Hawthorn, a small, thorny shrub or tree in the rose family, is a valuable herb to have around the homestead or in the herbal supplies pantry. Hawthorn health benefits have been known for many, many years. Several different types of hawthorn can be used interchangeably, but the most common varieties of the Crataegus spp. in use are C. monogyna, C. oxycantha, and C. laevigata.
Hawthorn is a very versatile herb. In addition to the fresh berries’ use as a food source, the dried berries, leaves, and flowers find a place in the prepared herbalist’s tool box as extracts, teas, and capsules.
Hawthorn health benefits
There are two reasons that I personally keep hawthorn in my herbal preps kit. Both reasons have to do with hawthorn’s influence on the circulatory system. Hawthorn is traditionally recognized for its importance in re-establishing a healthy balance between strength of the heartbeat and blood pressure. In the late 1800s/early 1900s, this was used to benefit people who developed heart conditions, but it is equally applicable for use after or in conjunction with appropriate medical care for trauma, shock, or loss of blood.
Hawthorn has also developed an excellent reputation as a nervine, an herb that supports the nervous systems and healthy range of the emotional state. Thus, its second place in my herbal preps kit — as a beneficial herb for the emotional fall-out of a sudden emergency or unexpected event like an accident or loss of a loved one. Because of its affinity for the circulation, hawthorn can be supportive when we are feeling discouraged and need to “take heart” after an unsettling event.
Hawthorn as a Tonic/ Restorative
Hawthorn is one of the best herbs for heart health. It gently builds the health of the heart muscle, and is one of the premier cardiac tonics– helping to strengthen, tonify and restore balance. Learn more about the heart-healthy benefits of hawthorn. Click To Tweet
Traditionally, hawthorn was used for any heart related imbalance, whether that was high blood pressure, or low blood pressure, or even high cholesterol, heart failure, or angina. Because it benefits the overall circulation, hawthorn is a good herb to turn to when we have chronically cold hands and feet, or when there are age related heart problems in the elderly. It can even be used when recovering from an injury, to make sure there is good circulation to support the healing process.
Hawthorn and Emotional Support
Besides being useful when we feel the need to “take heart,” hawthorn is beneficial when we find ourselves in restless, irritable moods, possibly with trouble focusing. It’s safe for children, and can be used alone or in combination with other nervine herbs and appropriate support to help settle and calm kids who are struggling with hyperactivity. It can be a very comforting herb for those people struggling with long term illness and the feelings of hopelessness that can arise from a long convalescence.
Hawthorn: Other Historical Uses
Hawthorn has another very interesting use, as a digestive aid! Problems with bloating, especially when food seems to “sit” in the stomach and leads to discomfort after eating, are the traditional domain of hawthorn. If diarrhea occurs alongside bloating, hawthorn may be an appropriate herb to offer some comfort.
Safety and Serving Size
If you buy a prepackaged hawthorn supplement, be sure to follow the instructions on the label. If you are using bulk or homemade preparations, the following guidelines can be used:
- Extract: 15-30 drops (roughly ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon if a dropper isn’t available) may be used 1-3x per day.
- Tea (sometimes called an infusion): 1 or two teaspoons of the dried leaves, flowers, and/or berries per 8 oz of water. one or two cups may be enjoyed daily. Drinking large amounts of tea from the berries can give some people diarrhea, but it’s not a problem for most people at normal amounts.
With such a versatile range of health benefits, hawthorn is definitely one of the top herbs to include in herbal preparedness supplies. It is generally considered to be a very safe botanical, and can be used by almost anyone- including children. However, make sure to check with your doctor if you take medications or have pre-existing health conditions.