Does Hawthorn Berries Thin The Blood – Now that spring is in full swing, I am amazed at the incredible diversity of plant life that grows around us. I remember that as a child wandering through fields and woods, I felt like I was surrounded by a sea of green. Except for the occasional wildflower, everything seemed more or less the same to me. It took years of relentless work before I was able to distinguish between the many different plants that grow in our area. I can empathize with my students who have a hard time distinguishing plants that look as different to me as dogs and squirrels now, and it’s great to be able to help others learn to make sense of all of this.
Another thing that amazes me is the diversity of the healing properties of each plant species. Unfortunately, this is not reflected at all in most herbal literature. We live in a society where the dominant worldview is very analytical, reductionistic and materialistic. The wealth of information traditionally available on medicinal plant species has become scarce and superficial. Although herbal books are popular these days, there are very few good ones. Most of them are not written by herbalists. They are written by academics who for the most part ignore our rich herbal heritage and focus on the growing body of animal and test-tube studies that are mostly meaningless. Even the few clinical trials that have been conducted on herbs are generally poorly designed and do not accurately reflect the use of real herbs in the real world. As a result, most of the information about herbs has become one-dimensional, focusing on the superficial symptoms: black cohosh (
Does Hawthorn Berries Thin The Blood
) is for insomnia, etc. The truth is, I’ve never come across a herb that doesn’t have dozens of medicinal properties and hundreds of potential therapeutic uses.
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A typical example of a multifaceted herb whose therapeutic benefits have been minimized in popular and scientific literature is hawthorn (
). Hawthorns make up a complex genus consisting of two to three hundred species that grow mainly in the temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In Ontario alone, there are 40 native species and one European that has naturalized here, and possibly dozens of hybrids. As with most plant genera, the classification or taxonomy of hawthorn species is currently under review based on recent DNA data, so the exact number of distinct species of hawthorn is still under debate. The situation is even more complicated with the Crataegus genus because it is very complex and many of these species can easily hybridize with each other. Usually only botanists who specialize in Crataegus can make a positive identification of a particular species.
One thing the herbal books seem to agree on is that there are two species of hawthorn that are used medicinally, both from Europe. I am forest hawthorn (
), the latter is the only alien species that has sporadically naturalized in Ontario. Unfortunately, this information is misleading. In fact, most if not all species of hawthorn can be used medicinally and they all have very similar properties. You won’t find any of the native Ontario species mentioned in the herb books, but all of them are useful. The two species I use most often in my clinic are the eastern hawthorn (
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). However, I have used several native species over the years and have found the range of properties to be fairly consistent from species to species. The only variation I have noticed are small differences in the strength of their actions on the nervous system.
There are three different parts of hawthorn that are used medicinally: the flowers, the leaves, and the fruit. The flowers are believed to be slightly stronger than the leaves, but picking the flowers yourself is impractical. The flowers and leaves therefore best harvest simultaneously from the beginning to the middle of its flowering period before the flowers are fertilized and start turning brown. This can be anywhere from early May to mid-June depending on the location and species collected. Most hawthorn species bloom for a very short time, typically one to two weeks. If we want to collect the leaves and flowers we must be prepared otherwise we could lose them. If this happens, it is usually possible to harvest a different species that blooms a little later.
The leaves and flower clusters emerge from the same buds. When the flowers begin to open, we collect the new shoots with the young leaves and the cluster of flowers. It is important not to harvest more than a few sprouts from any branch or it can be too stressful for the tree. If harvested this way, we will have a higher percentage of leaves than the flower, which is fine. The leaves and flowers are removed from the young stem, which is discarded. They can be dried to make tea or made into a tincture, preferably within a couple of hours of harvesting. Fresh leaf and flower tincture is preferred, but tea is still very effective.
Hawthorn fruits are also used medicinally. Although most herbal books refer to them as berries, the fruit is not a berry. It is a pommel, which makes it more like a miniature apple. The best time to harvest is when they have almost completely turned from green to red (or orange for some species). This is usually a period between late July and mid-August, depending on the species we are harvesting. If we collect them a little later, their potency will only decrease a little, but they will also become very wormy. The fruits can also be dried for later use as a tea or used fresh to make a tincture. Again, I prefer tincture but tea is effective too. Due to their high moisture content, the berries need to be dried quickly or they will mold. The best way to dry them is on a sheet of cardboard or a fine plastic mesh with air circulating above and below. They should be only one layer deep and dried in a warm, well-ventilated area, out of direct sunlight.
A Line Of Four Windswept Ripe Red Hawthorn Berry Bush, Crataegus Monogyna In A Field Stock Image
Hawthorns are small trees or shrubs. They are very common in most of Ontario. They tend to grow in open fields and transitional areas, especially along the edges of woods. Hawthorn is one of the first trees to colonize open areas when they are allowed to return to the wild. They have white, cream or pale pink flowers with five petals that produce an unpleasant aroma in May or June. This is typical of plants that are pollinated by flies as well as bees. The fruits are green when they are immature in June and July, but eventually turn red or orange (depending on the species) in August. However, what makes hawthorn easier to recognize is their long sharp thorns. It is important to be very careful when harvesting or walking near hawthorn trees. The thorns can hit you and even penetrate the soles of your running shoes and hiking boots if stepped on in the right way.
Hawthorn trees are very important to wildlife. Their fruits not only provide an important food source for many species of birds and small mammals, the trees also provide protection from predators. Many birds use hawthorn trees as nesting sites or rest in their branches when they need a break. I once saw a one-year-old red-tailed hawk that obviously didn’t have much experience with hawthorns flying into a space near the base of a hawthorn tree trying to catch up with a gray squirrel. The hawk realized his mistake too late. He wasn’t going anywhere in that tree. But the squirrel had a great time! He knew he was safe and kept jumping back and forth inches from the hawk’s head. He teased the hawk for about 10 minutes before the bird got tired of being frustrated and flew away.
Hawthorn is best known for its actions on the cardiovascular system. It strengthens the heart and blood vessels and protects them from the harmful effects of toxins. It improves circulation throughout the body including the brain. Hawthorn also helps normalize blood pressure. Overall, these properties make hawthorn an excellent herb for virtually any condition of the heart, blood vessels and circulation, including weak heart, irregular heartbeat, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, arteriosclerosis, poor peripheral circulation, high blood pressure and low and helps to reduce fat and cholesterol levels in the blood. This herb also helps improve concentration and memory and can be helpful in treating various forms of dementia.
). Hawthorn also works best when combined with a small amount of warming herb. Those that work particularly well with this herb include cayenne fruit (
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Hawthorn is also an important herb for the nervous system. It has a general tonic action on this system and is calming and relaxing.