Navigating the subtle matters of the heart isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t mean our physical heart has to suffer alongside our ups and downs too. On the bright side of getting our blood flowing so that we can feel our best, we’re turning to the hawthorn berry for nourishment.
While the physical heart may not be where we house our emotions, it is the organ that sends blood to the hippocampus, the gland in our brain that’s in charge of keeping our memory and emotional responses in running order.
However, foods can’t create preferential blood flow to any one part of your brain or body — but if you want to be able to feel all the feels, blood to all parts of your body is important!
So let’s get to supporting your heart, the hawthorn berry way.
Hawthorn berries (Cratageus spp.) belong to the Rosaceae family, and this pretty red berry’s cousins includes red raspberry and wild rose.
This family of berries are all rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids (think anti-inflammatory powerhouses) and all have an affinity for the heart and circulatory system.
Hawthorn berries in particular offer nourishment for the actual heart muscle, as well as nervous system support, such as providing potential benefits for:
- reducing oxidative stress
- decreasing inflammation (in mice)
- treating blood vessel damage (based on Chinese medicine)
- reducing high blood pressure (in a small study)
- reducing risk of heart failure and heart disease
Herbalists from various traditions have also been using these tart super berries for centuries to support cardiac health, help regulate cholesterol levels, and stimulate a weak or sluggish appetite.
Hawthorn berries have also been used as an emmenagogue, meaning that they help support healthy menstruation and blood flow.
Hawthorn berries are in season in the late summer and fall, but the dried berries last for several months if sealed in a glass jar that’s kept in dry place. Fresh hawthorn berries are bright red (like holly berries) and the dried berries are a deep reddish brown or purple-brown.
Hawthorn trees come in several varieties and can be found in Europe, North American, and Asia.
You may not see hawthorn berries in major supermarkets, but you can purchase them (often dried) from your local herb store, co-op, farmer’s market, or online from Frontier Co-op or Mountain Rose Herbs.
Hawthorn berries have a sweet and sour flavor and are best enjoyed as a tea, tincture, jam, infusion, or cordial (recipe below)!
A cordial is a sweet dessert-like drink that often contains alcohol, but they doesn’t necessarily have to. For this particular season, think of it like a love potion: a little bit sweet but perfect to sip on a chilly evening with someone you adore.
This special hawthorn cordial by Witch in the Woods is particularly tasty and warming and includes other heart healthy anti-inflammatories such as hibiscus and pomegranate juice.
The key factor in making a cordial is the infusion time. Be sure to let the mixture sit in a sealed glass jar for a good 4 weeks so that the juice and brandy can really soak in the nutritional benefits of the berries.
When ready, strain out the berries, flowers, and spices and enjoy! An open bottle can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Or make your own personal cordial simply out of hawthorn berries, brandy, and honey!
Infusions are another great and relatively simple way enjoy the hawthorn berry. Check out this Hawthorn Tea for the Winter Heart from the Herbal Academy.
This herbal tea infusion includes dried hawthorn berries, cinnamon, and rose petals — all happy heart super foods. Remember, you can always simplify as needed.
Even a plain hawthorn berry infusion is great. All it takes is a pot of boiled water and a small handful of dried berries. Steep for 15 to 20 minutes, and then strain before adding a touch of honey. You can even throw in some raw cracked cacao beans for a super cozy winter treat.
If homemade cordials and herbal concoctions aren’t your thing, never fear! There are plenty of options for getting hawthorn berry love on the go. Here are a few ideas:
- tincture (*purchase from a quality source such as Gaia, Herb Pharm or Mountain Rose Herbs)
- jam or jelly
*When it comes to supplements, such as tinctures and capsules, take as directed, and especially if you are on any medications, always check with your doctor before starting any supplements.
If hawthorn berries are just a little too obscure for you, you can look for other dark red, blue, and purple plant foods. The rich color generally indicates an abundance of anti-oxidants which will benefit your heart.
Here are a few ideas!
- purple grapes
- hibiscus flowers
Whether you prefer a hawthorn berry or a blueberry, cozy up with an infusion or cordial, and have a heart-healthy year!
Greta Kent-Stoll is a writer and Ayurvedic practitioner. Find more of her work at ashevilleayureveda.net.