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The Versatile Hawthorn Berry (Shan Zha)

Hawthorn Berry, Crataegus fruit, (also called haws or thorn apples), Shan Zha in Chinese, is well known as a heart tonic. Hawthorn’s ability to nourish the heart and assist in recovery from heart problems is well documented in traditional herbalism, contemporary herbalism and supported by science.
Hawthorn is a gentle heart tonic that nurtures the entire circulatory system. There are a lot of known cardiovascular benefits and It is widely recommended as a tonic for support of people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some heart conditions. To thwart the damaging effects of a heart attack hawthorn is the ‘ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure.’ Used in conjunction with a healthy diet and stress management, hawthorn is an excellent tonic for persons who have a family history of heart disease. Considered a safe and effective long-term tonic for the gradual loss of heart function that comes with age, hawthorn is not habit forming, accumulative or toxic.

Hawthorn Tincture

1. Using a glass jar, add the berries then cover completely with a good quality brandy or vodka. The liquid should be at least a couple of fingers higher than the top of the berries.
2. Screw on the lid and label the jar with the name and date.
3. Store in a cool, dark place for two to four weeks. Give the jar a good shake once a day.
4. Using a funnel, strain the hawthorn tincture into the tincture bottle. Store in a cool, dark place. You can store it in the fridge, but that isn’t necessary.

The recommended daily dosage from Nutritional Herbology is 10 ml, which is approx. 2 or 2 1/2 teaspoons or 15 drops. To take, add your dose to a cup of (room temperature) water. It may be a bit strong to take it straight from the dropper.
Tinctures from dried herbs usually last 2-5 years. You don’t want to make a tincture with fresh herbs, or it might begin to spoil due to the excess water content.

Hawthorn decoction (tea):

This recipe is part of the UK Herbarium June Blog Party My Favourite Tree Medicines, kindly hosted by Lucinda at Whispering Earth.

1. put 3 tablespoons/30gm dried hawthorn berries in a suitable pot (I use an old coffee pot because it’s easy to pour from).
2. add 500 ml cold water and put on the lid.
3. put on a slow heat and bring to a simmer. Don’t boil, as this will release the more bitter flavours and probably destroy some of the vitamins.
4. simmer for as long as you like, or can wait – 30 minutes is fine but I’ve left it on a very slow heat for an hour or more.
5. drink as is, or allow to infuse in the pot for as long as it takes you to use it up. I’m currently making 4 cups at a time and letting it infuse for several days before the last cup is drunk.

This brew is rich, oily and satisfying*. It has an initial distinct sweetness, quickly followed by the kind of tartness that is associated with vitamin C (similar to its cousin the rosehips). There are undertones of bitter.

* I’ve just looked this up and it’s not oily so much as soapy – hawthorn berries contain saponins, chemicals that make things slippery.