Tea of the Month – December 2020


Hawthorn Leaf and Flower

Hawthorn leaf and flower is an herb I’ve recently been experimenting with, and since my hawthorn tree (at my parents’ house) was mortally injured in a storm, split down the middle, I have been itching to use this herb. The way the tree was split reminded me of how I have often felt this year.

A few weeks ago, I clandestinely stumbled upon a couple of bags of it at a local Polish pharmacy, and have been drinking tea made with it nearly every day for a few weeks.

Hawthorn is slightly cooling to neutral in temperature, it is sour and sweet, and the properties are as follows: digestant, diuretic, astringent, antioxidant, relaxing nervine, cardiac trophorestorative (meaning it regulates and rebuilds the associated system for long-lasting benefits). Hawthorn is a member of the Rose family (Rosacea) and is highly regarded in Celtic traditions for being the home of faeries.

While Hawthorn berries are mostly used in Western and Chinese Medicine, I’ve been interested in the leaves and flowers as it has become quite visible to me of late.  (Kind of like how when you get a red car you notice red cars everywhere. This is the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or frequency illusion.)

In Western herbalism, Hawthorn has an affinity for the heart and circulatory system, and when taken for several months, can positively impact the vasculature of the body. In Chinese herbalism, Hawthorn is used to help relief food stagnation (or food that is literally stuck in the stomach and cannot descend to the intestines). Today, I’m going to focus on Western herbalism’s usage of this herb.

I do not delve much into the research end of herbs because we’ll never know all there is to know about herbs as they are complex entities and I like to think in terms of holistic systems whenever possible, but there is modern research that shows that hawthorn offers benefits for those with mild to moderate heart disease.

I’m interested in what Hawthorn’s leaves and flowers offer, which seems to be that they provide a soothing balm to grief-stricken hearts. The leaves and flowers are quite astringent, and in my experience they help hold my emotions and spirit together. Herbalist Rebecca Altman regards hawthorn as providing the “hug you receive when you’re holding yourself together, feeling alone and unstable, that finally allows you to let yourself fall apart… that says ‘you’ve got this; I won’t let you fall apart completely.’”

This description makes me wonder why I haven’t been taking, and recommending, hawthorn to every single client and reader all these months!

It is a mystery why herbs and answers come when they come, in terms of our readiness; nevertheless, I’m taking this herb in small doses near daily now, and I’ve noticed a remarkable change in my deepest self.

Here’s why I’ve been exploring this herb:
Around mid-November, I started getting this deep deep shaking in my body. All the practitioners that I spoke with remarked on how this is my nervous system responding to the big changes that have been made in my life, the “finality” of what was happening, and I felt that the realness of my life right-now hit me like a freight train.  This “realness” was working from home for an undetermined timeframe, living alone after 13 years of not living alone, and so on.  It was like my body came out of the shock of the earlier part of the year, and I had the ongoing nervous system reset – the way animals who come out of a shock experience shiver all over – and I felt like a divining rod wherever I went. This meant that I wasn’t sleeping right, that I couldn’t quite relax or be still because everything in my body was moving all the time in ways that were a little scary, and no matter what I did in terms of herbs and nutraceuticals I just couldn’t shake the shaking.

I kept asking myself, “what herb could assist me through this time?”  I wasn’t getting any answers, then, out of the blue, it dawned on me, “Hawthorn!” But I didn’t have any, I have Chinese hawthorn for Food Stagnation, and Western hawthorn berries, but no leaves and flowers.  Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I stumbled on some in a clearance bin at the Polish pharmacy and I started taking it in small amounts each day, in the form of tea. I can feel my system settling down. Which is funny because Hawthorn is not said to have an affinity for the nervous system per se, but it does have an affinity for the Heart and since our Hearts effect everything else in our body, and as I’ve been going through a heart-break, this worked a treat.  Many herbalists consider hawthorn leaf and flower a relaxing nervine, and it in fact did relax my nerves and addled heart.

I share this because I wager that many of us have had our fair share of heartbreaks this year, why not provide a bit of support to the Heart in this way, with some Hawthorn?

If you need something that will help you have some self-compassion and mercy, add some rose to this tea blend. I like rose elixir (it is a blend of rose, brandy and honey and it is so amazing I’m afraid I’m going to run out sooner rather than later!), but you can use rose petals or rose tincture too.

Cautions: consult with a practitioner before using hawthorn if you are on heart medication; large doses of leaf/flower can upset the stomach if taken in large doses; and this herb should not be used with diastolic congestive heart failure.


Other Herbs in this Tea Blend

Citrus Peel:

The orange peel helps to move Qi (energy), dry Dampness and transform Phlegm. It is perfect for the post-holiday season of winter where we don’t move as much.

Yarrow:

Yarrow is an herb that I’ve become more friendly with in recent months. I started taking it because I was having symptoms of a sick-not sick/stuck-not stuck/generally not well and filled with malaise thing happening (likely from the aforementioned heartbreak). Yarrow is an intelligent herb in that it moves Blood when it needs to be moved, and it stops Blood/bleeding where it needs to be stopped. It has been used in both Chinese Medicine and Western herbalism as far back as memory persists, and is seen as a protective talisman. Yarrow is a harmonizer in this way: it has complementary but contradictory properties, and is great for these both-and states. It is also a fabulous herb to have in your cold/flu apothecary! Yarrow is used in this tea blend as a minister – meaning it carries information to the Heart to keep the Blood moving and to help heal the Heart, but it does not do the work, Hawthorn carries the workload.

Jujube Date/Da Zao:

Jujube dates are used as a Qi tonic for the Spleen and Stomach (digestive system), they nourish the Blood and calm the Spirit, and they moderate the effects of other herbs in a formula.

Hawthorn, Orange, Jujube Tea

Ingredients:
Hawthorn leaf and flower
Orange peel
Jujube dates
Yarrow leaf
Ginger

  1. Take 1 teaspoonfuls (or 2tsp measured) of hawthorn leaf/flower, two pieces of orange peel, a small handful of jujube date slices (or 2 jujube dates torn apart), about 1/4tsp (measured) yarrow leaf, and 1 slice of fresh ginger and place in a heat-proof vessel.
  2. Pour 16oz of boiling water over the top, then cover and steep for at least 20 minutes. The yarrow will make your tea bitter, but it is a good bitter!
  3. Strain and sweeten with rose elixir, local honey or turbinado sugar, and add milk of your choice if desired. Sometimes I will add a bit of loose leaf black tea, or red rooibos to this blend.

Or, you can be super simple and make the following:
Assam or red rooibos tea
Hawthorn leaf and flower
Orange peel

  1. Boil water
  2. In a teapot (or other heat-proof brewing vessel), add once piece of dried orange peel (1/2” by 1.5”), 1 spoonful of Assam tea, and 1 scant spoonful of hawthorn leaf and flower. Cover with water.
  3. Steep for a few minutes.
  4. Strain into a teacup and sweeten with your favorite sweetener (I like using rose honey-brandy elixir!), and add milk of your choice if desired.

References:

Rebecca Altman – Wonder Botanica
Rosalee de la Foret – Herbal Remedies Advice
Jim McDonald
Maude Grieve

Study mentioned: Habs, M. “Prospective, Comparative Cohort Studies and Their Contribution to the Benefit Assessments of Therapeutic Options: Heart Failure Treatment with and without Hawthorn Special Extract WS 1442.” Forschende komplementrmedizin und klassische Naturheilkunde [Research in Complementary and Classical Natural Medicine] 11, no. suppl. 1 (2004): 36–39. doi:10.1159/000080574.