Over the past month, I have walked nearly 200 miles through hedgerow and thicket, as the Sun began his journey through Taurus. Beltane is for me above all, the season for gathering hawthorn flowers for the year’s tea.
Hawthorn is a common thorny shrub belonging to the rose family that can even grow into small trees on hillsides and in sunny wooded areas. It is found all over the world. Its flowers, which grow in small white, red, or pink clusters, bloom in May. Small berries, called haws, sprout after the flowers. They are usually red when ripe.
Dry a few handfuls of these beautiful flowers. Once the drying has reached its term, each floret will offer you a delicious brew, subtle in taste and wonderful for health.
In traditional law, there are many European customs and rituals linked to the Hawthorn tree. For instance, throughout Europe, it is believed that tying ribbons amongst the branches of the Hawthorn would enable wishes to come true. In France, twigs of Hawthorn were often put in cradles for protection. In ancient Greece, boughs of Hawthorn were often carried at weddings and they were used to decorate the altar to Hymenaeus, a god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts, and song. From this god’s name comes the word hymenaios — a genre of lyric poetry sung during the procession of the bride to the groom’s house in which the god is addressed. This is in contrast to the Epithalamium, which is sung at the nuptial threshold. He is one of the winged love gods, the Erotes.
According to the Penn State Hershey Medical center, “Hawthorn (Crataegus species) has been used to treat heart disease as far back as the 1st century. By the early 1800s, American doctors were using it to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. Traditionally, the berries were used to treat heart problems ranging from irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure. Today, the leaves and flowers are used medicinally […] Scientific studies report that Hawthorn contains antioxidants, including oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs, also found in grapes) and quercetin. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, which are compounds in the body that damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA and can even cause cell death. […] Looking specifically at the heart, a number of studies conclude that hawthorn significantly improved heart function”.
More interesting science comes from the Natural Medicine Journal: “Research has been conducted on various hawthorn preparations, with the majority using a proprietary preparation from the leaf and flowers (L1 132; WS 1442). Other preparations include leaf and flower combinations with and without the berries, aqueous extracts, methanolic extracts (L1 132; Faros), ethanolic extracts (Esbericard, Crataegutt), dried blossoms, and a flavonoid extract (Crataemon). The exact mechanisms of action for hawthorn and cardiovascular disease is uncertain, but it is thought that the primary activity is its ability to increase coronary arterial blood flow, perhaps due to dilation of the coronary arteries. The inotropic effects may be due to inhibition of myocardial sodium/potassium ATPase. Hawthorn also appears to slightly increase the strength of the cardiac muscle contractions and decrease blood pressure, resulting in increased exercise tolerance and protection against congestive heart failure. Hawthorn has also been shown to exhibit antioxidant activity in a number of studies, which is likely due to its flavonoid and procyanidin constituents”.
There are so many plants that can be used to make herbal teas — in a way, there is absolutely no reason why one should ever have to purchase tea since nature offers us so many wonderful gifts when we look around us. Here are a few that I will be exploring in future posts.
• Angelica: the root has digestive properties
• Catnip: the leaves are calming
• Mint: the leaves are digestive and calming
• Chamomile: The buds are relaxing and can be easily dried.
• Dandelion: the root provides a tonic
• Milk Thistle: the buds are good for detoxification.
The extract of milk thistle is a wonderful supplement to support the liver.
• Lavender: the buds are calming
• Lemongrass: the stalk is both a digestive and calming
• Lemon Balm: the leaves are calming
• Linden: the flowers are digestive and calming
• Nettles: the leaf is good for detoxification, and makes a fine tea
• Raspberry: the leaf supports the female reproductive system
• Red Clover: the buds are used for detoxification and purification
• Rose Hips: use the buds once the bloom has expired, these are rich in Vitamin C.
Horses love these.
Whilst it is necessary to learn how to prepare each plant, preparations are usually quite simple. Take time to do your research, and enjoy. Many of these plants like hawthorn, mint, and nettle grow abundantly. Plant what you can in your garden. Enjoy what you can forage in the wild. You will soon find yourself with a source for many wonderful home-made teas.