Also known as the May Tree, due to the beautiful white blossoms that it produces in May.
Hawthorn (or Hedge thorn – reflecting its widespread use to mark field boundaries) has always been highly regarded in every age. In olden times it was believed to have magical powers and was sacred to the pagan fertility goddesses. May blossoms from the Hawthorn tree were used in wedding decorations, due to the beneficial effects it was supposed to have on fertility.
Along with several other trees and plants it was thought to be able to protect against thunderstorms and lightning, as well as warding off evil spirits from houses in which its branches were laid. The Norse god Thor created Hawthorn from a thunderbolt, according to mythology, accounting for its protective effects in thunderous conditions.
Hawthorn is a hardy, dense tree with small, sharp thorns – another reason for using it for marking boundaries, as it’s difficult to break through without severely damaging yourself on the thorny branches! The wood is hardy and was used to make part of the Mayflower, which the Pilgrims named after the tree.
It is part of the rose family, and the fruits are edible although not tasty enough to be really tempting. Farmers used to eat the leaves when out working the fields, to take the edge off their hunger before meals. The leaves could also be used inside sandwiches to give a boost to the lunch menu, and young leaves were used in place of tea and tobacco during the First World War.
Hawthorn dew was used by peasant girls to bathe their faces during May, as it was thought to benefit the complexion, and possibly also because its smell was thought to have aphrodisiac qualities.
More realistically, it has been used to improve heart health for many centuries, being documented in European herbal texts as far back as the 15th Century. Its gentle action, when taken over a period of many months, will reduce high blood pressure or increase low blood pressure, whichever is necessary in the individual. It balances either problem because it normalises and brings a more effective function back to the heart.
“Especially in the autumn of one’s life, there is no substitute for Hawthorn in the beneficial effect it has upon the heart and metabolism. Hawthorn is and remains a friend “close to one’s heart” “. Alfred Vogel. Nature – your guide to healthy living, p230.