As care givers, we rely on our hearts. Not just as an emotional source of love but also physiologically to endure long hours, carry stress, worry and self sacrifice for those we love and those who need us. Our hearts and cardiovascular systems take on the weight. When self sacrifice means cutting time for our own health and things like diet and exercise fall to the wayside, it’s again the cardiovascular system that is one of the first body systems effected. Also, the natural changes that come about with aging are also straining on the heart organ and vasculature throughout the body, so there is good reason to take special care of this crucial body system!
Hawthorn is a shrub or tree that has a long history of use and for good reason. This plant in the rose family produces an abundance of “haws” at the end of the summer that contain multiple herbal constituents (particularly flavonoids) that are beneficial to blood vessels and the heart muscle. Some of the indications that this herb helps with are: as a tonic for cardiovascular disease, to improve coronary circulation by dilating coronary arteries, to increase contractility of heart muscle, reduce atherosclerosis by influencing LDL fats and supporting the health and function of the blood vessel walls by stabilizing collagen. Hawthorn also decreases BP, increases blood supply to the heart and offers further benefit not discussed here. *Reminder: with herbal medicine, as with conventional medicine, it is important to speak first with the appropriate health care provider before implementing new routine, as it pertains to herbal medicine, go speak with your Naturopathic Doctor.
Hawthorn can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsules of dried herb. The tincture offers the most potent form of absorbing the medicinal value from the plant, but tea made from dried haws is valuable although a bit gentler. You can make a tea yourself by picking the haws at the end of the summer, cutting them in half and drying them in a food dehydrator until they are fully dry. Or you can go to any health food or natural supplement store and ask them if they carry Hawthorn tea. Make sure if you are purchasing Hawthorn tea that the tea is indeed the dried haws and not leaves or flowers. Tinctured form of herbal medicine is made by an alcohol extraction that was done on the plant material. It allows some of the constituents that are not water soluble to also come out of the plant into the alcohol so that the end product has a larger array of medicinal components. Tinctures are also available at health food stores and natural supplement stores. Visit a Naturopathic Doctor and they can go through this with you and most NDs will have Hawthorn products available in office. If you would like to learn more about hawthorn herbal uses click here.
Hawthorn packs a hefty herbal punch to support our bodies, but the medicine this plant offers isn’t only available by taking herbal extracts or tinctures. The very presence of hawthorn has healing effect on our bodies. Being in nature has scientifically measurable health benefit, if you research the term Shinrin Yoku and you will find a plethora of research on the subject.
Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term that means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest” and was designed to encourage the public to go seek out time spent in natural surroundings. Since the 1980s researchers in Japan and Korea have observed subjects after having spent time in natural settings and compared stress hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure and other health markers to people who have not recently been in nature. They have repeatedly found that being in nature has measureable beneficial health outcomes. Although this might appear obvious to many of us, this has great use to convince everyone that when it comes to our health, our time with nature is indeed doing us good. In the countries where Shinrin Yoku is studied, medical doctors also prescribe certain patients to spend specific amounts of time in nature each week as preventative health care. If you would like to read more of the subject click here.
Spending time with hawthorn is of no exception. In Folklore the hawthorn is one of the most revered plants and has a strong history in England and religious history. The Glastonbury Thorn is a hawthorn tree that is associated with legends of the arrival of Christianity in Britain. Many churches throughout the lower mainland have hundred-year-old hawthorns in their properties and are beautiful and powerful to be around.
Energetically the hawthorn is a very grounding tree, it promotes cleansing, fulfillment, guardianship and fertility. The flower blossoms in May are connected to folklore for fertility and abundance. The heart shaped leaves resonate with what is called a “doctrine of signatures” and give hint to the helpful heart medicine of hawthorn. The plant is not all flowers and dance however. Hawthorn has strong thorns that are demanding of respect, they are there to protect the hawthorn and offer guarding for the plant and those around it. To go and sit with a hawthorn, meditate, say some prayers and ask for healing is a great way to gain some of the subtle healing that this plant offers. If you are familiar with this plant already then offer to gather some of the haws in end of summer and play with making some of your own teas for your health.
Connecting to nature in this way is like an easy meditation without the rigors of committing to daily practice. It helps put things in perspective when stress is running on our minds and allows ourselves to let go and permit healing for our hearts to unfold. Being with plants and allowing their healing is obvious to gardeners and is a big part of why they love getting their hands dirty. If you don’t have a garden of your own, then I encourage you to look and observe the plants around you and start noticing which ones you would like to spend time with. As it pertains to matters of the heart, the hawthorn rules, and going to seek out time with one will do you a world of good.
Third year Naturopathic Medical Student
Visit her website www.wildhealthlife.com for more local herbal info and DIY herbal projects