hawthorn herbal tincture
Botanical: Crataegus oxyacantha (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Synonyms—May. Mayblossom. Quick. Thorn. Whitethorn. Haw. Hazels. Gazels. Halves. Hagthorn. Ladies’ Meat. Bread and Cheese Tree.
(French) L’épine noble
Part Used—Dried haws or fruits, leaves, flowers
Habitat—Europe, North Africa, Western Asia.
Description—The Hawthorn is the badge of the Ogilvies and gets one of its commonest popular names from blooming in May. Many country villagers believe that Hawthorn flowers still bear the smell of the Great Plague of London. The tree was formerly regarded as sacred, probably from a tradition that it furnished the Crown of Thorns. The device of a Hawthorn bush was chosen by Henry VII because a small crown from the helmet of Richard III was discovered hanging on it after the battle of Bosworth, hence the saying, ‘Cleve to thy Crown though it hangs on a bush.’ The Hawthorn is called Crataegus Oxyacantha from the Greek kratos, meaning hardness (of the wood), oxcus (sharp), and akantha (a thorn). The German name of Hagedorn, meaning Hedgethorn, shows that from a very early period the Germans divided their land into plots by hedges; the word haw is also an old word for hedge. The name Whitethorn arises from the whiteness of its bark and Quickset from its growing as a quick or living hedge, in contrast to a paling of dead wood.
This familiar tree will attain a height of 30 feet and lives to a great age. It possesses a single seed-vessel to each blossom producing a separate fruit, which when ripe is a brilliant red and this is in miniature a stony apple. In some districts these mealy red fruits are called Pixie Pears, Cuckoo’s Beads and Chucky Cheese. The flowers are mostly fertilized by carrion insects, the suggestion of decomposition in the perfume attracts those insects that lay their eggs and hatch out their larvae in decaying animal matter.
Constituents—In common with other members of the Prunus and Pyrus groups of theorder Rosaceae, the Hawthorn contains Amyddalin. The bark contains the alkaloid Crataegin, isolated in greyish-white crystals, bitter in taste, soluble in water, with difficulty in alcohol and not at all in ether. Fruit: saponins, glycosides, flavonoids, cardioactive glycosides, ascorbic acid, condensed tannins. Flowers: cardiotonic amines
Medicinal Action and Uses—Cardiac, diuretic, astringent, tonic. Mainly used as a cardiac tonic in organic and functional heart troubles. Blood pressure – to normalise hypotension or hypertension. Both flowers and berries are astringent and useful in decoction to cure sore throats. A useful diuretic in dropsy and kidney troubles. Further comments: Cardiotonic, coronary and peripheral vasodilator, has a bradycardiac effect on the myocardium, vascular tonic, hypotensive, reputed to dissolve deposits in thickened and sclerotic arteries, relaxant, diuretic, astringent.
Indications: Cardiac failure or earlier myocardial weakness, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, Buerger’s disease, paroxysmal tachycardia. Specifically indicated in hypertension with myocardial weakness, angina pectoris.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Crataegus is one of the tonics for the heart and circulation, acting upon the heart by either stimulating or depressing its activity depending upon the need. The precise mode of action which results in the dilating of the coronary blood supply and the tendency to slow down or stabilise the contractility of the heart muscle is not yet fully understood, but it is safe to use as a long-term treatment for a weak or failing heart, and has a beneficial effect on cardiac arrhythmias, especially extrasystoles and paroxysmal tachycardia. Crataegus is also a useful diuretic. A clinical study of 80 patients in Japan showed statistically significant improvement in cardiac function, oedema and dyspnoea in those treated with a preparation made from the fruits and leaves. Other clinical observations included a reduction in elevated blood levels of pyruvic and lactic acid, normalisation of prolonged systole and prevention of ECG changes due to hypoxia. As a tonic for the circulatory system Crataegus finds its primary use in the treatment of hypertension, atherosclerosis and angina pectoris. It is also applicable to peripheral circulatory conditions, such as intermittent claudication and Raynaud’s disease.
The flavonoids in Crataegus are vasodilatory, as is the condensed tannin phlobaphene. These dilate the peripheral blood vessels and have a specific action on the coronary circulation. The cyanogenic glycosides are sedative and increase the parasympathetic (vagal) tone of the heart, thus slowing it down. Trimethylamine stimulates the pulse rate slightly, and has a peripheral vasoconstrictor effect. The combination of these actions helps to explain the paradoxical effect of exerting a sympathetic action on the coronary circulation and a parasympathetic action on the myocardium. The sedative effects of the cyanogenic glycosides combine with the vasodilatory effects to lower high blood pressure, but the cardiotonic activity actually helps to raise low blood pressure. Crataegus does not contain digitalis-like substances, but is a gentle remedy requiring extended use. It is of benefit in the treatment of middle-aged patients showing the first signs of coronary artery disease, and also in older patients with ‘senile’ heart. It should also be used in the follow-up therapy of myocardial infarction.
Both the flowers and the berries are astringent and a decoction of these will help ease sore throats.
Combinations: Combined with Ginkgo, Crataegus can enhance poor memory by improving the cerebral circulation and thereby increasing the amount of oxygen to the brain. See our tonics: ForgetLess Tonic, BrainMore, MentalPepTalk Tonic.
Preparation and dosage—Fluid Extract of Berries, 10 to 15 drops. Tincture 1:5 25% Ethanol, 5ml 1-3 times daily. Decoction. Infusion
Herbactive Herbalist used wild crafted flowers, leaves and fruit as a fresh tincture, whenever possible.
Toxicity—Non toxic and non-cumulative. Caution: Should only be used under qualified supervision. Crataegus may increase the effect of other cardioactive drugs taken simultaneously.
The leaves have been used as an adulterant for tea. An excellent liquer is made from Hawthorn berries with brandy.
Formerly the timber, when of sufficient size, was used for making small articles. The root-wood was also used for making boxes and combs; the wood has a fine grain and takes a beautiful polish. It makes excellent fuel, making the hottest wood-fire known and used to be considered more desirable than Oak for oven-heating. Charcoal made from it has been said to melt pig-iron without the aid of a blast.
The stock is employed not only for grafting varieties of its own species, but also for several of the garden fruits closely allied to it, such as the medlar and pear.
C. Aronia is a bushy species giving larger fleshy fruit than C. Oxyacantha. It is indigenous to Southern Europe and Western Asia and is common about Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, where its fruit is used for preserves.
C. odoratissima is very agreeable also as a fruit.
C. Azarole. Its fruit in the same way is highly esteemed in Southern Europe.
Order Herbactive’s Hawthorn tincture
60ml. 120ml. 300ml. 555ml. 1.110L