The seasons are beginning to change again, the air has started to feel more crisp, the sun seems more watery, and the nights are drawing in. This is actually my favourite time of year, and I am looking forward to woodland walks, big chunky jumpers, and hearty food.
This autumn has brought about something new; whilst I count myself as a herbalist, I am new to the world of foraging. Having moved from Auckland to Wiltshire, the countryside and what is has to offer has changed considerably. Last week I delved into the hedgerows around work and picked me a bag of hawthorns berries, careful not to get stabbed by the thorns on the heavily laden branches, I felt quite pleased with my 1st foraged bounty.
Hawthorn overview & medicinal uses:
Latin name: Crataegus monogyna or Crataegus oxyacantha
Family name: Rosaceae
Parts used: Berries, leaves, and flowers
Medicinal actions: Cardioprotective, mild cardiotonic, hypotensive, peripheral vasodilator (good for veins), antioxidant.
Medicinal uses: Hawthorn is primarily used for cardiovascular disorders, it is the go-to plant for the heart. Traditionally this use extended to the emotional side of things too, if there was grief or a sense of loss, if the heart was broken. Hawthorn is viewed as restorative and as a tonic to overall health, It builds you up - from your blood and your veins, it strengthens the heart, and was believed to make you feel whole again.
Nutritional content: Vitamin C, Thiamine, riboflavin, carotene, and a range of minerals including magnesium, iron and zinc.
Habitat and cultivation: Hawthorn is farily hardy, commonly found in scrub, thin woodland, hedgerows; and on both lowlands, to foothill elevations. It is native to the UK, and grows throughout most of Europe. It can be grown from seed but needs frost to germinate. The flowers contain both male and female reproductive parts.
Pick young leaves and flowers together if making an infusion or tincture - preferably when the flowers are open. They work synergistically medicinally so you'll get optimal health benefits. The best time is May/June.
Berries can be picked September/October time, and are ripe when bright red, after then they will deepen in colour to become almost maroon, they are past their peak then.
Whatever you chose to pick - they can be used fresh or dried. However for a berry syrup fresh would be better as you want the juice from them.
In terms of antioxidative qualities - leaves hold the highest amount, then flowers, then berries.
How to make a hawthorn berry syrup/cordial:
There are so many different ways to make syrup, mine is simple, and I don't follow any strict rules on it. It changes every time, depending on the berries; and I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I tend to hold back on the sugar, and if I find it too sweet, I add some lemon juice to cut through and balance it.
However the sugar acts as a preservative, and a thickener, so mine tends to be slightly more watery.
500g (at least) hawthorn berries
250g (preferably organic) unrefined cane sugar
1 x lemon
Alternatively it can be used on desserts - it's very good on pancakes or icecream! Use sparingly.
*There are no known contraindications, and no adverse effects have been reported. However caution is advised for those on any heart medications, hawthorn may increase their effects and work in synergy with them. Seek medical/herbalist advice if unsure.*
Emma is passionate about promoting good health, and likes to keep things simple. She enjoys yoga, meditation & being outdoors, yet likes to indulge in coffee, wine & cake - Everything in moderation!