A few days ago, under grey skies, at my friend Aly’s farm, west of Sylvan Lake, five of us planted 75 hawthorn trees (Crataegus spp.).
The trees are a favourite of the Ring-neck pheasant. Aly has two pheasants, Phillip and Phyllis. She hopes with the introduction of hawthorn trees to the farm, a preferred berry for pheasants, Phillip and Phyllis will settle in and make more pheasants.
The hawthorn is one of my favourite trees. Near my home five older hawthorns grow in a small grove. Hawthorn is an elegant tree. Its branches reach wide resembling arms welcoming an embrace. Bark swirls around the branches like brush strokes in a Van Gogh painting. Depending on the species, Hawthorn’s blossoms are white to pink to fuchsia. In the autumn hawthorn’s berries are coveted by the birds and herbalists.
Hawthorn medicine is a gift to a tired heart. The medicine is found in the trees berries, leaves and flowers.
A tired heart loses its ability to pump blood with enough force to flow throughout the body. Yet it continues to try. When a tired heart tries harder, like all muscles in the body, it becomes bigger. As the heart muscle grows, it loses its efficiency.
When the heart muscle increases in size, the inner chambers of the heart for blood to flow become smaller. Less blood passing through the heart’s chambers resulting in less blood pulsating through the rest of the body. In turn, the body asks for more blood, and the heart tries harder.
As it tries harder the heart grows bigger and more inefficient. It is a viscous cycle that leads to all sorts of health problems, including congestive heart failure.
Hawthorn increases the force of the heart’s pumping action without causing the heart to enlarge. There are several ways that hawthorn works does this. The most important is it opens up the coronary arteries and improves blood flow to the heart.
This improves the oxygen levels in heart muscles and provides energy for the only muscles in the body that continually works.
Hawthorne also enhances the heart’s ability to relax. When the heart is relaxed during the pause between heartbeats, it fills with blood. A relaxed heart has more blood to offer to the body.
It is not only the increase of blood flow through the body that nourishes health. A relaxed, regular heartbeat also causes the body and mind to relax.
This is a phenomenon called entrainment.
An example of entrainment would be a number of grandfather clocks in the same room.
If they have all been set with a different rhythm, over time they will synchronize. The largest clock sets the pace for the rest.
The heart has the strongest rhythm in the body.
It sets the rhythm for every organ in the body including the brain. A rapid heart rate creates beta waves in the brain. Under the influence of beta waves, thinking becomes scattered and in the worst-case scenario, thoughts are tense and frightened.
At about sixty beats per minute, the heart causes a steady flow of alpha waves in the brain. This leads to a calm, clear mind.
Spiritual rituals using drumming or chanting around the world take advantage of entrainment to evoke calm openhearted states of mind. As the heart opens to the peaceful rhythms of prayer, the brain slows to alpha waves and new ways of being and mystical experiences arise.
Hawthorn medicine slows the heart’s rhythm. Many herbalists take advantage of this tree’s effect on the heart to help bring calm to those suffering with anxiety, attention deficient disorder and even autism.
Historically, hawthorn was taken when one wished to develop “The Green Tongue”.
This Celtic expression is used to describe people who talk with the “Little People”, (commonly referred today as fairies and elves) and plants. Every community, particularly those that live close to the land, have members that can communicate directly with nature’s spirits and plants.
Although each culture appears to have slightly different take on this ability, there is one common consensus amongst them one must have an open heart to connect with nature.
Hawthorn’s real medicine is the ability to bring harmony to life.
One could say, “Hawthorn helps human beings get to the heart of the matter.”
Do not meet a tree
If unable to accept
Leaves shaping your mind.
Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.