Can You Eat Hawthorn Berries

Can You Eat Hawthorn Berries – Harvesting hawthorn berries is a new one for me this year. They are sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and in recent years I have been tasting them too early in the fall. This year, Washington hawthorn was mild and mild in late October. But by then, the one-seeded hawthorn was starting to rot, so next year I’ll look for those in mid-October.

I owe credit to Josh Fecteau’s recent hawthorn post, which inspired me to try hawthorn berries again. As Josh points out, there are many species of hawthorn, perhaps 50 in New England. And, in all of North America, perhaps a thousand species, according to George Symonds (from his excellent book Tree Identification Book: A New Method of Practical Tree Identification and Identification

Can You Eat Hawthorn Berries

, my favorite guide for learning ID trees). Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to identify certain species. You only need to know that it is a hawthorn, because all hawthorns have edible berries. However, like apple seeds, hawthorn seeds contain cyanide and should not be eaten. Keep an eye on yourself; just spit out the seeds.

With A Friend Like Hawthorn

Why bother with hawthorn? They are beautiful, interesting and tasty wild edibles with known health benefits. Some people use the berries to make hawthorn jelly, but I have yet to try it. Berries, leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see how I’m making hawthorn berry extract.

I am going to describe two species here, to illustrate the general characteristics. That should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but i

F if you are not sure that you have hawthorn when foraging, please check with additional sources until you are sure, before eating the berries.

This grows as a small tree or large shrub, with clusters of white flowers in late spring. The berries turn red in September (here), but are sweetened later. By October 31, they were sweet, and maybe a little past their peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.

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The leaves are lobed and toothed, as you can see in my photo above. Many other hawthorn species have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long thorns, up to about 3 inches long. However, with reasonable caution, you can easily harvest the berries, which tend to hang from the branch. It is even easier in the season after many of the leaves have fallen and the thorns are no longer hidden.

Also known as the hawthorn, this is a European native that escaped exploitation and naturalized in North America. It’s sometimes branded as an invasive plant, but I don’t find it very often, and when I do see it, there’s not much of it in one area. It may be invasive in other parts of the country, but it doesn’t seem particularly aggressive here. Like Washington hawthorn, single-seeded hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree, bearing clusters of white flowers in late spring. The oval red berries ripen slightly earlier (than the Washington hawthorn) in the fall and contain one seed (hence the name). The toothed leaves are more deeply toothed than those of Washington hawthorn, but the thorns are much smaller, only about 1/2 inch to an inch long.

Hawthorns are common in the forest understory here in Massachusetts, but they are hawthorn specimens that do not produce well. It’s too shady in the forest. To find fruit-laden hawthorn, look in sunny spots, such as fields of bushes and shrubs, at the edges of meadows, and along streams. They are often planted as ornaments, so if your friend has one and you don’t mind picking some berries, you have an easy foraging experience at your fingertips.

This is my first experience using hawthorn berries, and I am using them to make extract, using the same process you would use to make vanilla extract. I hope to use hawthorn extract as a seasoning in cooking and baking. I filled a clean canning jar about 3/4 full with berries, covered them with 80 proof vodka, and put a cap on the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to get enough flavor out of the berries, so I’ll be checking daily. I know other extracts, (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so that’s what I’m expecting here. RD, CDE, Nutrition – Updated December 13, 2021 Nature’s Way Premium Herbal Hawthorn Berries, 1,530 Mg Per Serving, 180 Capsules (packaging May Vary)

These nutrient-rich berries have a tart, tangy flavor and mild sweetness. They range in color from yellow to dark red (

For centuries, people have used hawthorn as an herbal remedy for digestive problems, heart issues, and high blood pressure. In fact, the berry has been an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine since at least 659 AD (

Antioxidants help neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can harm your body when present at high levels.

Free radicals can come from certain foods. You can also have higher levels of them as a result of exposure to environmental toxins such as air pollution and cigarette smoke (

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Polyphenols are associated with numerous health benefits due to their antioxidant activity, including a lower risk of (

Although the initial research in animals and cells is promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hawthorn berries on disease risk.

Summary Hawthorn berries contain plant polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties linked to numerous health benefits.

Research has found that chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (

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In a study of mice with liver disease, hawthorn extract significantly reduced levels of inflammatory compounds, leading to reduced inflammation and liver injury (

In one study, researchers gave vitexin – a compound present in hawthorn leaves – to mice with respiratory conditions. This treatment reduced the production of molecules that stimulate inflammation and reduced the response of white blood cells to inflammation (

These promising results from animal and test-tube studies suggest that the supplement may offer anti-inflammatory benefits to humans. However, more research is needed.

Summary Hawthorn berry extract has shown anti-inflammatory potential in test tube and animal studies. Still, research in humans is needed.

Impressive Health Benefits Of Hawthorn Berry

In traditional Chinese medicine, hawthorn is one of the most commonly recommended foods to help treat high blood pressure (

Animal studies show that hawthorn can act as a vasodilator, meaning it can relax constricted blood vessels, ultimately reducing blood pressure (

A 10-week study looked at the effects of taking hawthorn extract in 36 people with mildly elevated blood pressure.

​​​​The researchers found that those who took 500 mg of the extract daily reduced diastolic blood pressure – the bottom number of a blood pressure reading (

Freeze Dried Pitted Organic Whole Hawthorn Berry

In a 2006 study, researchers gave 79 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure 1, 200 mg of hawthorn extract every day for 16 weeks. Those who took the extract had greater improvements in blood pressure than those in the placebo group (

However, further studies are needed to support these findings. It is also important to note that using extract is not the same as eating the berries.

Summary Some research suggests that hawthorn berries may reduce blood pressure by helping to narrow blood vessels. However, further studies are needed.

Some studies suggest that hawthorn extract may improve blood cholesterol levels thanks to its flavonoid and pectin content. Pectin is a type of fiber that is involved in cholesterol metabolism (

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Imbalanced levels of blood cholesterol – particularly high triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol – play a role in atherosclerosis, or the build-up of plaque in your blood vessels (

If plaque continues to build up, it can completely block blood vessels, leading to a heart attack or stroke.

In one animal study, mice that received two doses of hawthorn extract had lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as 28-47% lower liver triglyceride levels, compared to mice that did not receive the extract (

Likewise, a 6-week study in rats showed that when rats were given hawthorn supplements, they significantly reduced levels of fasting triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

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Finally, a 6-month study in 64 people with atherosclerosis found that taking hawthorn extract at a dose of 2.3 mg per pound (5 mg per kg) of body weight significantly reduced the thickness of harmful plaque buildup in the carotid artery (

Although this research is promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effect of hawthorn extract on blood cholesterol.

Summary Research in animals and humans suggests that hawthorn extract may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, more human research is needed.

People have been using hawthorn berries and extract for centuries to treat digestive issues, especially indigestion and stomach pain (

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Berries contain fiber, which has been proven to aid digestion by reducing constipation and acting as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are foods that nourish and support healthy gut bacteria, which are critical to maintaining healthy digestion (

​One observational study of people with slow digestion found that each additional gram of dietary fiber people ate was associated with