Hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) is the most well-known herb for the heart they grow in abundance all over the world on road edges and river banks they are densely branched, thorny deciduous shrubs in the Rose family that can reach up to 10 m tall. During Oct-Nov in NZ they are covered in white or pink flowers that smell both pleasant and a bit sickly. As such Hawthorn has been revered by traditional herbalists as well as being one of the most scientifically studied medicinal herbs. It shows impressive anti-inflammatory effect in the blood vessels and protection of the heart while enhancing its function. And the best part is its safety. It can be used confidently alongside conventional medicine. Its action is to open circulation, decrease blood pressure and steady the heartbeat. Further it calms the autonomic nervous system and improves sleep.
The parts to use are the flowers, young spring leaves and the rich red berries. You can add the young leaves to salads or smoothies. Gather enough flowers and leaves to dry for long term use. Since I’ve just harvested the haws resembling mini apples, I’m making a Smokey Sauce to use all year round which goes nicely with cheese, quiche and cold meats particularly pork or chicken.
The berries being safe, food-like and very effective when used regularly, the red fruits act as a tonic (enhancing physiological functioning rather than treating disease). It is hard to understand why Hawthorn is not used more in the health care system. One author suggests we don’t use medicine that hasn’t been tinkered with, nor trust already complete medicine hanging on a weedy, scraggly, thorny bush standing in a waste place. It seems we’ve become afraid of what is unknown, and uncontrolled. My aim is to raise awareness about Hawthorn for daily prevention of disease and for enhancing our health.
So next time your out driving country roads or walking a river bank keep your eye out for this amazing shrub and remember when harvesting it has thorns, its best to harvest with clippers, and take a few branches from each shrub.
Smokey Hawthorne Sauce
500g of hawthorn berry 300ml of cider vinegar 300ml of water 170g of honey
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp smoked paprika 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
freshly ground black pepper
Optional 1tsp cayenne pepper
To begin, remove the berries from the stalks and wash well with cold water. Add to a large pan with the water and vinegar, then bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for approximately half an hour, until the skins of the berries begin to burst Take off the heat and pour the contents of the pan through a sieve to remove any stones and tough pieces of muslin Transfer the liquid to a clean pan with the honey and place over a low heat, stirring often to dissolve the honey
Add garlic, paprika and optional cayenne pepper
Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes more, until syrup-like and reduced Season the syrup to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to sterilised bottles. The syrup is good to use for 1 year