Hawthorn Berries Vs Leaf – Harvesting hawthorn berries is a new experience for me this year. They are sweet and mild if you get them at the right time, and in years past I have tasted them in early fall. This year, the Washington hawthorn was sweet 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 a debt 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 (in his wonderful Tree Identification Book: A New Method for Useful Tree Identification and Recognition.
Hawthorn Berries Vs Leaf
, my favorite guide to learning tree ID). Fortunately, you don’t need to know how to identify specific species. You just need to know it’s a hawthorn, because all hawthorns have edible berries. HOWEVER, like apple seeds, hawthorn seeds contain cyanide, and should not be eaten. Don’t be afraid; just spit out the seeds.
Hawthorn (crataegus Oxycantha)
Why bother with hawthorns? They are beautiful, interesting, and wild edibles with known health benefits. Some people use the berries to make hawthorn jelly, but I have yet to try this. The berries, leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see how I make hawthorn berry extract.
I will describe two types here, to show the general characteristics. That should help you recognize a hawthorn when you see one, but the
If you are not sure if you have hawthorn when you want to eat it, please check other sources until you are SURE, before eating the berries.
This grows as a small tree or shrub, and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The berries turn red in September (here), but are delicious later. By October 31st, they were delicious, and probably past their peak. Each berry has 3-5 seeds.
Hawthorn, May, Maythorn, Whitethorn, Crataegus Monogyna/laevigata
The leaves are lobed and toothed, as you can see in my photo above. Many other species of hawthorn have similar leaves. The tree is heavily armed with long thorns, up to 3 inches long. However, with reasonable care, you can easily harvest the berries, which often hang from the branch. It becomes even easier later in the season after most of the leaves have fallen and no longer hide the thorns.
Also called common hawthorn, this European native escaped cultivation and naturalized in North America. It is sometimes called an invasive plant, but I don’t see it very often, and when I do see it, there aren’t many in one place. It is probably invasive in other parts of the country, but it does not seem to be very aggressive here. Like the Washington hawthorn, the single-seeded hawthorn grows as a shrub or small tree, and bears clusters of white flowers in late spring. The red, egg-shaped berries ripen earlier (than Washington hawthorn) in the fall and contain one seed (hence the name). The leaves are more deeply toothed than those of the Washington hawthorn, but the thorns are much smaller, only about 1/2 inch long.
Hawthorns are common in the forest floor here in Massachusetts, but those are sharp specimens that don’t produce well. It is very shady in the forest. To find hawthorns full of fruit, look in sunny areas, such as fields with shrubs and bushes, at the edges of meadows, and along rivers. They are often grown as ornamentals, so if your friend has them and doesn’t mind picking the berries, you have the opportunity to easily find food at your fingertips.
This is my first experience using hawthorn berries, and I use them to make an extract, with the same process you would use to make vanilla extract. I hope to use the hawthorn extract as a spice in cooking and baking. I filled a clean mason jar about 3/4 full with berries, covered them with 80 proof vodka, and sealed the jar. I’m not sure how long it will take to extract enough flavor from the berries, so I’ll be checking it daily. I know that some extracts, (like vanilla extract) take weeks, so that’s what I expect here. Hawthorn Berries are a well-known herb in traditional Chinese medicine that supports the cardiovascular system. It also provides plant support to the kidneys and digestive systems. Properties: Warm, Sweet
Hawthorn Leaf & Flower Capsules
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These nutritious berries have a sour, bitter taste and a medium sweetness. They vary in color from yellow to dark red (
For centuries, people have used hawthorn berries as a medicinal remedy for digestive problems, heart problems, and high blood pressure. In fact, mulberry has been a staple of Chinese medicine since at least 659 A.D. (
Hawthorn Berry, Leaf, & Flower
Antioxidants help reduce unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage your body if present in high levels.
Free radicals can come from certain foods. You can also have high levels of it from exposure to environmental toxins such as air pollution and secondhand smoke (
Polyphenols are associated with many health benefits due to their antioxidant activity, including a lower risk of (
Although preliminary research in animals and cells is promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hawthorn berries on disease risk.
How Healthy Is Hawthorn?
Summary Hawthorn berries contain plant polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that have been linked to many health benefits.
Research has found that chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (
In a study on mice with liver disease, hawthorn berry extract significantly decreased levels of inflammatory substances, leading to reduced liver inflammation and damage (
In another study, researchers gave vitexin – a compound present in hawthorn leaves – to rats with respiratory conditions. This treatment reduces the production of inflammatory molecules and reduces the response of white blood cells to inflammation (
Hawthorn Supreme: Gaia Herbs®
These promising results from animal and test-tube studies suggest that the supplement may provide anti-inflammatory benefits in humans. However, more research is needed.
Summary Hawthorn berry extract has shown anti-inflammatory properties in test-tube and animal studies. However, research in humans is needed.
In traditional Chinese medicine, hawthorn berry is one of the foods that is often recommended to help treat high blood pressure (
Animal studies show that hawthorn can act as a vasodilator, meaning it can relax constricted blood vessels, ultimately lowering blood pressure (
Hawthorn Haws Berries Leaves Isolated On Stock Photo 1321751918
A 10-week study looked at the effects of taking hawthorn extract in 36 people with mild hypertension.
The researchers found that those who took 500 mg of the extract daily had reduced diastolic blood pressure – the lowest number of blood pressure readings (
In a 2006 study, researchers gave 1,200 mg of hawthorn extract to 79 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure daily for 16 weeks. People taking the extract experienced a greater improvement in blood pressure than those in the placebo group (
However, more research is needed to support these findings. It is also important to note that using the extract is not the same as eating the berries.
Hawthorn Leaf, Flower, Berry Liquid Extract
Summary Some research shows that hawthorn berries can help lower blood pressure