One of the numerous reasons I love working with herbs, is because there are endless opportunities for exploration and expanding my knowledge. Basically, I will never be done learning. I love tinkering with tried and true remedies, investigating new combinations and learning how I can enhance their medicinal properties. Ever since I started tincturing Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) berries, I have always wanted to include its blossoms and leaves into the mix. Up until last spring, I kept missing the ideal window of opportunity to harvest its beautiful blossoms. It is important to gather the blossoms while they are open and fresh in order to capture their vital medicinal properties in all their glory. I wish I could convey how exciting it was to finally blend my two tinctures this winter after starting the process in May with gathering the fresh blossoms and leaves to tincture. Then after the first frost in the fall, I harvested fresh berries to tincture as well. I am a big fan of using fresh herbs and adding them to the menstruum (solvent that extracts the medicinal qualities from the herb) as quickly as possible to extract all the potent medicinal properties.  Mike and I did a taste test of the berries, and then combined the berry, blossom, and leaf tinctures and found both pleasant. But there was something lighter and crisper about the combined tincture ~ it tasted wonderful.  I have always found that if an herb tastes enjoyable to an individual, their bodies are telling them they need those healing and nourishing properties. It’s kind of like their body’s way of welcoming healing and health. Moreover folks, our bodies were loving this Hawthorn tincture.

So, why was it so important for me to combine the blossoms, leaves, and berries, since many traditional Hawthorn extracts simply contain the berries? Basically, it is vital to go with gut instincts and, frankly, my entire being was screaming for the whole plant. In fact, some herbalist actually use the ends of the branches and thorns in their extractions as well; perhaps another time. Yes, Hawthorn berries, leaves and blossoms are all rich in flavonoids but each contains different types or amounts of flavonoids. For example, berries contain more hyperoside than the leaves and flowers, and the leaves and flowers contain more vitexin rhamnoside than the berries. My thoughts  are that all the flavonoids are important and helpful, so I want them all, allowing me to create a more complex tincture. So what is so great about flavonoids? Flavonoids are rich in anti-oxidant, benefiting the heart and blood vessels in many ways; they increase the heart pumping action, which in turn increases blood flow and improves oxygen utilization while relaxing the blood vessels. They improve the integrity of blood vessel walls and decrease capillary fragility and permeability, as well as lowering blood pressure.

Although a great deal of research has been done on Hawthorn and it has been used as a heart tonic since the 1st century, all the mechanisms are still unknown, but it is clear that hawthorn improves cardiac insufficiency and circulation. It does not work over night. It is a tonic and needs time to nourish, tone and strengthen the heart muscle, perhaps 3-6 months or longer. Hawthorn is considered a trophorestorative herb, which are unique as they not only restore actual physical function to a debilitated organ (in this case the heart) and tissue there will be lasting improvement even if herb is discontinued. With time, the heart will become stronger, reducing the overall workload of the heart, steadying the heartbeat, allowing blood to flow freely and reducing anginas occurrences as well as duration. Its also a mild sedative, relaxing a nervous or stressed heart so less damage will occur. It is a cardiotonic superstar for sure.

So, are there any precautions to consider when taking Hawthorn? It is generally safe to use as a long-term tonic. If you are working with a cardiologist or physician definitely discuss using Hawthorn but there are generally no concerns over interactions with other medications. The only concern is that cardio-medication should be monitored over time, as you may need to adjust medication since it is likely that you will not need as high of dose due to your heart being restored and strengthened.

HawthornAll information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.