Foraging: hawthorn health benefits

Hawthorn berries (Crateagus Oxycanthus) are abundant in the UK in early autumn, with the small red berries common in hedgerows, slopes and the edge of wooded areas from early August onwards. At the Cantiaci allotment we have a HUGE hawthorn bush that we have raided for berries to make tea and tincture with, and even as we plunder the hedge more keep appearing, bigger and brighter than ever, more than we could ever use so hopefully the local bird populations are eating their fill.

Packed with health-giving properties, these colourful little berries (or ‘haws’) are unpleasant to eat but have been used to help treat a wide range of conditions for hundreds of years, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and angina. According to the University of Maryland, it is thought their high amount of antioxidant flavonoids are to thank for the heart-health properties of hawthorn.

The haws are unpleasant to eat thanks to their large stone and bitter taste but capsules and liquid extracts are available. You can also easily make your own hawthorn tea or tincture, and hawthorn is often used in conjunction with modern medicine, however if you have health concerns or are taking any other medication you should always speak to a doctor before following any health recommendations you read online.

How to make hawthorn tea

Hawthorn tea can be made from dried leaves, flowers or berries, and you can buy hawthorn teabags from health food shops if you struggle to find hawthorn or it is the wrong time of year.

To make tea from the haws simply take a teaspoon of berries per mug and pour on some boiling water.

Leave to steep for 10 minutes, or longer if you want a strong tea.

Spoon out or strain the haws (or just drink around them if you’re really lazy) and enjoy.

How to make hawthorn tincture

Tincture is a great way to preserve the health properties of hawthorn berries all year round and it’s probably the best way to take hawthorn medicinally. It can be made with alcohol or, for a non-alcoholic version, cider vinegar.

To make hawthorn tincture, simply take your haws and remove the stems. Crush them a little to break the surface.

Put into a clean jar, leaving some space at the top, and pour cider vinegar or alcohol into the jar until the haws are completely submerged by the liquid.

Put the lid on tightly and leave to steep for 4-6 weeks. When ready, strain your mixture and compost the berries.

Store the remaining liquid in a clean airtight bottle, ideally with a pipette lid. You will only need to use a few drops at a time.

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