Hearty Medicine in May

Hawthorn botanical illustration

Hawthorn botanical illustration
Thanks to wikipedia

Now that I am (temporarily) off the treadmill of University lecturing and clinical supervision, I had a rare cycle ride along the Leeds-Liverpool canal yesterday and found the perfect Hawthorn tree in full bloom.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna and Crataegus laevigata) is also known as May – (the May-flower of the Pilgrim Fathers).  It’s not clear whether the month of May takes it’s name from the plant or from the pagan deity of the same name.  Traditionally, May blossom doesn’t come out until about May 12th (It used to come out on May Day before the Gregorian calendar kicked in – give us back our twelve days and all that).  It marks the beginning of Summer (huh! I hear you say! – hail, rain, sun and wind today – where’s summer?) or more properly, the Celtic season of Beltane which spans late spring and summer proper in the UK.  Climatically in Yorkshire, summer really begins at the Summer Solstice.

Anyway, I came home with some fresh picked Hawthorn flowers and, in trepidation at the supposed ill luck of bringing them into the home, immediately got them steeping in alcohol to make a tincture.

Hawthorn flowers and leaves make a fine tonic for the heart – used in many patients who need food for the heart, physical, emotional metaphorical.  I find the flowers more dispersing and uplifting than the berries.  Both are proven to sustain the heart, making it more efficient, improving the heart’s own blood supply, lowering blood pressure. Hawthorn for the heart is a tradition only a couple of hundred years old -culpepper had it more as a sedative.  As a sour-tasting Rosaceae plant, it is slightly sedative, but especially on the heart.


About donaldpurves

Traditional Herbalist since 1989, qualified originally with National Institute of Medical Herbalists (Tutorial Course, School of Herbal Medicine/Phytotherapy), joined Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners in 2011. University lecturer in Herbal Medicine since 2005. Born and brought up in the Scottish Borders. Higher Education at University of York (Biology 1980) and Scottish School of Herbal Medicine (MSc Herbal Medicine 2003). Married to Rukshana Afia, an artist working with drawing, textiles and ceramics. Passionate about environmental, economic and social justice.
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