Hawthorn: The Heart Tree

The beautiful hawthorn tree, with its leaves that look like mini oak leaves and its spiny branches, is in flower right now, from snowy white to a medium pink depending on the species.  They produce prolific flowers, and later red berries, that are both used medicinally.  Crataegus oxycantha and C. monogyna are the two species used most often medicinally, and these produce dense clusters of white flowers and red edible berries that resemble small crabapples.  As a member of the apple family, this makes sense!  The berries have the longest traditional history of use.

Hawthorn is primarily known and used as a fantastic tonic for the cardiovascular system.  A safe, gentle, effective herbal remedy, this herb has been used to generally strengthen the heart muscle, lower blood pressure,  normalize heart rhythms, act as an antioxidant to reduce and prevent arthrosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries), to lower blood cholesterol levels (LDL in particular) and to increase circulation to the extremities.  Many of these uses have been born out in clinical studies, where some of hawthorn’s active compounds, mainly flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins, have strengthened contractions of the heart muscle, increased the amount of blood pumped with each contraction, and promoted a stable, rhythmic heartbeat in study participants.

Aside from being a heart remedy, hawthorn is also used as a gentle diuretic, increasing fluid flow through the kidneys, as a nervous system and lung tonic, and to promote restful sleep and healthy digestion.  It is used for allergy-related reactions such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthmatic conditions, for attention deficit symptoms in adults and children, for insomnia, indigestion, & nervous stomach.

It is also used for emotional heart-related pain, such as grief and heartbreak to help protect and support the body, and in particular the heart and lungs which can be affected in times of grief and loss.

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