Updated: Aug 11
Botanical Name: Crataegus spp.
Other Common Names: May tree, Hag Thorn, Haw Apple, Ladies’ Meat, Quickthorn, May Blossom
Plant Energetics: Neutral
Plant Properties: Relaxing Nervine, Cardiac Trophorestorative, Digestant, Astringent, Diuretic, Antioxidant
Plant Uses: Cardiac Weakness, Resulting Blood Pressure, Panicky Heart, Heart Problems, Stagnant Digestion
Plant Preperations: Tincture, Elixir, Glycerite, Hydrosol, Vinegar, Tea, Infusions, Food, Honeys, Syrups
Im so happy and my heart is warmed by the sight of Hawthorn blossom appearing like white jewels among lichen covered thorny branches along the hedgerows, on the Moors and through the forest.
I love Hawthorn for the magical quality held within the trees branches and for the leaves, flowers and berries that contain such wonderful heart medicine.
The leaves; being deeply lobed, look like little green hands wanting to stroke me and wave hello as I go by, these leaves so soft in spring are wonderful for eating and so much darker and tougher in autumn becoming not such a wonderful edible.
The small red berries, that go by the name of cuckoo’s beads, chucky cheese, and pixie pear, to me they taste of avocado and cover the branches like drops of heart blood.
In May this small tree blossoms in an abundance of small white flowers; so delicate and pure. And balanced out by Hawthorn’s huge thorns which nestle throughout the year
amongst gnarled bark, maiden like blossom and bleeding berries. They have a wonderful protective quality for the tree, a ‘don’t mess with me’ kind of vibe which I always like in plants and people.
Hawthorn is a small tree that belongs to the Rose family, and like the wild and old Roses in this trees family, Hawthorn is a heart medicine and both Rose and Hawthorn have wonderful fierce thorns.
To me this is a wonderful lesson and example that I have had to learn over the years, which is to be in your heart, for your heart to feel safe you need to have your strong boundaries in place. You need to know your thorns are there in case needed. To be open, magical, soft and safe you need to have boundaries that are as clear and as seeable as the thorns of a rose or Hawthorn.
Hawthorn has been widespread in Britain since before 6,000bc and has many deep, ancient stories and beliefs attached to it.
Hawthorn is often a companion to blackthorn amongst the hedgerows. In spring Blackthorn blossoms before going into leaf, while Hawthorn blossoms alongside the unfolding leaves.
From the earliest records, hawthorn is one of the sacred Celtic trees. Being the sixth tree of the Ogham cycle and is believed to be the tree that is the fairy tree and gatekeeper to nature spirits. Hawthorn is also part of the ancient sacred triad of Oak, Ash and Thorn and was often found or planted next to sacred springs.
Hawthorn is in blossom on May Day / Beltane which is also called ‘the greening’.
Women used to gather branches of May blossom early on the May Day morning and bathe their faces in the dew with great reverence and ceremony.
The blossom covered branches were taken to decorate the outside and inside of houses, barns and May Queens. They were carried in procession from house to house so that each would be given a share of the Thorn Spirit’s blessing.
Hawthorn was and is the symbolism of being able to ‘open the heart’ and fertility, which is a big part of the May day celebrations, as seen in the old Maypole dances, fertility for the people, and for the land.
The blossom of Hawthorn gives off a smell that is said to be akin to a fertile womb and yoni / vagina making the wild men who smelt it ready for the celebration of life and procreation.
It was always the traditional tree used at marriages and hand fastenings because of all these qualities.
As a medicine
Hawthorn has, for a long time, been the tree of fertility, health, growth and the mender and calmer of hearts.
Hawthorn contains components which are sedative, anti spasmodic and a great natural regulator of arterial blood pressure.
Hawthorn brings tone, clarity and health to the heart and has been used as a stimulant or regulator for the heart. Containing sedative effects it can be used to help people with palpitations, the menopause and any imbalance of the blood circulation.
Hawthorn is best taken over a long period of time in a tea or tincture.
I love to gather the leaves in Spring, the blossom in May and the berries in Autumn and I tincture the whole lot together which means all the different energies are within one magical potion.
As a food
An old name for this tree is 'bread and cheese' and 'salt and pepper'
The spring leaves are tender and soft and good in a salad, made into a tea, or thrown into smoothies and pestos.
The berries / Haws, contain high amounts of pectin and so they work well in jams, ketchups and fruit leathers.
Ray mears has a good video of himself making a Hawthorn fruit leather but I find it needs a little more flavour in as it can be quite bland. I like to add cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and cooked apple and sometimes maple syrup. It's worth playing around.
I also make a vinegar in the autumn which I can add to salads, sprinkle on avocado on toast or take a spoonful in a little water in the mornings as a health tonic when the mood takes me.
Get out and find this tree if you can, sleep under it, sit with it and eat from it.
I recently heard that many many moons ago, common meeting places were often planted with trees and plants you could refresh yourself with, make medicine from and eat from.
People were said to have picked up messages from the trees, glimpses of who had been there and what their stories were. Hawthorn was said to be one of the trees always planted in these sacred medicine meeting places, so many a weary traveller could feel better after spending time in these spots.