicine that the plant offers.
Hawthorne has natural ACE inhibitor properties in it (ACE inhibitors are a category of medications that help control blood pressure), which contribute to its medicine in helping to lower blood pressure.
There are Flavonoids, including Quercetin, that are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress on the heart tissue as well as cell death.
Hawthorne is nutritive, including high amounts of vitamin C.
Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are another group of medicinal compounds in hawthorne. These constituents are found commonly in the skins of dark-colored berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, cherries, elderberries, as well as hawthorne berries! These constituents strengthen integrity and function of capillaries and are antioxidants.
Emotional Support of the Heart –
This tree and the medicine it provides has the ability to not only help heal the physical heart, but also tend to the emotional heart. Hawthorne has a calming effect and can help to open one’s emotional heart space, a space where we give and receive love, feel passion, compassion, and forgiveness. It is a space where profound healing occurs. Opening up this vulnerable space can be challenging for us in certain circumstances, in certain company, and certain periods in our life. However, remember, the tree has thorns. These thorns demand physical and energetic respect. They prevent vulnerability among its surroundings. This protective property extends into the energetic medicine of the plant, providing a protective and safe space for heart opening and healing.
I dedicate this article to my teacher who first introduced me to Hawthorne and the medicine and lessons it provides – Dr. Deborah Frances, Beautiful Little Dancing Crow.
Sarah Sue Myers, ND
Crataegus oxyacantha (Hawthorn). Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Jul;15(2):164-7
Crataegus laevigata (Poiret) DC (hawthorn), Rosaceae and related species. Eric Yarnell, ND, RH(AHG). Bastyr University, Department of Botanical Medicine. 2012
Practical Wisdom in Natural Healing – Sage Advise for the Modern World. Deborah Frances, RN, ND. Polychrest Publishing. Chandler, AZ. 2014.