As the heat of the sun wanes, what’s left of the harvest hangs on the boughs. Bright red hawthorn and rose hips will soon become ever-present against the muted colours of the coming winter. Their bright colour is inviting, beckoning for attention. And for good reason.
Hawthorne berries strengthen capillaries, blood vessel walls, and strengthen the heart muscle itself. They enhance the oxygen uptake of the heart muscle. As an all-round heart strengthener, use hawthorne as a nourishing preventative tonic, or, think of hawthorne whether you’re intending to use it to balance high or low blood pressure. What’s so brilliant about this herb — is it’s completely safe.
Hawthorne is a member of the rose family (Rosaeceae) – a botanical family known to lift the spirits and heal the heart chakra. I regularly combine hawthorne and rose tinctures to use as a “Rescue Remedy” for those who experience shock, heartbreak, or trauma. These two together are great to use on a long-term basis to soothe heartbreak, grief, disappointments, and to all round support the heart energetically and physically. Nature is generous and wise at this time of year; fall and winter offers these two heart healers in a season when many people experience Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), sift through their grief, and feel like winter pulls them into a dark night of the soul. So in the dark of winter, be sure to make yourself a heart tonic of rose hips, hawthorne or both combined to bring the warm cherry red elixir into your heart to warm you.
The leaves and blossoms of hawthorne, which are ready to be harvested in the spring, make a very beautiful, fragrant herbal infusion. The berries are ready to harvest once the first frost hits, usually late fall, and can continued to be harvested through winter. The berries are bright red to nearly black depending on the species.
The berries are high in antioxidants, which means they reduce potential damage to the cellular walls. Hawthorne is gently relaxing, which is important for the individuals who are stressed out – stress taxes the heart.
Rose hips are ready at the same time as hawthorne berries, and they usually grow near one another. Rose hips, like Hawthorne berries are high in vitamin C and cell protecting flavonoids. In fact, rose hips contain more vitamin C than oranges.
One of my favourite ways to use hawthorne berries is to prepare a decoction (slow simmer) of the berries, add honey to taste towards the end of the decoction, then add brandy to preserve. Voila, a beautiful hawthorne cordial or syrup. Naturally, you can add rose hips or other favourite herbs to this concoction. By definition, a cordial is A LOT of sugar or honey to make it really sweet. While I like the word, cordial, I really don’t like masking the flavour of my herbs with too much sugar/honey.
By definition a syrup is simply a sweetened herbal medicine, usually thick in texture. Once again, to make a syrup thick in texture, you have to use a heck of a lot of sugar, which I’m no fan of. All that said, both hawthorne and rose hips contain a lot of natural pectin, so they will likely be thick and starchy brews, giving them a naturally thick texture.
Another lovely way to make use of either rose hips or hawthorne berries, is to fix them into a honey. First, make sure the hips and haws are cleaned of any debris, and dried with a tea towel to remove excess moisture which is a given at this time of year. Then fill a wide-mouthed jar either half or full way with your herbs, and cover with a high quality, raw, unpasturized honey. Cover with a lid, and let your jar sit either on your kitchen counter, or near your woodstove / heater for at least a week. Then remove the lid, and taste the gorgeousness of the season. You do not need to strain/remove your herbs from the jar. Use a teaspoon of this heart healing honey any way you like: stirred into a cup of tea; smeared on toast, drizzled on warm pie; straight off the spoon. Just remember to thank the bees as you do so.
Honey is plant medicine too: Honey contains a broad spectrum of enzymes, amino acids, natural antibiotic, B vitamins, trace minerals and vitamins.
For those of you who are tincture makers – make your own cardio-tonic combining hawthorne berries (then flowers and leaves in the spring), rose hips, garlic and motherwort. Naturally, you can make your own blend depending on what your favourite cardiotonics might be.
And finally, for those who tend towards anemia or low iron, combine nettle and hawthorne berries in an infusion set overnight for a rich, beautiful, iron tonic that is way more potent than any pill. Nettle has the same mineral content as human blood, is incredibly rich in iron; and hawthorne berries (and rose hips) are very high in Vitamin C . Vitamin C improves absorption of iron, so think of the two as necessary co-factors.
Herbs are so bountiful! I’d love to hear your favourite way of using hawthorne and rose hips; share below so others can read your recipes too.