Hawthorn is a large thorny, flowering shrub and tree native to Europe and is naturalised in the United States. A majority of commercial use Hawthorn is cultivated in the UK, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. All parts of the Hawthorn plant are used in herbal medicines to aid in stress, heart complaints, and digestive issues.
The leaves and flowers of Hawthorn contain antioxidants which are thought to be responsible for its medicinal effect.
One of the most common uses of Hawthorn is to aid in heart health. The plant is said to strengthen the heart as it supports cardiovascular function and is widely used as a tonic for treating cardiac diseases. According to some experts, the plant is thought to increase heart rate, heart muscle contraction, heart muscle irritability and nerve transmission; it is also used to relieve symptoms of palpitations and anxiety.
The plant has been used as a sedative to help relieve mild symptoms of stress and aid sleep. Hawthorn is also thought to help with menstrual and bladder issues. Some also use Hawthorn for digestive complaints such as stomach pain, indigestion and diarrhoea.
Herbal medicines that contain Hawthorn flower and leaves are made in solid or liquid forms to be taken orally. The leaf and flower can be utilised in tea, cordials or tinctured. It is believed some people apply hawthorn externally to the skin, for sores, boils and ulcers.
Around diverse places in the UK such as Devon, the Isle of Man and the Highlands of Scotland, hawthorn has been traditionally used in folk medicine as a heart tonic and used for centuries to balance high and low blood pressure.
In Native American, Chinese and European cultures, Hawthorn has also been used as a tonic for the heart. It has also been utilised to help with emotional pain such as heartbreak.
To the ancient Druids, Hawthorn was a sacred tree medicine and was believed to house fairies. It was considered unlucky to bring Hawthorn flowers into the house as it would bring the fairies along with them.
While the Druids thought Hawthorn to be unlucky, at Greek weddings Hawthorn twigs and flowers were used in marriage wreaths to symbolise chastity and ensure prosperity. They were also used to decorate altars to worship the goddess of marriage, Hymen.
In Ireland, couples would dance around the plant at marriage ceremonies to gain the Hawthorn’s blessing.
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