Synonyms: May, Mayblossom, Whitethorn, Haw
Scientific Name: Crataegus monogyna Jacq., Crataegus laeviagata Poir.
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Flavonoids, oligomeric procyanidines, biogenic amines. The constitutens act synergistically. The action of all components together is greater than the sum of the individual actions.
White in spring, red in autumn: hawthorn gives us pleasure throughout the year. From May to June these large shrubs or small trees are covered in a froth of white flowers arranged in small clusters or corymbs. The sharp thorns and small three- to five-lobed, almost diamond-shaped leaves are scarcely visible amongst the blossom. In autumn, from September onwards, the red, mealy fruits, yellow on the inside, decorate the tree which grows in scrub, hedges, on sunny slopes, in deciduous woods and pine woods.
A small, scarcely perceptible difference in the flower structure, distinguishes two different species of hawthorn: monostylous (Crataegus monogyna) and distylous. The two species occur alongside each other and are intermingled.
The scientific name Crataegus“ is probably derived from the Greek krataios = hard, strong, referring to the hardness of the wood. The name Whitethorn is easily understood by anyone who has seen the tree in the spring when the white blossom exuberantly covers its branches. The names May and Mayblossom obviously come from the fact that the tree flowers in May. Use of the healing powers of hawthorn only began in the 14th century when it was used for the treatment of gout and bladder stones. In folk medicine the hawthorn’s powers were used in the treatment of teeth and warts. It was not until the 19th century that the cardiac strengthening action of hawthorn was discovered. And this was only coincidental. The butterflies being bred by a zoologist had become weak and puny and only regained their strength they were fed with hawthorn leaves.
The legends and tales spun around this tree with its unusual shapes go back much further. In many places it is said to have powers that protect against harm. Hawthorn branches were placed behind the hearth or hung from the kitchen beams to protect the house from being struck by lightening. It was believed that witches could be kept away if as many hawthorn branches as there were cows in the stables were nailed to the stable windows on Shrove Tuesday and the first of May. If milk wouldn’t turn to butter the witches held responsible for this were driven out by beating with hawthorn branches.
In many stories hawthorn is seen as a sign from God. For example, a hawthorn blossoming in winter was thought to indicate a holy place. Hawthorn is often found depicted in Gothic buildings – a sign of its role in religious belief in those days.
Probably one of the oldest hawthorn trees, which was destroyed by lightening in 1823, is the centre of a legend which goes back to the year 630. This tree, which stood near Klingenmuenster in the Rhine Palatinate, was given by farmers of the area to the legendary Merovingian King Dagobert I, as a hiding place when he had to flee from rebels. As a sign of gratitude, the king bequeathed the farmers a huge piece of forest. Since then the hawthorn was regarded as a symbol of the indivisibility and unity of this piece of land and was protected from harm or damage under threat of punishment. Its very presence was said to have healing effects, it was a place of assembly, and it was under a hawthorn tree that the peasants rallied to the “Bundschuh” in 1525, thus starting the Peasants’ War. With the death of the tree the community which had formed around it quarrelled and fell apart - as had been prophesied long before.
The hard hawthorn wood was used to make walking sticks and handles for tools. The fruits are a delicacy for birds and are also used for pig fattening. Roasted hawthorn seeds used to be used as coffee ersatz, the dried fruit flesh as flour additive.
The plant from another perspective
The harmonizing power of the hawthorn is evident in its form. Between a shrub and a tree, between pomiferous fruit and stone fruit, with advancing age it reins in the seemingly boundless growth of its youth. In this balance-creating character it is entirely a rose plant.
The plant in our products
An hawthorn extract complete the composition of: