Hawthorn: What’s It Good For?
by: EagleSong Gardener
Sun goes down and the day is done.
Mother Earth awaken me
To the heartbeat of the sea.
Hawthorn: What’s It Good For?
“What’s it good for?”, became the question that sent me into a nose dive that lasted several years and also brought me to the deepest place of realization that the world was decidedly different than it appeared. I retreated into self-isolation. The question was so captivating it took almost a decade to come to some understanding of what hawthorn was good for. And, in that discovery, the revelation or mirroring of what I was good for emerged as well.
Most herbalists I know are keen to say hawthorn is a good medicine for the heart and since cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death in the world this made some kind of sense. But in that moment, I wanted to know something else…only I didn’t know what it was. Much like Linnaeus as he organized botanical information into a system, and yet intuitively knew there was something outside his perception that was alive. Because he couldn’t see it, he could not name it, so he referred to it as chaos. With today’s electron microscopes micro-organisms can be seen and named. Today, we are on the edge of another shift in perception that words are not quite able to get around. A shift that is more palpable daily.
Slipping into liminal space…
Hawthorn as an ally kept egging me on to learn more. Anatomy and physiology classes, I explored her distribution around the planet, recognizing diversity extended capacity. I watched people spending a great deal of time, money and anguish over heart diseases while condemning the very tree that could support their health.
First, my apprenticeship with the tree herself was required. Hence, all of the research and travel getting acquainted with Crataegus. The hands-on harvest of the leaves, flowers, fruits and, finally, scion wood for grafting the Golden Girl and expanding this one Crataegus’ reach in the world. By giving myself to the tree for several days during 3 seasons of each year, I began to feel the pulse of earth and heaven moving though me. My life revolved around her schedule. With only 3 days to harvest flower and leaf from each tree meant that I planned my life around her bloom and fruiting seasons. The fruit harvest window is a little easier but learning how to tell when different species of hawthorn are ripe is an art and craft. And, where I live, they are not “better after a frost”. In fact, if I waited for a frost there may be no harvest of fruit at all.
Next, ingestion by creating many different preparations that I could eat and drink to see what would happen. After 10 years of bringing hawthorn into my diet as a nourishing and tonifying herb used regularly, my personal experience supports hawthorns’ use as an adaptogen, that is, a plant that is non-toxic, non-specific and generally beneficial to the whole organism.
Over time it became apparent that my deeper question was less a concern with hawthorn’s medicinal use and more an inquiry as to why is heart disease such a prevalent pattern in human kind at this time? I was less interested in finding a cure or fixing a problem, although delighted that hawthorn can be used by anyone with beneficial effect; it turned out my interest was in the heart itself and its place and function in our lives.
What is the heart and what does it do?…
An interesting aspect of the heart I’ve learned through this experience is that the heart is more than a pump. It could not do what it does for a lifetime if it was merely a mechanical pump. The mechanistic view of the heart has guided western medicine since 1628 when an English physician, William Harvey, published an anatomical study on the motion of the heart and circulation of blood in animals, De Mortu Cordis.This (1) work redirected medicine toward a mechanistic perspective and away from a vitalist viewpoint.
Today, people in many fields of inquiry are shifting perspective and encompassing an enhanced vitalist or dynamic view of life and health. The idea that human beings are generative elements in creation, that their bodies have over time learned to adapt and change through many dynamic planetary events is, presently, one of particular interest.
It turns out the heart, for now, has 3 methods for regulating and influencing the body and surrounding fields. First, it produces electromagnetic energy and can mirror the earth’s electromagnetic field. Second, it is rich in neural cells so the heart has intelligence and communicates directly with the brain. And, “the third level of influence of the heart on the brain is hormonal, this influences endocrine activity…”(2) The heart is coming into focus as the central organ of the body which connects the individual with the whole of creation internally and externally. WOW…the heart is way more than a pump! Having it function well is going to change your life!
So what now?
On the surface, the world is undergoing phenomenal change on many levels at unprecedented speeds. Quantum physics, biology and other sciences are changing the way we see the world and our place in it. Science is measuring and investigating the human organism in wholly new ways and finding new and ancient alignments. The current planetary engagement with a micro-organism magnifies the extent of the changes happening. What a time to be alive!
When there is upheaval in nature, often the species on the edge of the disruption move to the center as things stabilize, there was no niche for them until disruption opens new niches. “…new species evolve on the margins.”(3)
Weeds are species that succeed in disruption and live on the margins. While haw is a tree, she is considered a weed by many and entirely disregarded by others. She has a certain capacity called apomixis by which she can spontaneously create a new species without pollination from another tree. That might be a useful strategy as we move forward. Eating weeds is an easy way to build one’s physical body literally from the elements needed to navigate disruption thereby, adapting to dynamic disequilibrium or perhaps life’s ever changing dance.
A streamlined answer to, “What is hawthorn good for? is a holographic microcosm of the vastness of Crataegus: The Generative Genus…
• Strengthening the heart muscle
• Improving digestion and circulation
• Resolving arterial congestion and lowering blood pressure
• Increasing flexibility of the arteries, veins and capillaries in the body
• 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
• To strengthen a weak heart or carry an old heart into a healthy future consider hawthorn as an ally
• Crataegus spp. an herb, a food, a medicine that nourishes and tonifies the guiding organ, the heart, of each individual and humanity.
Sitting with the heart and a bigger sense of what the heart is and its capacity. My heart. Your heart. The heart of earth. The heart of creation.
Imagine the coronary arteries encircling your heart like a crown, bringing nourishment and oxygen rich blood to your body. Feel your heart beat. Feel each breath and the give away dance connecting you and plants.
What magnificence the on-going journey of being human is. Seeing the heart of matter transcending into a new state of being…
Big love is action.
Engage hawthorn as a guide showing you the way forward. Challenging and strengthening every step of the way. Through darkness, into light, again and again around an ever expanding spiral.
While we cannot control the outcome of the world emerging, we can influence the direction of flow by our actions and the allies we call upon. By boundaries set and the capacity to do what we’ve come here to do, and be and experience we can each fulfill our destiny. May the Haw be with you!
Herbs are people’s medicine.(4)
(1)Thomas Cowan, MD, Human Heart, Cosmic Heart (Chelsea Green, 2016)
(2) Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence A Blueprint of the Human Spirit, (Park 2 Street Press, 2002)
(3) Thomas J. Elpel, Botany in a Day, (HOPS Press, 3rd Edition, 1998)
(4) Susun Weed
EagleSong Gardener, Herbalist/Gardener, Grandmother/EarthKeeper, Pilgrim/Adventurer, Hawthorn Whisperer
Is excited by the dynamic nature of life in a garden. Gardening since childhood, EagleSong has tended/managed high visibility kitchen gardens and farms, commercial gardens, herb gardens & nurseries and has trained in Healing & Therapeutic garden design. Today, she enjoys teaching health from the ground up at the generative pace of her home place, RavenCroft Garden. A cottage garden connecting people, plants and the earth for close to 30 years.
As co-creatrix of HerbWiseWomen, an online community for Herb-Ally Curious Women, EagleSong delights in crafting spaces where women gather to connect, learn and transform themselves and the world at their own place and in their own pace.
PO Box 837
Monroe, WA 98272
Hawthorn…what’s it good for?
Hawthorn is an herb resonant with the heart. She is diverse, adaptable, and widely distributed making haw accessible food and medicine for people of all ages.
From my personal experience, the experiences of people in my rounds and reports from the greater field of herbalism, Hawthorn has a profound effect on the heart, indeed, the whole body, while exhibiting no side effects. A small, tough, gnarly tree that endures difficulty, persists in rugged terrain as well as in a formal gardens or on the side of the street in your town.
Hawthorn whose thorns define boundaries allowing the sweetness of her flowers and fruits to grow on…Hawthorn a food & medicine for our times.