Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter Resilience with Hawthorn & Rosehips

By Candice Brunlinger, Herbalist

As we get ready for the winter months and holidays we embrace the colors of red and green. This has been a common tradition among many cultures throughout the world as evergreens and red berries are more resilient to the colder weather, frost and even snow. Their colors are a vibrant contrast to the white and tend to capture us as we admire our surroundings and nature around us. This winter season I would like to highlight 2 of my favorite red herbal berries for you, Hawthorn and Rosehips. As you enjoy the benefits of these herbs this season or throughout the year, remember how they can provide resilience to you as well.  

Hawthorn in the snow

Rosehips ripening in the snow

Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata, Crataegus spp.)

Gorgeous Hawthorn Tree in Flower
The red hawthorn berries come from a hardy tree or shrub which ranges in various shapes and sizes and can live to be hundreds of years old. This tree goes by many names including May Bush, May Tree, Tree of Chastity, White Thorn and Queen of May, just to name a few. Most of the Hawthorn trees known to us in the United States are from the European species and were brought to us by the settlers. Hawthorn is used all over the world including in Arabic, Chinese, European and in modern Western medicine. In spring and summer they are abundant in beautiful white flowers which attract many pollinators. The leaves and flowers have wonderful medicine especially for calming and nourishing the nervous system. In fall, the tree is covered in clusters of vibrant red berries which not only provide medicine for us but are a great food source for many species of birds. 

Hawthorn Berries & Leaves
These berries are rich in anti-oxidants, flavonoids, vitamin C and vitamin B which are very beneficial for the immune system, nerve health and for nourishing and improving the functions of the heart and vascular system. Many studies are showing how Hawthorn has many ways of supporting heart health including decongesting and strengthening the integrity and structure of the veins and arteries while also dilating them, all of which improve circulation. The nutrients help rebuild and tone heart tissue while strengthening and nourishing the heart muscle to improve its overall functions and normalize blood pressure. Hawthorn berries help maintain and prevent plaque build-up and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Since Hawthorn supports both the heart and nervous system it is one of my favorite herbs to help protect the heart and nerves against the damage stress can have especially for those prone to prolonged stress overtime. The cooling actions of hawthorn further aid with irritability, restlessness, anxiety and nervousness.[1]  

Hawthorn is praised for preventing and aiding with any heart condition including heart failure, heart disease, high cholesterol, high or low blood pressure, edema, angina and heart arrhythmia.
Another great and less reputable benefit of these red berries is on our connective tissues body wide. It helps with repairing damage, healing and strengthening our tendons, ligaments, muscles, digestive organs, liver, kidneys and our skin’s collagen. As mentioned before it strengthens our vascular system which can be very beneficial for those who bruise easily, have leaky capillaries, varicose veins, spider veins and those with slow or weak circulation. In order to receive all these wonderful benefits, it is best to use the berry consistently and regularly as it does not accumulate or store in the body. [2]

Hawthorn Berries Drying
These delicious berries are mildly sour, sweet and astringent. They are great to use fresh or dried and can be made into almost any internal herbal preparation including tea, tinctures, glycerites, acetum/vinegar extracts, syrups, jams, jellies, pie, etc. You can even use the powder in your smoothies or for making herbal nut butter balls/bars.  

The spirit medicine of hawthorn helps with releasing energetic blockages affecting the heart especially when there is a pattern of giving so much you neglect to nourish yourself. It helps provide a protective energy around the heart to aid with healing and to reduce vulnerability. Its protective nature is reflected in its doctrine of signature of having thorns on its branches.

Hawthorn has a long history in folklore medicine being known for its association with the fairies. There are many myths and stories about people being taken by the fairies into a hawthorn tree to the fairy realms where time passes differently and returning back to our realm years later.  It is believed that you should never cut down a hawthorn tree otherwise you will have very bad luck and feel the wrath of the fairies. [3] In Pagan and Wiccan traditions, witches have been known and are still known to dance under hawthorn trees. [4]

Since the flowers bloom in May it is commonly referred to as May Bush, May Tree or Queen of May and has traditional uses in May Day celebrations and rituals. Hawthorn is believed to help enhance life and fertility but on the other hand it has also been associated with death most likely because the smell of the flowers is commonly compared to the smell of dead or decaying flesh.

“The fair maid who, the first of May goes to the fields at break of day, And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree, will ever after handsome be.” ~Folklore saying

A Gorgeous Hawthorn Tree
Hawthorn Flowers
Hawthorn branch full of berries
Robin feasting on Hawthorn Berries

 Rosehips (Rosa spp.)

The rose plant has been praised for hundreds of years throughout the world for their beauty, aroma and numerous healing benefits. Many folks, especially gardeners, are familiar with and have a love for the rose flowers and petals; however, the nourishing benefits of rosehip fruits are often underrated or even unknown.

If you leave the flowers on the rose bush and wait until they die back, you will start to see hip berries forming which turn from green to yellow to orange in the fall months and then becomes a bright red color once the weather starts to cool into the transition of winter. After the first frost they are considered to be fully ripe and ready to harvest. Cut them in half and scoop out the irritating hairs and seeds from inside. It can be easier and less messy to freeze the hips after cutting them in half and then scoop out the hair/seeds. You can use the hips fresh or dry them to use throughout the year. If you do use rosehips which are cultivated, make sure they are organically grown as roses tend to be heavily sprayed with harmful chemicals. 

Rose Flower & Hips
Fresh Rosehips cut in half
Rosehips drying

Rosehips are most known for their very high vitamin C content, their benefits for the immune system and to treat respiratory ailments, sore throats, colds and flu. They have a mild laxative effect especially with larger doses. It is believed that a cup of rosehip tea contains as much vitamin C as up to 6 oranges. [5] Studies show that when compared to oranges, rosehips contain up to 25 percent more iron, 20 times more Vitamin C, 25 times the Vitamin A, and 28 percent more calcium. In addition, rosehips are a rich source of bioflavanoids, pectin, Vitamin E and K, selenium, manganese, the B-complex vitamins and contain many trace minerals. [6] [7]

The high quantities of vitamin A and C are very nourishing to the skin when consumed regularly. Those nourishing benefits in addition to the immune stimulating properties help aid with skin infections and various skin conditions such as rosacea and eczema. The cold pressed rosehip seed oil is prized and commonly used in facial and eye creams and general bath and body products.

Rosehips have a sour and astringent flavor to them and are often associated as having a tart flavor similar to cranberries but are milder. They are usually combined with sweet tasting herbs or fruits to synergize and mellow out their sour nature. They are great in tea infusions, especially as a cold infusion or sun tea. The tea makes a great remedy for sore throats especially when mixed with a little honey. Rosehips are frequently used in European and Scandinavian cuisine to make syrups, jams, jelly, candies, wines, soup, fruit drinks and fruit based baking. [8] My personal favorite way to use rosehips is as a syrup along with elderberry and chai-like spices and as a jam (see recipes below). 

An abundant Rose Briar full of hips
These juicy and seedy hips look ripe and ready for picking

Native Americans have been using rosehips as tea for thousands of years, and when the tea is finished, the hips were added to stews or soups. There was just too much nutrition in a rosehip to let it go to waste. Native Americans also believed rosehips brought good luck, and called in good spirits. [9]

The magical and folklore uses of rosehips vary including being used to attract love, romance, peace, healing, abundance, wealth and protection. “The belly-shaped fruit, packed with seeds, is a symbol of prosperity and fertility. The fruits placed beneath the pillow protect the sleeper against nightmares and nasty spirits that seek to disturb the nightly peace.” [10] In order to receive these benefits, you can drink or eat them, carry them in a sachet bag or my favorite is to wear the hips strung on a necklace or bracelet. 

“Nature is a good teacher; he who can read the nature well, he can learn sagacious things belong to life from it. Once you stepped in the nature, your philosophical education starts. A black vulture teaches you many things; a bear teaches you many things; a bird making its nest and a rosehip which resists being frozen, they teach you many things!”
~ Mehmet Murat Ildan

Rosehips staying resilient in the frost/snow
Stay well and healthy through the winter months and remember to nourish your body and heart, stay grounded and support yourself by taking time out for you, eating good food and using your healing and nourishing herbs.

Recipes using Hawthorn & Rosehips

If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh hawthorn and/or rosehips, try adding them into your food as you would any other berry. Add the fresh berries to smoothies and juice blends. Add them to homemade syrups and add to ice cream, desserts and pancakes/waffles. I have seen recipes for hawthorn ketchup and jam and one of my most favorite and widely used jam is made from rosehips (recipe below). I even love to add a small part of either berry to my homemade cranberry sauce around the holidays. If you do not have access to the fresh berries, or they are not in season, use the dried berries instead.

Hawthorn Berry Tea
Using higher temperature water will yield a stronger tart and more bitter flavor while the colder steeping methods yield a milder tasting and sweeter infusion. The longer the tea steeps, the more “soapy” the infusion as the berries contain saponins.

Lunar/Solar Tea: My favorite way to make hawthorn berry tea is a moon or sun infusion. I use about 2-3 tsp of the berries per 8 ounces of water and allow them to infuse in cold or luke warm water for up to 8 hours under the moon or sun light. This yields a mild and delicious tea with tart and sweet undertones. 
Standard Steep: If you like to use a standard steep method, use 2-3 tsp of berries per 8 ounces of water. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and pour it over the herbs. Cover and allow the berries to steep for 15-30 minutes. Strain and enjoy! 
Decoction/Simmer: Some people like to gently simmer the berries but I recommend keeping a close eye on it to make sure you do not actually boil or overcook the berries, damaging many of their benefits. Use 1 tsp per 8 ounces of water and gently simmer, covered, for up to 20 minutes. Allow it to cool to room temperature, strain and enjoy.

Sacred Heart Tea
This is my current favorite tea blend and I drink it on a regular bases to support and balance my nerves and energy levels while enhancing mental clarity and focus. I occasionally add another herb here and there when desired but this is my basic uplifting, nourishing and balancing blend that really supports me. I tend to not measure out the blends I make for myself so this recipe is off the top of my head. I may have to adjust and edit it later after I blend another batch.

1 cup Tulsi Basil
1/2 cup Oatstraw or Milky Oats
1/2 cup Hawthorn berry
1/2 cup Rose petals
1 tbsp Cardamom pods, crushed

Blend all herbs and store in a glass jar. Add 1 tbsp or so per 8 ounces of just boiled water and allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes but I enjoy this one as an overnight infusion as well. I drink this tea warm or cold and use it as the liquid base in my smoothies and hot breakfast cereals. I sometimes include a little nettle or fresh picked lemon balm, mint, borage or calendula flowers from my garden when I make a batch.

Hawthorn Extract/Tincture
If using fresh berries, shake them to remove any insects or other debris. Discard any moldy or bruised berries. Rinse and spread out to air dry or gently pat dry. If you do not have access to fresh Hawthorn berries, use dried instead. Fill a glass mason jar 2/3 or a little more full of your hawthorn berries. Pour your alcohol of choice into the jar, making sure that all the plant material is completely covered. A vodka and brandy blend is my favorite but gin, rum, everclear and other varieties can also be used. If you prefer to not use alcohol, try apple cider vinegar instead to make an acetum extract.

Stir your berries until all air bubbles are released and make sure there is enough alcohol/vinegar covering them so the berries are moving freely with an inch or so of extra liquid saturating them. Cover using a piece of unbleached parchment paper to protect the lining of the lid from leaching into your extract. Store the jar in a cool and dark place, shaking it every 1-3 days for anywhere between 2-6 weeks, depending on your preference. Strain using cheese or muslin cloth, squeezing out the liquid. Compost the remaining herbs. If you want a sweeter extract you can add a little honey to taste and mix well. Pour the tincture into a bottle, label and date. Store your hawthorn extract away from heat, light and moisture and away from children.

Adults can take ½-1 tsp, 1-3 times daily, for a strong medicinal dose or up to 6 times daily for acute conditions. Or take up to 5 drops as needed for spirit doses and energetic healing. Children and pets can receive spirit doses as needed or up 3 times daily as a tonic.  

“Soothing Heart” or Hawthorn Rose Elixir
Following the directions above for making a Hawthorn Extract, you can also make a delicious Hawthorn Rose Elixir.  I like to use a little less than 1½ cups hawthorn berries, 1 cup rose petals, ½ cup calendula flowers and 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger root. Add herbs into a quart size mason jar with ½-1 cup of honey. Pour in your alcohol of choice until all herbs are covered and free flowing like mentioned above. Strain after 2-6 weeks. Add more honey to taste if you desire a sweeter elixir. I also like to add a splash or so of food grade rose hydrosol and a few drops of hawthorn flower essence. Also, try adding either a splash of vanilla extract or fresh squeezed lime juice to taste for subtle flavor varieties. Take your elixir by the spoonful or dilute 1 tbsp or so in sparkling water, juice and/or tea to make a delicious and healing beverage or cocktail.

Rosehip Tea
Using higher temperature water will yield a stronger and more tart flavor while the colder steeping methods yield a milder tasting and slightly sweeter infusion. The longer the rosehips steep, the more mucilaginous the infusion, creating a thick tea which coats and protects the lining of the tissues throughout the body. 

Lunar/Solar Tea: My favorite way to make rosehip tea is a moon or sun infusion. I use about 1-2 tsp of the berries per 8 ounces of water and allow them to infuse in cold or luke warm water for up to 8 hours under the moon or sun light. This yields a mild and delicious tea with tart and slightly sweet undertones. 
Standard Steep: If you like to use a standard steep method, use 1-2 tsp of berries per 8 ounces of water. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and pour it over the herbs. Cover and allow the berries to steep for 15-30 minutes or take it up to 8 hours for a stronger infusion. Strain, re-heat if desired and enjoy! 
Decoction/Simmer: Some people like to gently simmer the hips but I recommend keeping a close eye on it to make sure you do not actually boil or overcook them, damaging many of their benefits. I personally avoid this method to preserve the heat sensitive vitamin C and flavonoids but I know some who like it. Use 1 tsp per 8 ounces of water and gently simmer, covered, for up to 20 minutes. Allow it to cool to room temperature, strain and enjoy.

Rosehip Jam (Using Dried Hips - Not Preserved):
Take a small ½ pint sized mason jar and fill it half full of dried rosehips. Add 1 tbsp of vanilla extract, 1-2 tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp of cinnamon, pinch of ginger and a small amount of freshly grated nutmeg (all optional for added flavor). Fill the jar with apple juice, leaving room for the hips to expand. Stir, cover and let it sit in the fridge for 6-8 hours. 

Stir again and you have some very easily made and delicious Rosehip Jam. You can leave it chunky or blend the mixture for a more pureed and smooth consistency. The natural pectin from the apple juice and the rosehips will provide a shelf life in the fridge for about 3 weeks. Use the jam as a spread on toast, crackers, pancakes and waffles. I also like to pour some over goat or cream cheese and use it as a dip with crackers or add a spoonful to plain kefir or yogurt to naturally sweeten it. This jam also makes a healthy addition to thumbprint cookies or DIY newton bars.

***Leave a comment below and let us know what your favorite uses and recipes are for Rosehips and Hawthorn. How do you stay resilient throughout the winter months?

By: Candice Brunlinger, Herbalist

Copyright 2015

This article was featured in Wild and Wise CSA Newsletter for Winter 2015-16 and in Humboldt Herbals' monthly newsletter for January 2017. Click here to subscribe.

About the Author:
Candice Brunlinger has been studying and practicing herbal healing since 2004. Her interests include incorporating plant medicine as a way of living, making herbal remedies, cooking, growing herbs, gardening, teaching, writing and being a mom. She teaches for the Northwest School of Botanical Studies & Humboldt Herbals, Volunteers as a farm Herbalist, has a small clinical practice and an herbal product line, Herbal Infusions. You can visit her Nourishing Herbs blog or become a member of her facebook group Herbal Living.

Teaching in the Humboldt Herbals Community Classroom

[1] The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood; page 213
   Copyright 2008
[2] Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar; page 146; Copyright 2012
[3] Trees for Life – Mythology & Folklore of Hawthorn;
[4] Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham; Page 163; Copyright 2008
[5] Mother Earth News – “Rosehips: An Unexpected Source of Vitamin C”; Jan/Feb 1981
[6] Backwoods Home Magazine – Gather Rosehips for Health by Gail Butler; September/October 2005; Issue #95
[7] The New Age Herbalist by Richard Mabey; page 164; Copyright 1988
[8] Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs; Page 423; Copyright 1998
[9] The Magick Moon – Rosehips;
[10] Star Child: Original Magical Botanical - Rosehips roducts/6564_3596_rose-hips-organic.aspx 

***Leave a comment below and let us know what your favorite uses and recipes are for Rosehips and Hawthorn. How do you stay resilient throughout the winter months?

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