Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn

HawthornCrataegus spp.

Crataegus = Kra-tie-gus, from Greek kratos (strength), referring to the hard wood (the name used by Theophrastus);

Identification: The various species of hawthorn grow as shrubs and small trees. They usually have stout thorns on their branches and their leaves are alternate, simple, serrate and sometimes shallowly lobed. The flowers are white and the fruits are berry-like pomes.

Distribution & Habitat: Hawthorn is found in thickets, woods and along stream beds throughout the western North America.

Preparation & Uses: All species have an edible berry that can be used to make jam or jelly. The Indians ate the fruit fresh or dried in pemmican. The berries are a bit mealy and are therefore not considered prime food.

The fruit and flowers have been used by Amerindian, Chinese and European herbalists as a heart tonic, to normalize blood pressure, angina and for arteriosclerosis. Studies have confirmed its benefit in these areas. Use over long periods of time is necessary for the medicinal effects to be noticeable. It can also be used as a mild sedative and mild diuretic. Hawthorn berries are major ingredients in Chinese weight loss programs. I have known people to lose 10 – 25 pounds over a few months by consuming a diet high in hawthorn or drinking hawthorn tea.