Power Plants: Hawthorn

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

HAWTHORN (Crataegus spp.)
Hawthorn, sometimes called hawbery, is part of the rose family (Rosaceae). The plant has thorny branches and produces white flowers, followed by small berries called “haws.” They are usually red when ripe, but may also be black. Hawthorn leaves are shiny and grow in a variety of shapes and sizes.
There are many species, though the common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna­) is the one most likely to be used for medicinal purposes.
Hawthorn has been used since the first century as a treatment for heart disease. This superberry is best known for its ability to bolster the connective tissues of the cardiovascular system, and as a remedy for congestive heart failure. When the heart is unable to provide sufficient pump action to maintain blood flow, hawthorn may be able to improve the cellular integrity of the heart muscle and help with any inflammation in the blood vessels.
Research and trials show symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue improve significantly with hawthorn treatment, and there is a substantial benefit from using hawthorn extract as an adjunctive treatment for chronic heart failure.
Flavonoid compounds called procyanidins help normalize blood pressure and enhance circulation during exercise. Taken daily, hawthorn may improve athletic performance.
Until recently the berries were more commonly transformed into heart tonics. Today, herbal preparations are more likely to use the leaves and flowers, which contain more of the active flavonoid properties than the berries.
Difficulty: Medium
Hardiness: Perennial in in zones 4a to 7b
Time to Plant: Early spring or early fall
Time to Harvest: Fall
Location: Full sun
Soil Type: Well-drained
Hawthorn comes in many shapes and sizes, from small shrubs to massive trees. It’s a versatile landscape plant, but it isn’t easy to grow. Hawthorn doesn’t transplant well, because it’s a member of the rose family it has the same insect and disease challenges. In the wild, hawthorn bushes are easy to find: their bark is scaly and grayish brown, and their leaves start out bright green and darken with age. Their white flowers appear in mid-spring, followed in the fall by bright red berries and spectacular fall foliage.
Common Varieties: There are many species of hawthorn, including the common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), English hawthorn (C. laevigatga), Chinese hawthorn (C. pinnatifida) and downy hawthorn (C. mollis). Cockspur hawthorn (C. crus-galli) has particularly showy foliage in fall.
Look for container-grown hawthorn at your local nursery, but it may be a special request, as it is generally not readily available. Hawthorn is best transplanted when young: once established it doesn’t like to be moved.
Plant it in a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil in early spring or early fall. Don’t plant too deeply: ensure the top of the root ball is just above the soil level of your planting hole. Transplant fertilizer is recommended at the time of planting to reduce shock. Water deeply and keep moist until established.
Hawthorn is hardy and can grow in a wide range of environments, but it always seems to struggle with insects and diseases. Be on the lookout for leaf spot (purple spots dot the leaves), stem rust (orange spots form and leaves fall off) and fire blight (leaves are shrivelled and appear to be scorched). Common insects include aphids, cankerworms and gypsy moths. Each can be controlled through applications of insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and sulphur: do your best to catch them early.
Prune hawthorn in late winter or early spring while the plant is dormant and buds have not yet cracked. Remove dead and or diseased wood, including stems that appear weak. After removing diseased stems, wipe your pruners with bleach to minimize spread of diseases. In fall, rake and discard any diseased leaves to reduce the risk for next season.
Fertilize in spring for increased health: use a root feeder or water-soluble fertilizer.
While the berries are the most cherished parts, hawthorn blossoms can be used in salads, and the leaves can be chewed or used as a garnish. Hawthorn is even a desired carving wood for sculptors.
Collect the red (some appear black) berries in fall, starting around early October. Berries should appear plump and brightly coloured at their peak. Harvest by plucking berries or pulling on the ripened bunch.
Do not wash freshly harvested berries until use. Refrigerate for up to one week or dry the berries with drying tray or a dehydrator. Preserve in jellies or jams.
Intense workouts leave you tired? Enjoy a recovery fruit leather!
Enjoy a hawthorn berry snack after an intense cardiovascular workout. The flavonoids will help your heart recover, while the antioxidant power of this rolled-up snack will sweep up the mess left behind from the physical stress of the exercise on the heart.
Pick 2 cups of hawthorn berries. Simmer in 1 cup of water in a saucepan for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Press the berries through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds and discard them. Next, pour the strained pulp onto cookie sheets lined with wax paper. Spread it about 1/8 inch thick. Bake at 100°F (or lowest temperature setting) for 20 to 25 minutes. It is ready when it can be easily peeled off the trays.
Cut the fruit leather into pieces roughly 3 x 6 inches. Peel and place the pieces onto a fresh piece of wax paper of equal size and tightly roll it up. Store in zip-top bags in cool, dark environment.
History of heart disease? Take this cardio tonic!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—especially when we’re talking about heart disease. Hawthorn flowers and berries each have powerful cardio-protective compounds. For your heart to get the best of both, you can make a two-part tincture.
The beautiful white flowers blossom in the spring, so that is when you’ll gather enough to fill a large Mason jar half full when pressed down firmly. Cover the flowers by at least an inch with 80- to 100-proof vodka and shake the jar well. Place the jar in a cupboard for 4 weeks, shaking vigorously every week for 2 minutes. Strain the liquid into a sterile glass bottle using a sieve or cheesecloth.
When it’s time to harvest berries in the fall, collect 3 cups. Simmer with 1 cup of water in a saucepan for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Press the berries through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds and discard them. Now combine the berry pulp and the flower tincture in a blender and purée. Pour the mix into a wide-mouthed glass container (another Mason jar is best). The high concentration of pectin in the mixture may nearly solidify it over time, so ensure the glass jar has a wide opening so you can fit a spoon inside.
Leave the mixture for 4 weeks in a cool, dark place. Remove the gelatinous contents with a spoon and squeeze liquid out using a cheesecloth (this may be difficult), a juicer, or juice press.
Take 1 tbsp daily to support heart tone and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Need a Heart-healthy breakfast? Top it with oatmeal hawthorn compote!
Blend 1 cup of hawthorn berries and ½ cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it reduce to about half its volume. Press the berries through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds and discard them. Add ¾ cup of sugar.
Enjoy a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with ¼ cup of yogurt and 2 tablespoons of this compote.
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase Wise Woman Herbals Crataegus Hawthorn extract or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Avoid eating the white seeds of hawthorn berries as they contain amygdalin, a compound that changes to hydrogen cyanide in the stomach.
Avoid if you have a known allergy or sensitivity to hawthorn or any of its components.
The elderly or individuals at risk for low blood pressure should be cautious when using hawthorn, as should anyone with cardiovascular disorders, or those taking heart drugs (such as digoxin), blood pressure drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, or herbs or supplements with similar effects.
Pittler MH; Schmidt K; Ernst E. Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure: meta-analysis of randomized trials. The American Journal Of Medicine. 2003 Jun 1; Vol. 114 (8), pp. 665-74
Degenring FH, Suter A, Weber M, et al. A randomised double blind placebo controlled clinical trial of a standardised extract of fresh Crataegus berries (Crataegisan) in the treatment of patients with congestive heart failure NYHA II. Phytomedicine 2003;10(5):363-369
Holubarsch CJ, Colucci WS, Meinertz T, et al. Survival and prognosis: investigation of Crataegus extract WS 1442 in congestive heart failure (SPICE)–rationale, study design and study protocol. Eur J Heart Fail 2000;2(4):431-437
Iwamoto M, Sato T, Ishizaki T. The clinical effect of Crataegus in heart disease of ischemic or hypertensive origin. A multicenter double-blind study. Planta Med 1981;42(1):1-16
Koller M, Lorenz W, Aubke W, et al. Crataegus special extract WS 1442 in the treatment of early stages of CHD-associated heart failure MMW Fortschr Med. 2006;148(6):42
Leuchtgens H. [Crataegus Special Extract WS 1442 in NYHA II heart failure. A placebo controlled randomized double-blind study]. Fortschr Med 1993;111(20-21):352-354

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