The Hawthorne tree is associated with the May Queen¹, the branches loaded with blossoms in the Spring. It’s also associated with the fairies and it was considered bad luck to cut one down. Now in October we see what blossomed in the Spring has come to fruit in the Fall.
Bees, flies and other pollinators love the pretty pink and white flowers, possibly because they smell a bit like fish or meat. I love watching the buzz and hum of them in and around the trees. A tea of the Spring flowers and leaves is a healthy drink, but don’t smell it too closely.
Crataegus monogyna is the Hawthorne we commonly see planted in the Northwest with it’s red berries; it was used widely in fields to soak up excess water. There is a native Hawthorne, Crataegus Douglassii, which is not as commonly found that has black berries. They, along with many other species of Hawthorne are in the Rosaceae family of plants; a family with many, many useful edible and medicinal plants.
Hawthorn grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It is drought-tolerant. In other words, it’s an easy tree to grow. It does like full sun, at least 6 hours per day. They have a rounded shape and grow from 15-25 feet tall. They respond well to pruning and will become bushier with more flowers and fruit!
In keeping with the connection of Hawthorne with the emotional heart in the Spring at Beltane; in western medicine, Hawthorne is used to restore physical heart health.² Hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, widen the blood vessels, and increase the transmission of nerve signals.
Hawthorn also seems to have blood pressure-lowering activity, according to early research. It seems to cause relaxing of the blood vessels farther from the heart. It seems that this effect is due to a component in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin.
Research suggests that hawthorn can lower cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). It seems to lower accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta (the largest artery in the body, located near the heart). Hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.
In Chinese medicine, Hawthorne has historically been used for improving digestion. It’s reputed to relieve food stagnation, especially with meats and oily foods and relieve blood stagnation, although it’s not recommended for long term use by the Chinese as it can injure the flow of Qi in the Spleen over time if there is deficiency.³
Most commonly it’s used in decoction for medicinal uses, although I love to use it in elixirs and honey.
As a food, the berries are traditionally made into tasty chutneys and ketchup in the UK. The trees are commonly planted in hedgerows, so the berries are plentifully available. Here in the Pacific NW, the trees are found in parks and fields, although sadly many of the parks are removing them as they are not a native species.
Every Spring I look forward to harvesting new leaves and flowers and every fall I look forward to harvesting the berries.
Me enjoying the Hawthorne berries and trees
Part of the lore of Hawthorne is its’ protective quality, because of the thorns it has. (The size of these vary from species to species, and some have none) I have a pendant made from a Hawthorne thorn and berry, wire wrapped with silver that I like to wear when I feel I need a little protective energy to go out into the world with me.
This post is meant to be used for educational purposes only and not to diagnose or treat any condition or illness. Consult your doctor if you have any questions about the information posted here.