Hawthorn: Heart Healing from Physical to Spiritual

by Dr Mahalia Freed, ND

Crateagus oxycantha, flower

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is medicine for the heart on all levels. Indigenous to countries across the northern hemisphere, this small thorny tree has a long-recorded history of medicinal use in both Europe and China, as well as in North America. Poetically – and significantly – Hawthorn is a member of the Rose family.

Hawthorn’s place as heart medicine was noted by Greek physician, Dioscorides, in the first Century AD. Medical herbal research has validated this use, finding hawthorn to be effective for increasing the strength of heart contractions, increasing blood flow to the heart, decreasing blood lipids (ie decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides) and modulating blood pressure (AltMedReview, 2010). A Cochrane review of trials on hawthorn for chronic or congestive heart failure found that Crataegus extract decreased fatigue and shortness of breath and improved exercise tolerance relative to placebo. And while the traditional context is different, the Traditional Chinese Medicine use of Hawthorne for fat or rich meal digestion highlights the ability of Haw/berry antioxidants to prevent cholesterol deposits from oxidizing.

Additionally, hawthorn is used in the form of an energy medicine for the heart.
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Holly & The Holidays

Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is one of those plants classically associated with Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. Gorgeous and festive with its shiny green and red, Holly is more than just decoration. While it isn’t common in herbal medicine materia medica, it is one of the original flower remedies used and researched by Dr. Edward Bach.

What is a flower remedy? Similar to homeopathy, flower essences are created using a specific technique that extracts not the physical constituents but the energetic essence of the plant. Flower essences are most often prescribed for emotional or spiritual states, rather than physical concerns. For example, Rescue Remedy is a popular retail formula for anxiety and shock. Essences may be prescribed to help with confidence, self esteem, stress, depression, or even for smoking cessation.

In the spirit of holiday healing, here is some information about Holly as a flower essence (from the Flower Essence Repertory, 2004 Edition). Isn’t it interesting, how the medicine we need is so often right near us?

Holly essence nourishes the heart, and is used to cultivate loving and inclusive gestures to others, ability to express gratitude to others, and compassion. Holly helps to broaden our sense of self to one that knows that we are connected, that “love is an infinite resource that is available to all.[…]When we feel separate from others we can take no joy or compassionate interest in their affairs; instead our isolation is compounded into negative states of jealousy, envy, suspicion or anger”. Holly is about community, and joy, and the joy of shared love. Holly “restores the soul’s ability to feel unity and wholeness”.

Sound like a good addition to your holiday gatherings? I think so. Thank you Holly, for your festive spirit (pun intended)!