Hawthorn - Cratagegus
oxyacantha, C. monogyna
decidious, thorny bush / tree which can grow to
about 8m (25ft) with twisty, tangled branches and
dense foliage and sharp thorns. The small leaves
have three or more bulbous lobes with deep indentations
between them and serrated-shaped edges. Sprays of
whitish 5-petalled blossoms change into clusters
of red berries by autumn. The flowers generally
bloom in December and May, with a heady fragrance,
but if the weather is frosty it flowers when hard
weather is over ["Ne'er cast a clout, til May
is out" - May being the folkname for Hawthorn]
The wood of the Hawthorn has a fine grain and makes
one of the hottest fires known, considered more
desirable than even Oak for oven-heating.
is a valuable medicinal herb and was a symbol of
hope in the Middle Ages, when it was taken for many
ailments. Often described as "food for the
heart" Hawthorn is now used by Western Herbalists
for heart and circulatory ailments, and has been
used to remedy angina, heart arrythmias and high
blood pressure as it is known to increase blood
flow to heart muscles and restore normal heart beat.
This current use stems from an Irish Physician who
started using it successfully for such conditions
towards the end of the 19th Century. Before then
it was traditionally used in Europe to remedy kidney
stones, bladder stones and as a diuretic.
is so often the case in Nature, the Hawthorn provides
a remedy for those who fall victim to its thorns.
Culpeper noted "If cloths or sponges be wet
in the distilled water, and applied to any place
wherein thorns and splinters, of the like, do abide
in the flesh, it will notably draw them forth.."
England the young leaves and berries of the Hawthorn
used to be known as 'bread and cheese' [nothing
to do with the taste - just in the sense that it
was considered basic foodstuff]. The young leaves
actually have a rather nutty taste, and the leaves
and flowers have long been used to make a herbal
cuppa long before the black tea we all know and
love came to this country. An infusion of the flowers
or leaves can be drunk to help restore blood pressure
and protect the heart and Austrian herbalist Maria
Treben recommends Hawthorn Tea for for headaches,
poor circulation, and lapses of memory.
Widely used in the past to bulk out more expensive
teas - the following recipe for a popular country
tea mix is taken from Barbara Griggs' The
GreenWitch : "2 parts of dried Hawthorn
leaves to 1 part each of Sage and Balm; or equal
parts of Hawthorn, Sage, Balm and Blackcurrant leaves"
A decoction of the flowers, leaves or berries may
also be used as a gargle for sore throats - and
the berries apparently make a very good liquer brandy.
where Hawthorn grows profusely often seem to meditate
earth energies and evoke a connection to ancient
plenty of folklore concerning the Hawthorn - connections
with faeries, the underworld, May festivities -
and in Britain there was a very strong taboo against
bringing hawthorn into the house. In Celtic folklore
the Hawthorn was often referred to as the faerie
bush and it was considered bad luck to cut it for
fear of offending the faeries that inhabited it.
The exception was during May Day celebrations when
the collecting of sprigs and flowers was permitted.
In Ancient Greece crowns of Hawthorn blossoms were
made for wedding couples and the wedding party would
carry burning toches of Hawthorn. In Teutonic Lore
the Hawthorn was a symbol of death and it's wood
was used for funeral pyres. Interestingly, the association
with the underworld and death, may have something
to do with the chemical trimethylamine, which is
present in hawthorn blossom - trimethylamine is
one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal
Seek professional medical advice before using medicinally