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  • Thursday, January 31, 2013 4:21 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Take Heart From Hawthorn
    by Susun S Weed
    ©

    Hawthorn is the tree of May. Its many common names include whitethorn, hagthorn, ladies' meat, quickthorn, maytree, and mayblossom. Its magic and medicine are ancient and memorable. From the earliest records, hawthorn is one of the sacred trees. Hawthorn is the sixth tree of the Ogam cycle, Hath. Hath precedes Quer, the oak, center tree of the cycle of thirteen. Hawthorn is said to guard the hinges and to oversee crafts. A branch of flowering hawthorn placed in studio or workshop is believed to make the craftsperson skilled and successful. Hath shuts what is open and opens what is shut. Her magic, like her medicinal effect, is slow but long lasting.

    The day of the fairies return is not a calendar date, but, according to Ellen Everet Hopman, author of Tree Medicine, Tree Magic, "the day the hawthorn blooms." As the fairy gates open this May, open your heart to hawthorn. Let its beauty and strength imbue you with great heart, for hawthorn is the herb of healthy hearts.

    Hawthorn (Cratageus) is notable for its long thorns and bright red haws (apple-like berries). The thorns may be used as needles; and hedges of thorny hawthorn grow quickly enough to keep even goats at bay. The tasty crimson haws -- called cuckoo's beads, chucky cheese, and pixie pears -- are fermented into wine or baked into little cakes to celebrate the new May.

    The leaves, flowers, and ripe berries of Cratageus oxyacantha taste great and are easily consumed in teas, infusions, and tinctures. Consistent, long-term use of hawthorn is especially recommended for ageing hearts, weak hearts, damaged hearts, and those with hypertension, angina, arrhythmia, heart valve disease, or Reynaud's disease (arterial spasms).


    Regular use of hawthorn can:

    •         Lower blood pressure
    •         Increase the effectiveness of the heart's pumping action       
    •         Strengthen the heart muscle
    •         Slow the heartbeat
    •         Dilate coronary arteries
    •         Prevent heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
    •         Help those healing from heart surgery
    •         Support the immune system
    •         Increase longevity


    The German Commission E -- a scientific body which determines the effectiveness of herbal medicines -- recommends tea or tincture of hawthorn for

    •         Cardiac insufficiency corresponding to stages I and II of the NYHA
    •         Feelings of pressure and tightness in the cardiac region
    •         The aging heart not yet requiring digitalis
    •         Mild bradyarrhythmia
    •         Increasing coronary and myocardial circulation


    There are no contraindications and no overdose of hawthorn. It is safe to take with any other medicine, including other heart medicines. (Though it is redundant to take blood pressure medicine after taking hawthorn for three months.)

    Hawthorn is member of the rose family, and thus closely related to rose hips, apples, cherries, apricots, and almonds. Hawthorn tea is typically made by steeping two teaspoonfuls of dried leaves and flowers in a cup of boiling water for twenty minutes. Hawthorn infusion is made by steeping one ounce of dried flowers and leaves or one ounce of dried haws in a quart of boiling water for at least four hours. I make hawthorn tincture by soaking dried hawthorn haws in 100 proof vodka for at least six months, or until it turns quite red.

    A dose is a cup of tea, half a cup of infusion, or a dropperful of tincture, taken first thing in the morning and last thing at night. For the first three months of use, a third dose, mid-day, may be added. Traditional European herbalists always add a big spoon of honey to hawthorn tea or infusion. They believe that sweetness heals the heart.

    Hawthorn's ability to slowly lower blood pressure is well documented, although the mechanism of its action is unclear. Hawthorn does not block calcium channels nor is it a diuretic. In fact, it is highly regarded as a safe way to lower blood pressure when the patient is diabetic or has kidney disease. An injectable preparation of hawthorn was widely used in modern medicine prior to the introduction of blood pressure drugs and heart-valve surgery. It is still available in Germany.

    The elder Rodale wrote of his heart and its response to hawthorn in Organic Gardening in the mid-fifties. His editorials praising his renewed health and vigor stand as a modern-day testament to an age-old herb.

    The leaves, flower buds, flowers, and berries/haws of the hawthorn are all rich in anti-oxidant flavonoids. Flavonoids benefit the heart and blood vessels in many ways. Their powerful anti-inflammatory effects relax the blood vessels. Their anti-microbial actions stop low-level infections like those associated with gum disease from harming the heart. And flavonoids support healthy functioning of the immune system and the liver. No wonder hawthorn is the herb of longevity in stories and tales!

    In addition to flavonoids, hawthorn is rich in minerals, and contains a small amount of the active principle oligomeric procyanidine (1-epicatechol). Numerous scientific authors have scratched their heads in amazement that hawthorn can have any helpful effect since it has no harmful effect. Pharmacological studies of it constituents evidence "no objectively assessable results." There just isn't enough "active ingredient" to account for its observable actions. But herbalists understand that the magic of hawthorn is in the sum of the parts, not in one active principle.

    The nutrients in hawthorn assist its active ingredient so that the heart and circulatory system are slowly and deeply healed on multiple levels. Hawthorn carries its magnesium and calcium directly to the heart muscles, enhancing their ability to contract and increasing available oxygen. This beneficial effect extends into the coronary blood vessels as well. Hawthorn is unique in its ability to strengthen the weak heart and carry the old heart into a healthy future.

    Hawthorn works thoroughly, dependably, and slowly. Consistent use of the remedy is required for benefits to accrue. But, once gained, improvement persists. I take hawthorn berry tincture several times a week to keep my sixty-plus-year-old heart in great shape.

    There's magic and medicine in the tree of May, hawthorn. Take some home for yourself today.
  • Thursday, January 31, 2013 11:16 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    © Susun S Weed


      Winter is my favorite season. And where I live, winter brings cold and snow. Do you like snow? I do. I like to play in the snow.  I admire snow's beauty. I'm thankful that snow protects the animals and the plants. But what impresses me the most about snow is its country name: "poor person's fertilizer."

    What fun to sled in the snow (screaming), to ski across the snow (silently), to ride a snowboard in the snow (grinning), to ice skate (laughing), to snowmake snow angels (shivering), to bring a snow person to life (cooperating), to have a snowball fight (competing), to make snow caves (digging), and snow forts (lying in wait).

    I never fail to thrill at the sight of moonstruck rainbows glittering off the surfaces of fine snow on a sub-zero night. I love standing out in the snow when it is softly falling, watching the flakes shining in my long dark hair, and catching them on my tongue. I cherish the mornings when I awake to white skies filled with snow, snow, snow. There's snow on the ground, snow tumbling down, nothing but snow. Even life is canceled for the day. Snow day. It's no day. No responsibility day. Hooray. Snow!

    Snow is beautiful. Each snowflake unique. Each a miniature mandala. Each one a slice of a six-sided crystal. And every snowflake, like a quartz crystal, is vibrant and vibrating. Snow is magic. Everyone feels it. Experiment this winter with using the crystalline energy of snow.

    When snow falls without wind, it outlines each branch and bud of each tree and shrub. Perhaps it is making their auras visible. Snow rounds and softens the shapes of nature. Snow connects everything with sweeping strokes. Snow blots out the details and leaves the big picture. Snow speaks to our pleasure, and our need, to erase the small stuff, to soar wide in imagination, to understand the big pattern.

    Snow lays quietly, covering the ground, covering the plants. Snow provides an insulating blanket that protects the roots of the plants. Without snow cover, the ground heaves. It freezes at night, and expands up. Then it thaws during the day, and sinks down. This seesaw of freezing and thawing, expanding and sinking, pushes up large rocks from beneath the ground and can uproot plants. A blanket of snow keeps the ground evenly frozen, preventing frost heaves and protecting the plants from upheaval.

    That blanket of snow provides safe cover for small animals, too. They can burrow beneath it, running and foraging safe from the watchful eyes of predators. Snow keeps little animals warm, too. And they find it easier to tunnel through than the frozen earth.

    But it is snow's power to bring fertility to the land that amazes me the most. Snow is water. But snow is so much more than water. Each snowflake forms around a mote of dust. That dust is an iota of soil, a minute amount of minerals. And as the snow falls to the ground, it brings with it the nourishment of that tiny bit of mineral dust.

    This is true of raindrops as well. Each drop of rain coalesces around a mote of dust. I frequently hear people refer to the rain as "cleansing." Fortunately for us all, it is not. Just think what a barren wasteland we would inhabit if, instead of nourishing the soil, rain cleansed it. When rain washes the dirt away, we call it erosion. And, without dirt, there can be no plants. Rain is not cleansing. Rain is nourishing. And so is snow.

    The minerals in snow are absorbed into the soil. And, when the ground thaws, they are taken up by the plants. The weeds make exceptionally good use of the mineral wealth of snow. Oats and oatstraw consolidate the snow's magnesium, with 1200 mg in 100 grams of herb. Red raspberry grabs onto the manganese, manifesting 146 mg in 100 grams of herb. Chickweed loves snow's iron, offering 253 mg in 100 grams of herb. Valerian values snow's calcium; Skullcap thrives on snow's copper; hibiscus sops up snow's chromium; catnip goes for snow's selenium; while nettle champions snow's zinc.

    Minerals provide structure and allow communication in cells, plants and animals. The healthiest souls are mineral-rich soils. They provide minerals for healthy plants. And those plants create healthy bodies. Minerals are the key to optimum health, for people, plants, and the planet.

    That's why I champion the edible weeds such as nettle, oatstraw, dandelion, burdock, lamb's quarters, mallows, and purslane. They provide optimum nourishment, including mineral salts in many forms. They heal by nourishing.

    When in Switzerland some years back, I visited a cheese factory and watched a movie about Swiss cheeses. "What makes Swiss cheeses so special?" the movie asked. Then, answering its own question, it replied: "The special plants our cows eat." And there they were, right up on the big screen, the stars of the show: red clover and dandelion, yellow dock and chickweed, sorrel and plantain, burdock and mustard, nettle and thistle, mineral-rich weeds, fed by the snow.

    Weeds are green snow. Minerals fall as snow, are taken up by the weeds, and become available to us in forms we can use as food and medicine.

    Go out into the snow if you can this winter. Taste it. Savor it. Play with it. Admire it. Open your heart to its blessings. Open your spirit to its richness. Open yourself to its nourishment. You are a beloved child of the Universe and the snow is stardust.

    Green blessings.

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