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(Date Posted:01/24/2009 08:05 AM)
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  • HAWTHORN: (Cratageus spp.) Also known as May Tree, May Blossom, or White Thorn. A Druid sacred tree, this deciduous, thorny shrub has serrated, lobed leaves, dense white flower clusters in late spring, and red false fruits (haws). The flowers consist of five white petals, sacred to the Goddess. During World War I, young Hawthorn leaves were used as substitutes for tea and tobacco, and the seeds were ground in place of coffee.
    The berry is a superior heart tonic, useful for almost any heart condition. Cholesterol problems and valvular diseases are benefited. The berries also strengthen the appetite and digestion. Extended use lowers blood pressure. Hawthorn berry is a good remedy for the nerves and for insomnia. The berries are simmered or tinctured. Simmer two teaspoons of berries per cup of water for twenty minutes. The dose is a quarter cup four times a day. Take ten to twenty drops of tincture four times a day. The flowers are taken as a tea to benefit the heart. Steep two teaspoons of flowers per cup of water for twenty minutes; the dose is a quarter cup four times a day.
    Parts Used:  Berry and flower
    Magical Uses:  Hawthorn is the classic flower to decorate a maypole. An herb of fertility, it finds its place in weddings, May Day celebrations, and ritual groves. Beltaine was once reckoned as the day the hawthorn first bloomed. Wands made of hawthorn have great power. The blossoms are highly erotic. Use for Fertility magic; Protection; Defense; and Chastity. Hawthorn is sacred to the fairies, and is part of the tree fairy triad of Britain "Oak, Ash and Thorn" and where all three trees grow together it is said that one may see fairies.




    Hawthorn is a small thorny tree with white flowers and red berries that grows in England and throughout Europe. C. laevigata is only one species; related species have slightly different chemical profiles but similar medicinal uses.

    Although hawthorn was known and used by the Greek physician Dioscorides, it became popular in Europe and the United States toward the end of the nineteenth century.

    In countries such as Germany where doctors prescribe herbs and supervise their use, hawthorn is widely employed to treat angina and the early stages of congestive heart failure (New York Heart Association grades I and II).

    In the United States, with herbs being utilized primarily as home remedies, hawthorn has been much less well known. Cardiac insufficiency of any degree is not generally considered amenable to hit-or-miss self-treatment, so anyone who chooses to use hawthorn should be monitored carefully.

    The portions of the plant used are the leaves, flowers, and berries (haws), standardized for their procyanidin content.

    Active Ingredients

    Hawthorn flowers, leaves and berries contain from 1 to 3 percent of compounds called oligomeric procyanidins, also called pycnogenols or leucoanthocyanidins.

    There are also flavonoids making up about 1 or 2 percent of the herb. The flowers and fruits are richest in total flavonoids and also contain the most hyperoside.

    Leaves of C. monogyna also contain measurable amounts of vitexin-rhamnoside. Rutin, other flavonoids, and glycosylflavones are found in much smaller quantities.

    Other components include purines, sterols, and amines, some of which may stimulate the heart. In addition, there are orientin glycosides, cyanogenetic glycosides, and saponins.


    Hawthorn dilates blood vessels. This activity helps lower blood pressure, and because it also dilates the coronary vessels, the likelihood of angina is reduced.

    Hawthorn does not act quickly enough to be useful once an episode of angina has begun. A separate effect on the heart develops quite slowly, but is favorable, like a mild "heart tonic."

    Animal studies suggest that hawthorn extracts can also reduce cholesteroland triglyceride levels . It may also have a normalizing effect on blood sugar, although it is not considered appropriate for treating diabetes.

    In Germany it is prescribed for certain irregular heart rhythms and is a component in some geriatric tonics intended for aging hearts that do not yet require digitalis.

    Hawthorn extract inhibits thromboxane production (so it might be expected to reduce the risk of blood clots) and also has antioxidant properties.


    The daily dose ranges from 160 mg to 900 mg of hawthorn extract, supplying from 4 to 20 mg of flavonoids (standardized) and 30 to 160 mg of oligomeric procyanidins.

    The minimum daily dose should supply 5 mg of flavones (calculated as hyperoside), 10 mg of total flavonoids (again, calculated as hyperoside), or 5 mg of oligomeric procyanidins (calculated as epicatechin).

    If the leaves and flowers themselves are used rather than a standardized extract, a tea is made by pouring 2/3 cup of boiling water over a teaspoonful of herb, steeping for twenty minutes, and straining. Two cups a day of such a tea constitutes a usual dose.

    The dried herb must be stored in a tightly closed container away from light to preserve its potency.

    A treatment period of six weeks is necessary to determine whether hawthorn is having the desired effect. The supervising physician should adjust the dosage as needed.

    Special Precautions

    There have been inadequate studies to establish that hawthorn is safe for pregnant and nursing mothers; indeed, the extract can reduce uterine tone and should be avoided during pregnancy.

    People with serious heart problems and those on other heart or blood pressure medicines should consult their physicians before starting to take hawthorn.

    People taking hawthorn must have their blood pressure and heart function monitored.

    Adverse Effects

    At normal doses, no side effects have been reported. At very high doses, animals become sedated, and people might experience symptoms of low blood pressure, such as dizziness.

    Possible Interactions

    Hawthorn extracts may increase the activity (but not necessarily the toxicity) of other cardiac tonics such as digitalis. It is not recommended for people whose heart condition is serious enough that they need Lanoxin or other digoxin medications.

    Although no other interactions have been reported, prudence suggests caution if hawthorn is to be combined with other heart or blood pressure drugs (such as nitrates or calcium channel blockers).

    Since hawthorn inhibits thromboxane synthesis, it may be incompatible with aspirin, which has a similar action. If hawthorn extract is taken together with anticoagulants such as Coumadin, careful monitoring of bleeding time (through PT and INR) is essential. Please discuss these possible interactions with your physician.

    Copyright (c) 1999 by Graedon Enterprises, Inc. From The People's Pharmacy Guide To Home And Herbal Remedies by Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.


    Hawthorn (Thorn) Witchthorn or May Witch.
    It is a generally unlucky tree and its name, translated from the Irish Brehon Laws, had the meaning "harm".  The Goddess, under the name Cardea, cast spells with the Hawthorn. In many cultures, the month of the Hawthorn (May) is a month of bad luck for marriages.  The Hawthorn blossom, for many men, has the strong scent of female sexuality and was used by the Turks as an erotic symbol.
     This tree stands for purification, enforced chastity, male potency and cleansing.
    Thorn symbolizes strife and harshness. It is an excellent tool for protection as its energies work well for defense. Thorn is used to dispell energies, especially negative energies or curses, and excells at banishing strife.
    Hawthorns' personality is Passionate/ruthless is opposite. -
    Element: Fire

    Mythology and Folklore of the Hawthorn

    "… the risen cream of all the milkiness of May-time" HE Bates

    Thomas the Rhymer, the famous thirteenth century Scottish mystic and poet, once met the Faery Queen by a hawthorn bush from which a cuckoo was calling. She led him into the Faery Underworld for a brief sojourn, but upon reemerging into the world of mortals he found he had been absent for seven years. Themes of people being waylaid by the faery folk to places where time passes differently are common in Celtic mythology, and the hawthorn was one of, if not the, most likely tree to be inhabited or protected by the Wee Folk. In Ireland most of the isolated trees, or so-called 'lone bushes', found in the landscape and said to be inhabited by faeries, were hawthorn trees. Such trees could not be cut down or damaged in any way without incurring the often fatal wrath of their supernatural guardians. The Faery Queen by her hawthorn can also be seen as a representation of an earlier pre-Christian archetype, reminding us of a Goddess-centred worship, practised by priestesses in sacred groves of hawthorn, planted in the round. The site of Westminster Abbey was once called Thorney Island after the sacred stand of thorn trees there.

    Cuckoo in hawthorn near Glastonbury Tor

    Hawthorn is at its most prominent in the landscape when it blossoms during the month of May, and probably the most popular of its many vernacular names is the May-tree. As such, it is the only British plant which is named after the month in which it blooms. As 'Thorn' it is also the most common tree found in English place names, and the tree most frequently mentioned in Anglo-Saxon boundary charters. It has many associations with May Day festivities. Though the tree now flowers around the middle of the month, it flowered much nearer the beginning of the month, before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

    The blossoms were used for garlands, and large leafy branches were cut, set in the ground outside houses as so-called May bushes and decorated with local wildflowers. Using the blossoms for decorations outside was allowed, but there was a very strong taboo against bringing hawthorn into the house. In the early 1980s the Folklore Society's survey of 'unlucky' plants revealed that 23% of the items referred to hawthorn, more than twice as many instances as the second most unlucky plant. Across Britain there was the belief that bringing hawthorn blossom into the house would be followed by illness and death, and there were many instances of hapless children being scolded by adults for innocently decorating the home. Mediaeval country folk also asserted that the smell of hawthorn blossom was just like the smell of the Great Plague in London. Botanists later discovered that the chemical trimethylamine present in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue. In the past, when corpses would have been kept in the house for several days prior to burial, people would have been very familiar with the smell of death, so it is hardly surprising that hawthorn blossom was so unwelcome in the house.

    It has also been suggested that some of the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) folklore may have originated for the related woodland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) which may well have been commoner during the early Middle Ages, when a lot of plant folklore was evolving. Woodland hawthorn blossom gives off much more of an unpleasant scent of death soon after it is cut, and it also blooms slightly earlier than hawthorn, so that its blossoms would have been more reliably available for May Day celebrations.

    Notwithstanding the above taboo, the leaves were eaten and were commonly referred to as bread and cheese, the blossom and berries were made into wines and jellies, and decoctions of the flowers and leaves were used to stabilise blood pressure. The strong, close-grained wood was used for carving, and for making tool handles and other small household items. Probably its greatest practical use to people has been as hedging.

    Britain's most famous hawthorn is the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury. Legend tells of how Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of the Virgin Mary, arrived at a hill overlooking Glastonbury Tor with a few disciples and two sacred vessels containing the blood and sweat of Jesus. Where he thrust his staff into the ground it sprouted and grew into a thorn tree. Though the original is obviously not there any more, one of its supposed descendants does still stand on the hill, and other offspring grown from cuttings and perpetuated over the centuries can be found around Glastonbury and indeed further afield in England. This particular hawthorn blooms twice a year, once in May and again around Christmas. A sprig of one of these Glastonbury thorns from outside St Johns Church is traditionally sent to the Queen, who is said to decorate her breakfast table with it on Christmas morning.

    Paul Kendall

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