Hawthorne, Crataegus laevigata; (Rosaceae)


Hawthorns are found in woods and hedges and on heaths and wasteland. The leaves are lobed, dark and narrow, with characteristic sharp pointed thorns or spines an inch to five inches long. The flowers are small, white or pinkish, in clusters, with many stamens, and strongly scented. The fruits are small, generally red though sometimes yellow, with hard pips surrounded by a dry or pulpy flesh which is not palatable but can be eaten. These are known as haws. The bark is smooth and gray or light colored.


Dr. Christopher first heard of the Hawthorn berry as a cardiac tonic from England, having been used there for hundreds of years. It is one of the best and richest foods in the world, he claimed. He was the one who brought the Hawthorn berry syrup formula to America. Dr. Nowell gave it to him as a graduation gift many years ago. He had said, "This is just for your patients, until I die. Afterwards, you can do what you want with it". Dr. Christopher kept the formula only for his patients, as instructed. When Dr. Nowell died, Dr. Christopher shared the formula for anybody's patients. It can't hurt you; he even gave it by dropper to babies for skipping heartbeats.

One doctor who had learned the formula for Hawthorn berry syrup from Dr. Christopher raised his hand after a lecture to tell the following story. He had gone on a house call in response to a call about a heart attack, one so serious that the family was afraid that death was imminent. The doctor had no cayenne in his bag and the family had no cayenne; the doctor began to panic. He remembered that he had a bottle of Hawthorn berry syrup with him. The usual dose is a half-teaspoonful, but the doctor thought a little more might help, so he gave the patient a full tablespoonful. The patient drank it down, sat right up, and said, "Well, I feel okay". The doctor checked him with the stethoscope and the heart sounded alright. As the doctor said, "Talk about quick relief"

During the second World War a man had been accepted to work in a large chemical depot. The firm had hired him because he was physically unfit for military service--he had a heart leakage--and they were short of manpower. They placed him in their construction division without a physical examination when he was sixty-two years of age, and he worked for them until he was sixty-five years old. He had begun using this heart tonic when he was sixty years old, using it faithfully because, according to him, it tasted good. Now he was sixty-five years old and the war came to an end. He was called into the company's main office, where they complimented his work record and asked him if he would remain as an employee. He wanted to, but feared the necessary physical examination. He finally agreed to take the examination.

You may imagine his surprise when he found that he had been given a clean bill of health. He asked the doctor, "What about my heart leakage?" The doctor replied, "I wish I had a heart as good as yours. You should never worry about dying from a heart attack; in fact, if you don't get hit by a truck or lightning you will probably die quietly in your sleep from old age and won't even muss up the covers." This man worked several more years at the plant, retired, and then lived on until he was in his eighties. On a July evening in 1970, he went to the rodeo with his family and enjoyed the evening like a kid as he watched his son ride and perform. The next morning one of his sons came over to his home and found his father lying peacefully in his bed. He had passed away with his hands folded over his chest and, just as the doctor had predicted, the covers were not even mussed up. No heart attack, just the final sleep of old age.

A lady once came to Dr. Christopher to have her irises read and was told that, among other things, she had a heart weakness. She was advised to use a half teaspoon of Hawthorn berry syrup three times a day. She began using the tonic on a Tuesday; before the week was even over she had experienced a dramatic improvement in her condition.

Hawthorn is also known for its specific action on edema. During one of Dr. Christopher's lectures, a young man asked if he could relate an experience of his mother's. He said that his mother had such edema in the ankles that they were so swollen you couldn't even see the bones. Many remedies prescribed by various doctors had made no difference at all. The young man asked his mother to come up to the front of the lecture hail and stand on a chair so the audience could see her

feet. She now had well-defined ankle bones after less than a week of using the syrup.

Dr. Christopher mentioned that the syrup takes many tedious hours to prepare. He said that if anyone wants to take more than the minimum dose, one-half teaspoon three times a day, you should whack them over the head with a spoon! It's too valuable to let people generally take any more!


The Hawthorn is a small thorny tree or shrub found in Asia and Europe, but also naturalized in North America and throughout the world. It is the a tree of legends and even magic. According to legend, the Crown of Thorns was believed to be made of Hawthorn (there are five varieties of Crataeus in the Holy Land); therefore, the herb was thought to possess magical healing properties. Other Christian legends state that the staff of Joseph of Arimathea which sprouted when thrown to the ground was also made of Hawthorn. In ancient Greece, the herb was used as a marriage torch, while in Rome it was considered a potent charm against sorcery and witchcraft. The leaves were placed in the cradles of newborn babies to invoke a special blessing and protection. The Greek bride was sometimes adorned with a sprig of Hawthorn and the bridal altar decked with its blossoms to secure a beautiful and blessed future for bride and groom (Luc: 188-89). It was thought that bringing the branches into the house portended death for one living therein; the branches were once hung around houses to ward off witches. It is thought to have been the magic hedge that grew overnight in the legend of Sleeping Beauty (Rose:Herbs:66). Another happier version says that Hawthorn brought into the house would bring fairies into the house (Levy:74). The plant is considered unlucky, however, if the fruits are gathered before the first of May.

The Hawthorn is the badge of the Ogilvie clan and get one of its most common popular names from the fact that it blooms in May: Mayblossom and Mayflower. Christopher Columbus' ship was named after this plant. Henry VII chose the device of a Hawthorn bush because a small crown from the helmet of Richard III was discovered hanging on it after the battle of Bosworth, hence the saying, "Cleave to thy Crown though it hangs on a bush" (Gri:385).

The botanic name, Crataegus oxvacantha, comes from the Greek kratos meaning hardness (of the wood), oxus (sharp), and akantha (a thorn). The German name of Hagedorn, meaning Hedge Thorn, shows that the Germans divided their land into plots by hedges; the word haw is also an old word for hedge. This refers to a very healthy practice for the land: hedgerows forming natural barriers that provide a good windbreak, shelter for animals and birds, food for the same, and often medicinal herbs for man and beast. The common name Whitethorn arises from the whiteness of the bark and the name Quickset comes from its growing as a quick or living hedge, in contrast to a fence of dead wood. Other names include Haw, a reference to the fruits, as well as Hazels, Gazels, Halves, Ladies' Meat, Bread and Cheese tree (Gri:385). The leafy buds are often called "pepper and salt" by country people as they are eaten in the springtime and have that taste (Lev:75). In some places in England, the haws, which when ripe is a brilliant red and in miniature a stony apple, are called Pixie Pears, Cuckoo's Beads and Chucky Cheese. The flowers are mostly fertilized by carrion insects, the suggestion of decomposition in their perfume attracting those insects that lay their eggs and hatch out their larvae in decaying animal matter (Gri:3 85). This is caused by the presence of coumarin (an anti-coagulant), the odor of which seems to repel bees. Many people are violently allergic to this coumarin. Many country people believe that these flowers still bear the smell of the Great Plague of London.


Folk medicine and modern research alike are proving Hawthorn to be a prime cardiac tonic and restorer. Rather than doing specific heart repair, it is good for both high and low blood pressure, rapid or arrhythmic heartbeat, inflammation of the heart muscle and arteriosclerosis (Tie:97). Richard Lucas gives a rather lengthy history of the use of Hawthorn as a heart tonic. During the last century, he explained, a Dr. Greene of Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, was achieving amazing results with the use of a secret remedy for treating heart disorders. People came from many parts of the world to be treated by him, which aroused the jealousy of the medical profession. On his death in 1894, his daughter revealed that he had been using a tincture of the ripe berries of English Hawthorn. By 1898 many doctors and herbalists began administering the tincture to their heart patients with remarkably good results. Turn of the century research documents the heart assistance of this herb. The doctors chronicle the use of the herb for chronic as well as acute heart trouble. It was considered to be mild and effective, not working at once, generally speaking, but working over a period of time to renew the heart. Reports were continually given of patients with heart murmurs, heart attacks, etc., who began taking the tincture of Hawthorn and who had their symptoms entirely relieved (Luc:140-1). More modern research indicates that Hawthorn is still held in high repute among certain practitioners. In Germany in 1951, 100 heart patients

requiring continuous therapy were given Hawthorn extract, with generally beneficial results. Digitalis could either be reduced or discontinued (Ibid.).

A Dr. T.H. Bartram considered the Hawthorn especially appropriate where the psychological pattern is one of melancholy and irritability. It works best where the pulse is weak and rapid, with concurrent dropsy and dyspnea (Ibid.). Another researcher, in 1951, found that the active substance of the Hawthorn produced dilation of the coronary vessels (j.~Ld.). It is also said to be effective in stemming arteriosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries (I-Lyl:464). It is mild and non-poisonous, with anti-spasmodic properties, considered to be more a sedative and regulator of the heart than a stimulant (Cly:86).

Hawthorn has other uses; it is used in edema or dropsy, as aforementioned. A decoction of the berries is useful in treating sore throats. It can help clear the kidney in such troubles. The fruits can be taken, four to six of them, to prevent miscarriage (Lev:75). A poultice of the pulped leaves or fruits has strong drawing powers and country people for ages have used Hawthorn for treatment of embedded thorns, splinters and also for whitlows (Ibid.).


Formerly the timber, when grown large enough, was used for making small articles. The root-wood was also used for making boxes and combs; the wood has a fine grain and takes a beautiful polish. It makes excellent fuel, making the hottest wood fire known, considered to be even more valuable than the hot burning oak for oven heating. Charcoal made from it has been said to melt pig-iron without the aid of a bellows. The stock is employed for grafting species closely allied to it, such as pear.

The extremely hard wood is used to make everlasting staves and crooks and is also highly valued to make farm implements. The branches, especially the flowering ones, are often pinned to farmhouse doors, stables, barns, byres and hayricks to protect them from lightning strikes--another echo of the former witch-fearing days (Levy:7 1).

The plant is excellent in shrubbery borders, the line carrying the vision from lower shrubs upward to trees in the background. They are frequently grown as hedges and make excellent lawn specimens (Hyl:464).

Hawthorn is sometimes been used, roasted, as a coffee substitute. The young leaves have been used as a substitute for tobacco. The fruits are sometimes sold in markets in Europe and the Near East. The fruits are well-known in China and are commonly made into jam or preserved with sugar for a sweetmeat.


Used as a cardiac tonic, for edema, heart attack, to regulate blood pressure, for arteriosclerosis, inflamed heart muscle, for rapid or arrhythmic heartbeat, for a weak pulse, dropsy and heart murmurs.


Dr. Christopher's Hawthorn Berry Syrup is made as follows:


We always use stainless steel, Pyrex glass, or uncracked porcelain utensils in preparing a formula. Never aluminum, Teflon, copper, iron, or cracked porcelain.

If you use the fresh hawthorn berries put them into a pan and fill the pan with distilled water 2 inches from the top of the pan. If you have dried berries, reconstitute the berries until they are about their normal size and then add water to cover the berries and add an additional inch of water. Simmer this mixture on a low simmer (under 130 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 15 or 20 minutes. Stir while simmering. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it steep for 15 to 20 4 minutes. Strain the liquid off of the top of the solids. Set aside the liquid in a clean container.

Mash the remainder of the berries and cover them with steam distilled water, adding an additional inch of water to the solution. When distilled water is used, the resulting tea is more potent than with ordinary tap water. Simmer this mixture for 20 minutes, stirring while you are simmering. Remove pan from heat. Let steep for 20 minutes. Strain off the liquid and press the excess liquid from the solids.

Combine the second batch of liquid with the first batch of liquid. Stir them together. Put them into a clean pan on low heat.

Simmer slowly with the lid off, stirring while simmering. If you do not have the patience to simmer and stir, then put the mixture into a double boiler so that it will not burn. Simmer the liquid to 1/4 its original amount. (if you have one gallon as the original amount, you will want to reduce it to one quart). Be sure to stir the mixture regularly so that it will not burn. You will now be left with a thick hawthorn berry solution, a 7x or 7 power concentrate. Let us suppose, for convenience, that you have one quart of solution. Add to this 1/4 quart (or one fourth the amount of the solution) of grape brandy and 1/4 quart of pure vegetable glycerine. The vegetable glycerine is United States Pharmaceutical grade of glycerine derived from plant sources. Stir the mixture thoroughly. Bottle it in dark colored bottles and cork it tightly. To preserve the heart tonic for future use, turn the bottle upside down in melted paraffin wax in order to wax the lid on and form an air-tight seal.

This is one of the only good tasting herbal preparations we have, so don't let relatives and occasional guests gulp it down indiscriminately after you have spent so many hours in the 4 preparation of it.

A lady suffering from cardiac dropsy used the syrup and she was able to see her ankles for the first time in four years. My father-in-law was born with leakage of the heart and had to be carried on a pillow as a baby. He began taking the hawthorn berry syrup at the age of 62 years. At 65 he was given a clean bill of health. He lived to the age of 81 and never suffered a heart attack.

Hawthorn berry syrup is high in calcium and is an excellent food for the veins and arteries. An excellent liqueur is made from Hawthorn berries with brandy, and it is said to possess the medicinal qualities of the berry.


Hawthorns grow readily in almost any soil. They are propagated by division of young roots or by cuttings made in September and set in a cold frame. They can be started from seed; however, germination may not take place until the second or third year!

The ripe fruit can be gathered and dried for future use. It decomposes fairly rapidly. It can be made into a tea however its most popular use is in tincture, extract, or syrup form.


C. Aronia is a busy species giving larger fleshy fruit than C. Oxvacantha. It is indigenous to southern Europe and Western Asia and is common about Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, where its fruit is used for preserves. C. odoratissima is very agreeable also as a fruit. C. Azarole has highly esteemed fruit; it grows in southern Europe (Gri:386).


The leaves, flowers and fruits contain flavonoids (hyperoside and vitexin-rhamnoside), leucoanthocyanidins and their tri-terpenic derivatives: crataeguluslactone (which contains crataegolic, ursolic and oleanolic acids).

Hawthorn is an exceptionally mild herb and it would take quite a large dose to even approach toxicity.


Recent research has proven that Hawthorn has positive affects on the heart. An isolate of the flowers was found in Germany to help the hearts of guinea pigs ("Cardiotonic Amines from Crataegus Oxyacantha", Planta Medica, 1982, Vol. 45, pp. 98-101). The herb also showed some sedative activity in mice ("Evaluation of the activity on the mouse CNS of several plant extracts and a combination of them" Riv. Neurol., Sept-Oct 1981, 51(5), pp. 297-310, Italy). An article in 1979 claimed that since orthodox has not effectively found a cure for heart trouble, we should turn to traditional medicines for the answers. Although they are not always specific in their action, such medicines as Hawthorn provided positive results in the relief of hypertension {"Plants and hypotensive, antiatheromatous and coronarodilatating action", American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Autumn 1979, Vol. 7 (3),p. 197-236).


The CSK Combination, which can be used as a nutritional supplement that can assist the whole body during weight loss, and can assist in digestion, provide nutrition, help calm the appetite, sustain energy and help with stress, contains Hawthorn berries.

Adrenetone, the combination to heal and tone the adrenal glands, contains Hawthorn berries. The Hawthorn Berry Syrup contains Hawthorn berries.