Hawthorn for Heart

When I think of the heart, I think of the physical sacred place where the emotional body, the mental body and the spirit meet in the world of chakras. It is a place of green and pink, a place of balance! We all know when we are coming from a heart place because it has a specific feeling. So many of us have been taught that we must turn the other cheek to be in a place of heart, but sometimes the most loving thing to do is let the situation play out for the best possible outcome. This is not the same as the heartlessness I hear, like 'live by the sword die by the sword' and such expressions. But rather a compassionate understanding that all things must come back to a state of love for full resolution, and that can get messy.  

In this heart place, we can have empathy, compassion and an understanding that all is sacred and connected. Then, when we come from those understandings, our heart decisions are usually correct.

We all suffer heart pain from loss, betrayal, evil and more. Thankfully, our hearts can still feel. Without love, what is the point of being here? Our hearts on all levels can heal, but some effort is required, which means releasing grief, anger, and fear. I call this release 'heart song" in my practice as a healer because I know the heart is healing itself as painful as it can be to experience and bear witness to. The reflection of the strength of our hearts is the physical heart itself which is one tough muscle with four chambers that pump life-giving blood every few seconds for our entire life. Truly amazing!

Our hearts do not pump our blood into the heart itself as a point of interest. Instead, the heart pumps blood out through the main arteries, and coronary branches lead to the coronary arteries. So the heart feeds every part of the body, including itself, as one unit.

Taking care of one's heart is to take care of oneself on all levels. Your heart is not just a pump that you can abuse or neglect, and it will keep just pumping. It is affected by all of you, your emotions, mental state, spiritual practices or lack of and, of course, your physical care.

Keeping one’s life in balance allows the heart can do the same. So eat right, sleep, exercise, rest, have fun, fall in love, stay in love, be mindful of this amazing life and heart you have been gifted. 

Today's talk will discuss one of my favourite plant families, the rose family, and its relationship to the heart and circulatory system. Rose has long been associated with love and the heart. Many rose family plants are good for healing broken and hurting hearts. It is as if you take in their energy, and you are protected and rocked as you heal. The rose family traditionally has protective thorns, and this protection extends to you when you ask the rose family for help.

In her infinite wisdom, Mother Earth has provided us with the healing properties of the hawthorn tree. In Western herbology, hawthorn is our chief circulatory and heart medicine. 

Hawthorn is a mythical tree surrounded by folklore and tales throughout many cultures and traditions. The Celts considered it very dangerous to damage a Hawthorn tree in any way so as not to hurt the wee folk (fairies) because doing so would bring bad luck. You will see lone Hawthorn trees sitting in the middle of farmers' fields and roads being diverted around them for that very reason.

The hawthorn wood is very strong and dense, like heart muscle tissue. The entire tree, its leaves, flowers and berries are revered by all healers worldwide for their healing properties. 

As stated earlier, the Hawthorn tree is part of the Rose family. It is noted for its predominate sour taste, indicating an astringency property of toning and tightening tissue. But hawthorn also brings in a sweet taste for building and nourishing. In addition, western herbalists use hawthorn for its affinity for the heart and cardiovascular system and other purposes.

 'Hawthorn is food to the heart. As a tonic, it's restorative to the tissues of the entire cardiovascular system. From the capillaries to the heart itself, hawthorn builds the structural integrity of the tissues, promoting increased function of the entire system and equilibrating any imbalances it may have (to a certain degree). There are many other qualities of hawthorn that support its cardiotonic property, such as lowering serum cholesterol, increasing vascular elasticity, dilating blood vessels, and improving the tone of the heart itself.’  Sajah Popham

Hawthorn is by far in western herbalism our chief cardiovascular remedy. All parts of the hawthorn are used. Even though the berries are primarily used, the flowers and leaves work synergistically on balancing the heart and cardiovascular system. The leaves help keep the elasticity of the blood vessels malleable and help prevent the formation of arterial plaque. 

Hawthorn helps reduce blood pressure by opening and relaxing the blood vessels, relieving mild hypertension or blood pressure. More blood can flow through by relaxing the tissues, relieving the pressure. An interesting note is hawthorn can also help with low blood pressure. As well as relaxing the blood vessels, it also tightens and tones the vessels, thereby helping low pressure to balance. This strengthening improves the entire cardiovascular system, thereby improving heart rate and force and the system's overall functioning. 

Beautiful red hawthorn berries.

the five petalled hawthorn flowers. 

The berries of the hawthorn are red and contain flavanoids that protect the vasculature from oxidative (free radical) stress and damage, improving the arteries' elasticity, preventing arteriosclerosis, or the thickening and hardening of the arterial walls.

Hawthorn has a positive effect on cholesterol and can lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or "bad cholesterol" levels and increases HDL (high-density lipoprotein) as well as decreasing fat in the liver and along the walls of the aorta (the main artery of the body supplying oxygenated blood from the heart). If this fatty plaque builds upon the walls of this artery, it can contribute to hypertension, heart attack and other problems.

As discussed earlier, the heart itself has its arterial system called coronary arteries that can get clogged up and the other arteries elsewhere in the body. Hawthorn helps to nourish and improve circulation in the heart arteries and has been used to help with chest pain due to inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart muscle itself, called angina pectoris or chest pain.

We can see hawthorn's value for the heart and circulatory system, but it is important to incorporate and follow a healthy lifestyle. Eating a good diet with wholesome foods, daily/ weekly exercises, reducing stress,  breathing fresh air and practicing mindfulness in our daily lives are all factors in heart health. The general rule is 80% of lifestyle choices contribute to heart health, and only 20% are genetic factors.

Hawthorn is best used consistently for extended periods of time. Daily tonics with other herbs are an excellent way to keep your heart and circulatory system happy, in addition with a healthy lifestyle. It is not a magical herb but a powerful ally. If you are experiencing heart or circulatory problems, you will need to be careful and check with your doctor before taking hawthorn as it can interact with pharmaceuticals.

You can take hawthorn in teas, tinctures, tonics, jams or syrups.

A simple everyday tonic formula if you are NOT on any heart medications is below:

Basic Cardiovascular Triple Formula

 33% Hawthorn berry, flower, & leaf (Crataegus spp.)

 33% Linden (Tilia Europaea)

 33% Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

This formula can be used as an everyday tonic to strengthen the heart, support the integrity of the cardiovascular system and help with elevated blood pressure. Hawthorn and Linden work together to settle and calm the heart from a busy and agitated day - and Yarrow helps to cool but stimulate circulation simultaneously. Yarrow with hawthorn is also an excellent digestive aid. If used as a digestive, try adding a little ginger.

Many other herbs are heart-healthy such as linden flowers, hibiscus, motherwort, to name a few. Also, there are formulas for angina, cognitive problems, high stress, nervousness, restorative and many more. Check with your health practitioner for help with the correct formula for you.

Next time you pass by a rose, stop, have a sniff, imbue yourself with its incredible energy and let its heartfulness fill your soul! 

Wendolyn Murdoch ©2022

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