Crataegus monogyna: Hawthorn - is currently one of my favorite plant allies. I really got the oppurtunity to know her wisdom and spirit over the past two years and have found her support so often in times of need. Crataegus comes from Greek the root word "kratos" which means strength, a quality she willingly offers to all who spend time with her medicine.
This a small tree / shrub in the Rose family that blossoms beautiful fragrant flowers in the spring and produces sweet red berries in the fall. Both of these medicines have an affinity towards the cardiovascular system and the energetic center of the Heart. She is a plant ally specific for all heart related dis-eases, ranging from emotional heartbreak, to hypertension and coronary artery disease. She gives the heart and vascular structures resiliency against the wear and tear of life and the pains of our humanness. Crataegus offers herself with warming energy that in the fall prepares us for surviving the cold and dark winters with an open heart, and again in Spring to offer thawing warmth and love to any parts of our hearts that we may have let harden.
Biochemically, this plant contains two groups of active compounds including flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins. These constituents, as part of the whole soul of this plant, give Hawthorn the potential to act as an antioxidant, cardiotonic and trophorestorative for the heart and the vessels and have actually been shown to decrease levels of LDL in the blood. She also acts as a diuretic and is astringent to improve tissue texture and integrity. When using this plant as medicine, she takes time to work and is best taken long term for her nourishing healing potential. Traditionally, Crataegus has been prepared into teas, syrups or miels as heart tonics as the sweetness speaks to the intrinsic softness of our heart centers.
I also believe, that because our wombs and our hearts are so similar (in the anatomical structure, contractile function, and energetic potential) this medicine also serves as nourishing and healing to our Womb centers, or as I like to call it, our second heart. When we have pain in our hearts, it almost always impacts our Womb energy and vice versa. The red of this berry also reminds me of the sacral chakra, the color of my moon blood, and my deep primal feminine power.
I used Crateagus as medicine, sat beneath her branches, tucked her flowers into my clothes and prayed with her flowers on my alter as I healed from a devastating heart break over the past year. She nourished me when nothing else could, and still speaks to me with such compassion as I cook with her today, feeling more whole than ever in my heart and soul. I am forever grateful for her medicine, and want to share three easy recipes to incorporate Hawthorn berries into your remedies for surviving another winter.
First of all- right now her berries are ready to harvest! There is a fine line between waiting for the first frost to harvest (ideal!) , and waiting too long where the berries start to rot- So I'd say in general if temperatures get down to mid thirties and its mid October- it should be the perfect time to harvest.
Please be kind and considerate when harvesting any medicines. Ask for permission, leave offerings, take only what you need and use all of what you take. Hawthorn is very prolific here in Washington, so it feels safe and respectful to harvest. Educate yourself on what sustainable harvesting looks like before you go out wild crafting- our Earth and plant medicines appreciate it!
After you've harvested- you will most likely have some leaves to separate out from the berries. The leaves can be used in your preparations too but is nice to have them separate to start. From here: you can follow these simple recipes to wild craft delicious medicines that will nourish your heart and the hearts of those you love as the grey and rainy days set in and encourage us to spiral into the depths of ourselves.
Love Potion Syrup
A syrup is basically a very concentrated tea (aka decoction) that is preserved and thickened by adding a sweetener (in this case honey) !
3 oz fresh Hawthorn Berry
2-3 small slices fresh ginger
1/ 2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 cups water
1 cup of honey
Combine Hawthorn berries and ginger in the two cups of water. Bring to a boil, crack lid so that steam can escape and simmer for 20-40 minutes, or until the water volume decreases by half. In the last couple minutes or simmering, add the Cinnamon and Cardomom. Then, strain out the plant material- squeezing it through the strainer or cheese cloth to make sure you got all the medicine out of those berries!
You will now have 1 cup of very strong tea.
Add one cup of honey to this (you can add anywhere from 1- 2 cups, depending on how sweet or thick you want your syrup to be. I find that a 1:1 ratio is perfect for me.)
Return the honey and decoction mixture to the stove top, stiring well to combine. You can let simmer for another 10 minutes if you want to thicken the syrup- or you can bottle as is. The longer you let it simmer, the thicker and sweeter the syrup will become. I typically only let mine simmer for another 5 minutes because I do not like to "cook" honey.
Bottle, let cool and label! This syrup will last longer if you store it in the fridge but has a shelf life of a couple weeks left at room temperature.
Sweet Heart Tincture
When it comes to tincturing- math and calculations is NOT my strong suit- so I follow the folk method of alcohol extractions. The general rule of this method is that for whatever amount of Marc (plant material) you have in a jar, you need enough menstruum (extracting liquid, ie: alcohol) to fill up to 1 inch above the level of plant material. All plant materials have a specific alcohol percentage that their constituents are best extracted at and for fresh hawthorn berries that is 100% alcohol (using 192 proof alcohol is as good as you will get!) That being said- I did NOT have this strong of alcohol so I settled for using a mixture of 100 proof vodka and glycerite- which will change the solubility potential but add a nice sweetness to the final product. In my plant medicine philosophy- I believe that even if we are not making the strongest "active constituent" based medicines, we are always getting the strong spirits of the plants which have the most potent medicines anyways.
Soo all that being said to make a tincture with fresh berries:
Fill a jar 3/4 way with fresh and crushed berries (crushing them will increase the surface area that interacts with the menstruum)
Add a combination of alcohol and glycerite ( I did about 70% alcohol and 30% glycerite) to fill the jar completely, making sure there is approximately 1 inch of liquid covering the plant material.
Shake well- label- and let sit for one whole lunar cycle- shaking with love and gratitude everyday!
Strain out your creation when the Novembers new moon arrives (or shortly before) using cheese cloth and an herb press if you have one. Otherwise, use your hands to make sure you forcefully wring out all the menstruum from the marc to get the most concentrated version of your medicine! (Those berries like to hang out to liquid!)
Put your magical product in tincture bottles to be dosed daily or given to loved ones as holiday gifts!
Heart Warming Tea
As I am writing this I have a beautiful cup of this tea steeping right now! This is simplest way to connect to Hawthorn's warming love through the ritual of making a good cup of tea.
Per 1 cup of boiling water add:
1-2 tbsp fresh hawthorn berries and leaves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey (or some Love potion syrup if you made that already!)
A splash of hemp milk or any creamer you prefer
(The berries need a longer steeping time than an average tea bag- so add them first to the boiling water and let simmer for 2 minutes or so before removing from heat, adding the rest of the ingredients, and letting steep for another 5-10 minutes before straining out the plant material.)
Thank you for your openness and willingness to connect with this Wonderful plant! I am truly grateful for her and also for each and every one of you! Please share how your creations turned out and /or any wisdom you have to share about this Heart Medicine :)
Heart warming blessings,
If you have any form of heart disease or take certain medications, please talk to a local Naturopathic Physician or Herbalist about possible contraindications.