Saturday, March 12, 2011

Herbal Ally Challenges #3 & #5: Vinegars and Research

Its true, I'm way way behind on herbal ally challenges, and I have come to accept that I probably won't be able to do all of them over the course of the year. So be it. I'l do what I can, and what inspires me.

Starting hawthorn seeds just seems impractical and silly to me right now- i have no where to plant them, they take lots of scarification and freezing (too late for that this year) and I'm moving soon, and moving with too many flats of seeds is not my idea of fun.

But I am happy to report that despite my beliefs about what I thought I knew, researching my hawthorn ally resulted in some rather astounding discoveries and rememberences about this plant.

I looked in three books and was reminded that hawthorn berry's traditional use in China was as a digestive tonic.  It addresses "food stagnantion", when your food just sits and doesn't digest, blocking up the channels of elimination and assimilation.  Not a good thing.  Chinese hawthorn berries are sour, chewy and very tasty.  I remember snacking on them in herb school at NAIMH.  But along with this recall, the digestive effects of hawthorn go deeper and are more versatile than I thought.  Hawthorn is excellent to address heat in the digestive tract, and all the mucous membranes- resulting from inflammed gut tissues from food allergies. It reduces congestion and heat in the blood and can be useful for varisocosities- think of hawthorn for hemorrhoids accompanied by stagnant heat, and improves the metabolism and assimiliation of lipids/fats.

This heat reducing ability also applies the the respiratory tract mucous membranes, and we use it often in asthma, especially when it is accompanied by over excitability, ADHD like symptoms or grief manifesting as acting out. 

Of course it is well known for its use as a heart tonic, but did you know that use only started in about 1895 in Europe.  Prior to that hawthorn was mostly a food, served with meat, to improve digestion.

Most herbalists talk about using just the fruits of the hawthorn but I like to combine the fruits with the leaves and flowers for the most part.  I can't remember exactly where I learned this along the way, but that the leaves and flowers have just as many bioflavanoids and active constituents as the fruits.  Of course, I do believe tht they are significantly distinct as medicines as well.  The leaves and flowers retain much more astringency, while the fruits contain the majority of the sour and sweet tastes.  Generally I use them together.  Hopefully this year I will experiment with using them separately.

I've also made my hawthorn BERRY vinegar.  I'm totally out of berries and leaves right now, they are on their way from Pacific Botanicals, but in the meantime, I haven't made any other preparations.  The vinegar is delicious, ruby red, sour sweet.  It makes me want to turn it into a shrub.  Hawthorn berry shrub. Yes.
Thats on my list of things to do.  Especially if I get lucky enough to get fresh hawthorn fruit this summer!  I'm loving herbal vinegars more and more, as I stray away from traditional modern herbal preparation of tinctures.  How to use herbs in food more and more is my song...I guess.

Great vinegar to clear summer heat- or just too much heat in general that results in a racing, pounding heart.  Or the overwhelming grief and heartache I'm seemingly experiencing this year. 



Anonymous said...

Awesome post, sweetheart! :)

You know, I also have pondered what to do about the seed planting segment of our experiential journey; I have so much Goldenrod right where she wants to be... I think I'll possibly document her growth patterns in that section.

I thoroughly enjoyed your insights on Hawthorn!

Much love,

Alyss said...

Wow, great info! There are lots of hawthorne trees in my area (Portland, OR) and I have been watching them for a couple years. Hawthorne berry vinegar sounds like a great use for them!

Anonymous said...

A lovely post on a wonderful herbal ally, thank you.

I do like the combined berry and flowering tops tincture for many people but I also make a tincture just of the blossoms for use as a nervine and support for the emotional heart. I have found drop does of this incredibly powerful for states like those you mention, of grief and of heartache.

I'll be interested to read your comparisons of using the two, separately and combined, later in the year.

With Hawthorn blessings xx

karisma said...

(((HUGS))) and thankyou for this very informative post. I knew absolutely nothing about Hawthorne so am surprised at all its uses. I could surely have used some around here the past few weeks for my sweet girl who is suffering from a broken heart. She is getting there, but boy its been a bumpy ride.

Love and light to you xoxox

Rosalee de la Foret said...

Lovely musings Darcey. Inspired by you, I made an overnight infusion of the leaves and flowers that I am sipping on today. The slightly astringent taste always reminds me of drinking tea.

We go through about a gallon of hawthorne berry brandy each year. For medicinal purposes of course! :)

I also adore the vinegar - the berries sweeten the ACV and turn it such a luscious fuscia color.

Lucy said...

This is an interesting post - but I'd like to know we are talking about the same plant in China, USA and England. Would you give it a Latin name?


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