Herb of the Month – November – Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn Berries – Crataegus laevigata or monogyna – Rose family – a tonic rich in flavonoids which are beneficial to our circulatory system

The deep, jewel-like red of hawthorn berries are adorning the field edges and lower storeys of our local woodland at the moment.  Throughout the ages these berries have been used for food and medicine.  They are one of our native hedgerow fruits.  Used as food, the berries are best cooked and made into jellies or liquors.  They can also be made into fruit leathers:  You need to gather the berries, simmer for 10 minutes or so with a little water and then strain.  The mixture needs to be fairly thick, so it doesn’t take too long to dry.  Spread the mixture fairly thinly on some baking parchment (on a flat baking sheet) and put in a dehydrator or in an oven at its lowest setting.  Leave for  about 3-4 hours (checking now and then and maybe turning) until dry enough to peel away from the parchment and dry enough to store (so it feels like leather) – you can vary this recipe and combine crab apple and/or elderberry.

Hawthorn berries began to be used in Western Herbal Medicine in the 17th century to treat heart and circulatory disorders after an Irish Herbalist named Dr Green had success in treating heart disease using mainly hawthorn.

Hawthorn berries contain many flavonoid compounds, that, when taken over time, are beneficial to the health of our blood vessels.  Hawthorn can be considered to be a tonic for the heart and circulatory system.  What do I mean by a‘tonic’?  Well a tonic is gentle, slow acting remedy taken to improve health that can be used safely over a number of weeks, months or longer if required.  Tonics work slowly, ensuring steady improvement over time.  This type of remedy works in a different way to modern drugs, much more like a potent food than a drug.   To get the most out of this type of remedy it is best combined with appropriate changes in diet and lifestyle.  If you are not taking other medications it can work well to reduce mildly elevated blood pressure and poor circulation.


Avoid if you have low blood pressure.

Hawthorn can in many circumstances be used together with blood pressure medications.  However, it is best to get qualified advice in this respect, as it depends upon what medications and dosage levels.