Hawthorn: A Generative Genus
EagleSong Gardner, Herbalist
Hawthorn, Crataegus sp. is the epitome of a common plant, proliferating around Earth in the temperate northern latitudes. A member of the Rosaceae family, this small to medium tree takes her place in rough environments with grace and even charm. Growing 16’-50’ with small pome fruits and often sharp, thorny branches, Crataegus are used as specimen trees in gardens, as a foundation tree in countryside hedges and as a gnarly free agent in neglected landscapes providing shelter and food for innumerable insects, birds, amphibians, small mammals and, occasionally, humans! As a keystone species, hawthorn does far more than most people realize. Just for fun, check out www.theplantlist.org where you’ll find 2718 plant names for Crataegus sp. found around the world!
This small, ordinary tree holds a foundational place in herbal practice for strengthening the heart muscle, improving digestion and circulation, resolving arterial congestion and lowering blood pressure, supporting the immune system and increasing longevity. Hawthorn is filled with anti-inflammatory flavonoids; minerals and nutrients including magnesium and calcium to nourish and strengthen the whole person. Although no single constituent can be singled out as the active ingredient, the sum of all her parts brings the magic and medicine of hawthorn to life. If you want to strengthen a weak heart or carry an old heart into a healthy future consider hawthorn as an ally.
Generally recognized as a food wherever she grows, hawthorn preparations include candies, juice, wine, herbal medicines, and is used fresh and dried in soups, teas, punches, jams, butters, chutneys and relishes. With all of that in her favor, hawthorn is not universally accepted as beneficial. The county where I harvest most of the hawthorn iI use in my practice has listed the tree as an invasive species…
Considered a “heart food” and heart remedy of excellent proportion by herbalists in several traditions and one of the herbs which, personally, brings me great joy in tending, I set myself to the task of finding as many ways as possible of bringing this herb into the daily diet.
Remember to wrap your senses around this gnarly little tree as you get to know each other. Can you taste the sweet and sour in the haws? The hint of bitter? What do the leaves and flowers taste like? How do they make your mouth feel? How does the tree smell in full bloom? Who visits those blossoms along with you? How do you feel when you lay down under her spreading branches and watch the clouds float by? Savor hawthorn’s medicine in all of her expressions...perhaps, a deeper understanding lives in the complexity yet to be revealed...
Is hawthorn one of your allies? Bring your stories to my Hawthorn workshops at Red Earth in September and together we’ll grow our understanding of this keystone species and really explore what she’s “good for” in her many layers! I guarantee you’ll be surprised!
Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels