I haven’t shared this here yet, but recently we had a major family emergency. My sister in law delivered her first child, and then immediately went into cardiac arrest. I won’t go into all of the details, but it was extremely scary.
She was diagnosed with Peripartum Cardiomyopathy- pregnancy induced heart failure. She is alive thanks to a HeartMate II pump which was placed on her heart, an LVAD which assists the left side of her heart in pumping blood.
Although heart disease runs in my husband’s side of the family, this was very much a shock to everyone.
This scare has caused me deep concern regarding my husband’s heart health. His father had heart disease, his aunt and uncle died from heart attacks, and now unfortunately his sister has heart problems to deal with. It breaks my heart that she has had to endure so much (incredibly courageously, I might add), and worries me greatly that it could be my husband next.
I could be him next.
I am determined to do my best to prevent that from ever happening.
Throughout this entire ordeal, I’ve been researching natural ways to heal a heart and prevent heart attacks. Two main herbs have stuck out as the best for heart health: cayenne and hawthorn berries, with garlic close behind.
Since I haven’t done anything with cayenne for heart health yet, I’m going to focus on sharing what I am trying at the moment- which is a homemade Hawthorn Berry Tincture. I do plan on working with cayenne soon, especially since I grew (and dried) a TON of it this summer!
What are Hawthorn Berries?
Simply put, hawthorn berries are small fruits that grow on shrubs and trees that are part of the Crataegus genus. A massive genus, it includes hundreds of species in Asia, North America, and Europe. Hawthorn berries are loaded with nutrients and have tangy, tart flavors and a gentle sweetness. Usually, they are a deep red in color, but you’ll also find yellow and black hawthorn berries, too.
Hawthorn berries have been used as herbal remedies for centuries. A key fixture in traditional Chinese medicine, hawthorn berries are loaded with polyphenols, powerful antioxidants. These have been associated with lowering your risk for certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and more.
Hawthorn berries also have strong anti-inflammatory properties and can lower your blood pressure. They can decrease fat in your blood and help with digestion, too. Not only that, but there are some emergent studies that suggest that hawthorn berries might help reduce anxiety, prevent hair loss, and treat a wide variety of other conditions, too.
You can harvest berries from all Crataegus species, or hawthorn species. You might not even know what kind of hawthorn tree you have! If you aren’t sure when to harvest your hawthorn berries, start by keeping a close eye on the tree. Ripe berries will be deep red, almost purple.
The texture will be a bit pithy, too. Bear in mind that hawthorn berries will continue to accumulate nutrients and sugars long after they ripen, so you can actually wait a week or two to collect them if you are using them in a tincture. If you are feeling ambitious, you can harvest the flowers and leaves earlier in the year, too. These can also be added to your tincture.
How to Use Hawthorn Berries for Heart Health
Before you can make and use a hawthorn berry tincture, you of course need to harvest your berries! This is fairly straightforward and simply involves plucking the berries off the tree branch and throwing them in your basket. Just be careful that you don’t prick yourself on the thorns that grow among the tree branches.
You can also order dried hawthorn berries online. The choice is yours! However, make sure you have your hawthorn berries sourced well ahead of time, as these aren’t exactly common at most grocery stores.
Some people believe that hawthorn berries are poisonous – and yes, that is true to an extent. The pits of hawthorn berries contain cyanide, just like apple seeds. In fact, apples are closely related to hawthorn berries. However, as with apple seeds, you would have to eat an exorbitant number in order to cause you any harm.
Plus, with this recipe, you’ll discard the seeds anyway – os no need to worry!
Hawthorn berries are often used to treat medical conditions, most commonly those with the heart. However, you can also treat all kinds of digestive, mental, and skin problems with hawthorn berries, too. In fact, it’s one of the oldest-known healing herbs and can improve your body’s immune and inflammatory responses.
Making a tincture is a great way to have a home remedy on hand at all times to serve a representative measure for a variety of diseases. That’s not to say that it’s the only way you can use these berries, though. You can eat raw hawthorn berries as a snack – they’ll be tart and somewhat sweet, perfect for on-the-go snacks.
You can also make tea with the berries, leaves, and flowers of the plant or bake with hawthorn berries in pie filling, syrup, and jam. Hawthorn berries can even be fermented into cocktails or as vinegars that can be used to flavor salads and meats.
I decided to make a tincture using the instructions below. It was easy enough, and my guinea pig… I mean husband… will be taking it every day to help keep his heart healthy.
Hawthorn Berry Tincture Recipe
- Whole Hawthorn Berries
- 80 or 90 proof Brandy or Vodka (any kind of alcohol will work as long as it’s 80 proof or higher)
- Amber tincture bottle
First, measure out four ounces of dried hawthorn berries. That’s about half of the (1/2 pound) bag, or 1 cup.
I want to note that when I first opened my hawthorn bag, I immediately noticed a tiny bit of white stuff on most of the berries. It looked like mold to me, so I called Bulk Herb Store and expressed my concern. The receptionist put me on hold and consulted with Shoshanna, the herbalist who runs the store.
Shoshanna assured me that the white stuff I was seeing was actually a normal occurrence; it is seepage from within the berries, drying on the outside of the skin. Nothing to be concerned about.
Pour the berries into a glass container. A pint jar is convenient, because you’ll want to cover the hawthorn berries with a pint of brandy (or vodka).
Always use glass because it is an inert material. Other containers may interact poorly with the ingredients in your hawthorn berry tincture, which can cause unwanted interactions. Glass is easier to sanitize than plastic or metal, too, and you don’t have to worry about it leaching toxins into your tincture.
I recommend using an amber-colored glass bottle in particular. Cobalt is another option. I like the colored glass because it will help filter out UV light and prevent the tincture from going bad.
Screw a lid on the jar, and store in a cool dark place for at least 2-4 weeks. Make sure you label the jar so you remember when you started it. Give the jar a good shaking every day, to help extract the juice from the berries.
Using a funnel, strain the hawthorn tincture into the tincture bottle. Store in a cool, dark place. You can store it in the fridge, but that isn’t necessary.
Shoshanna says, “The recommended daily dosage from Nutritional Herbology is 10 ml, which is approx. 2 or 2 1/2 teaspoons.”
This is a pretty strong infusion, so just remember that a little bit goes a long way. I would honestly start with a smaller dosage than two teaspoons – maybe start off with just one teaspoon to see how your body interacts. If you don’t like the taste, you can mask it by hiding it in a glass of fruit juice or adding it to a tea, like you would a honey.
Tinctures from dried herbs usually last 2-5 years. You don’t want to make a tincture with fresh herbs, or it might begin to spoil due to the excess water content.
Still not satisfied? Don’t worry – I’ll give you a few more ideas to help take your hawthorn berry tincture to the next level.
Hawthorn Berry Tincture: Zero Alcohol Recipe
If you can’t tolerate alcohol for whatever reason (or would simply prefer not to have it in your tincture) you can easily make this tincture without the alcohol.
There are several benefits to using alcohol, however. It can last up to five years in a tincture, while vinegar will only last about three years and glycerin only two. That’s still quite the shelf life, though, so even though alcohol-free tinctures don’t last quite as long, there’s a good chance that you’re going to use them up before they have expired anyway.
You can use glycerin or apple cider vinegar with the Mother. The Mother is the active part of apple cider vinegar that contains proteins, friendly bacteria, and enzymes that will improve your digestion and provide many of the same benefits in terms of potency as alcohol, but without, of course, the alcohol!
However, you won’t have any of the side effects. Plus, you’ll get all the other health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Glycerin is a good choice if you can’t tolerate vinegar or alcohol. For example, if you’re trying to get children to take a hawthorn berry tincture with vinegar, they might not be able to tolerate the astringent taste. Glycerin tends to be much sweeter. Just make sure you use food-grade vegetable glycerin.
The recipe is simple – follow the steps above, but instead of using alcohol, use apple cider vinegar or glycerin. The ratios for mixing the tincture are exactly the same, as are the rest of the steps in the recipe.
Hawthorn/Oat Straw Herbal Infusion
Here’s another heart-healthy recipe that’s perfect on a hot afternoon!
- 8 oz oatstraw infusion
- 1 Tablespoon hawthorn tincture
- Orange peel garnish
Step 1: To make your oat straw infusion, place a cup of dried oat straw into a quart mason jar. Fill the jar with boiling water, put a lid on it, and let it steep for four to eight hours (you can do this overnight so you don’t have to wait around on it, if you want).
Step 2: Place some ice in your glass. Add the oatstraw infusion, hawthorn tincture (made according to the original recipe described above), and garnish with a sprig of orange. It’s as easy as that!
Holiday Hawthorn Tincture
For a delicious, festive spin on your favorite hawthorn tincture, try this recipe.
- 4 cups hawthorn berries
- 2 vanilla beans
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 Tbsp cardamom
- 1 cup raw honey
- 1.75 L brandy
- 1 lemon zest (optional)
- ⅓ cup pomegranate juice (optional)
- 2 tbsp dried hibiscus (optional)
Step 1: Put all dry ingredients into a jar, about half-gallon size. Add brandy.
Step 2: Infuse for four to six weeks and shake daily.
Step 3: Strain the mixture into a new half-gallon jar. Stir in the honey, then decant into dropper bottles. Add lemon zest, pomegranate juice,and hibiscus if you wish to serve the tincture as a festive cocktail, or serve by itself for its medicinal benefits alone.
For more information on making tinctures, and how to make them using glycerin instead of alcohol, check out How to Make Herbal Tinctures.
I’m excited to get my husband on a heart healthy regimen. The amazing thing about Hawthorn is that it’s a good preventative, but it has also shown the ability to heal a weak or damaged heart. If you or a loved one has heart issues, I would definitely encourage you to look into the benefits of Hawthorn Berries.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor am I licensed to offer medical advice. Everything I am sharing here is for informational purposes only.
Do you use Hawthorn for Heart Health?
updated 08/17/2020 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.