The Hawthorn Tree, a Rosaceae.
Crataegus Monogyna and Crataegus Oxycanthoides are two common types of Hawthorn which grow in many parts of the Middle East, Europe, India, Africa and Asia. Its Chinese pharmaceutical name is fructus crataegi, commonly called shan zha in Chinese medicine.
The Hawthorn tree has special significance as a healing herb in the West, because, in the Christian tradition, it was supposed to have formed the Crown of Christ. It is known as ‘the Mother of the heart’ , perhaps with reference to the Virgin Mary, in traditional Western herbal medicine.
Hawthorn trees can be anything from the size of a bush to the size of a large tree, depending on where they are grown, and what the genus is.
Hawthorn berries, with their hard texture, and attractive, rich, robust, cherry-like appearance, are great to use for decorative purposes. However, all the parts of the plant can be used medicinally, the flowers, leaves and the berries. Note: Hawthorn should be used as an herbal medicine only under the guidance of a professional herbalist, or other health practitioner, especially if you are already taking other medications.
Valuable Nutrients in Hawthorn: Hawthorn berries are rich in sugar and Vitamin C. They also contain malic acid, citric acid, iron, calcium, carotene, riboflavin and traces of niacin.
Are Hawthorn berries poisonous? Apparently not, if you can believe that Hawthorn berries were ground and added to British bread in the first world war, which had the effect of ‘keeping down the blood pressure of the population as a whole’, according to Jade Britton, Tamara Kircher, and Edward Linkner M.D., who co-wrote ‘The Complete Book of Home Herbal Remedies’ published by Universal International Pty. Ltd, NSW, Australia, 1998.
These authors also state that ‘there are no adverse effects from long-term use’. Even if you should stop taking hawthorn, after having used it for a while, there are no side effects according to these experts.
Hawthorn berries, and other parts of the plant have been widely used for their therapeutic action on the cardiovascular system. It has the effect of normalizing blood pressure, whether it be too low or too high. It is a good medicine to take to help treat varicose veins because it improves the circulation, whilst having a normalizing effect on the blood pressure.
In Chinese medicine, Hawthorn is sometimes used to aid the digestive system, especially where digestion of meats and fats is poor.
Hawthorn is slow in its therapeutic and tonic effect, and generally, it is taken over a period of time to help the cardiovascular system and things like varicose veins and poor circulation.
According to The Complete Book of Home Herbal Remedies, it can be used as a heart medicine for angina, irregular heartbeat, congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy. But of course, under expert supervision, especially if you are already taking other medications.