Hawthorn is a thorny tree that thrives in hedgerows and fields in the temperate regions of Europe and the British Isles. Its name, Crataegus oxycantha, originates from the Greek word kratos meaning strength and refers to the nature of the wood. Other names include white thorn and hogberry. It blooms in May producing luscious red fruits and hence receives one of its most popular names, May-blossom.
Hawthorn was regarded as a valuable heart remedy as far back as the Middle Ages. The Hawthorn was considered sacred in early times and believed to furnish the Crown of Thorns. Legend has it that between AD30-63 Joseph of Aramathea came to England and planted his hawthorn staff in Glastonbury soil. This became known as the Glastonbury Thorn and grew and blossomed at Christmas and Easter as if in celebration of the Christian Year. The Celts used Hawthorn in May celebrations using it to dress maypoles and symbolic effigies, and associated it with fertility.
Uses of Hawthorn
Hawthorn’s therapeutic actions come from the berries, flowers and leaves. The total complex of plant constituents is considered valuable as a remedy for those with circulatory and cardiac problems.
It is believed to regulate and support these systems and be beneficial to use in the following conditions:
- Angina – Believed to give relief from cramp-like symptoms.
- Mild congestive heart failure – Believed to increase cardiac output and increase the flow of blood through the coronary arteries.
- Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) – Thought to counteract rhythm disturbances. High blood pressure – Believed to cause vasodilatation of peripheral blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
- Nervous Heart Disorders (palpitations) – Believed to have a sedative effect on the nervous system which may render it useful in heart conditions where the nerves are involved.
- Heart Weakness – as caused by infectious diseases e.g. pneumonia, scarlet fever and diphtheria. Is believed to restore and support heart function.
It is also believed to encourage concentration and memory function as it improves circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain!
Dosage of Hawthorn
Tea: It is preferable to use a mixture of flowers and leaves. If berries are used it is better to decoct than diffuse. Use 2 teaspoons of herb per cup of boiling water. Infuse for 20mins. Drink 2-3 cups daily.
Tincture: (1:5) 50-100 drops 3 x daily
Fluid Extract: (1:1) 10-20 drops 3 x daily
Capsules: (min 325mg) 1-2 capsules 3-6 x daily. Or follow the instructions on any proprietary pack of being used.
Hawthorn is considered to be a non-toxic herb. It does not accumulate in the body as Digitalis does. There are no apparent side effects and is not believed to lead to dependence. Due to this Hawthorn is believed to be safe to use over long periods.
Hawthorn is believed to possess hypotensive action and as a result should be used with caution in low blood pressure. Studies have shown the herb to decrease blood pressure even further and in some instances cause fainting. Check with your doctor before taking hawthorn if you are taking any medication for blood pressure.
Hawthorn is considered a valuable herb for the heart and cardiovascular system. It may combine well with Melissa and Lavender in nervous heart conditions. In hypertension it may combine well with Lime Blossom, Yarrow and Mistletoe. As long as it is avoided in low blood pressure it can be taken with benefit by anyone who wants to support the function of the heart.