Beltane: Queen of the May


A Fragrant Wedding


Tarot Card Number VI: The Lovers


Beltane: A Pagan Point of View


A Solitary Ritual for Beltane


Hawthorn or May Tree


Dance the Maypole


Lady Godiva and the ... Horned God?


May Day Songs


May Day Memories




 beltane 2                             angela


BLENDS for Beltane from WILLOW      Bone Mother Readings from

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Aromatherapy Page HERE                  Here. Visit Angela's Page Here


Hawthorn or May Tree

Crataegus monogyna or Crataegus oxyacantha (family Rosaceae)


Hawthorn, which is also known as the May, is a popular ornamental tree. Its creamy white blossoms (which flower in May of course), have an amazing fragrance and its brightly coloured berries, known as haws, are high in vitamins. Like many members of the rose family, the hawthorn bears a few thorns too.
The name is probably means “hedge thorn” (hag or haw is Old English for hedge) and miles of hawthorn hedges cross the English countryside as its thorny branches deter animals. The blossom of the Common Hawthorn C. monogyna, (formally called C. oxyacantha), is used in May Day decorations. Hawthorn provides food and cover for wildlife. Many varieties are used in environmental plantings, forestation projects, to stabilize riverbanks, and control soil erosion.

Other common names for the hawthorn are Haw, May, May bush, May tree, May blossom, mayflower, Quick-set, thorn-apple, Whitethorn, and Shan-cha.

The hawthorn is a spreading shrub or small tree, widely grown for hedges in Europe. Its hardwood trunk has smooth, grey bark, and thorny branches. The small, oval leaves are shiny dark green on top, light blue-green underneath. The white, sometimes pinkish flowers have round petals and smell of rotting meat to attract the flies which pollinate them as they bloom too early for bees. The fruit (a.k.a. haws or Pixie Pears) is less than ½ inch in diameter, scarlet on the outside, yellow on the inside.

Native to Northern temperate areas in Europe, N. Africa, Asia and N. America, Hawthorn grows in hedges, scrub, thickets and woods. It favours most soils, open heaths and rocky areas, but not very wet soils and dense shade.

Hawthorn (or May) is not only a beautiful ornamental tree, it is also rich in symbolism and has a long history - its berries, bark, flowers and leaves all have medicinal value and its wood has long been considered to be magical.    

In ancient Rome, it was used for wedding garlands while in Greece it symbolized virginity and chastity. Dioscorides, used it in the 1st century AD To the druids, the oak, the ash and the hawthorn were sacred trees with special powers. Food offerings were left under hawthorn trees for fairies, and it was thought that harm would come to anyone who chopped down or pruned one. Many would not even bring the flowers inside, for fear of upsetting the fairies and inviting sicknesses and death. Though used until the 17th century to treat heart and circulatory disorders hawthorn was largely forgotten as a medicine until the 19th century, when an Irish doctor included the berries in a secret remedy for heart disease.

Preparations of Mayflowers and berries are used for medicinal purposes to treat conditions of the heart, support the circulatory system and help with high and low blood pressure. Hawthorn is considered an excellent tonic for the heart. It improves the heart's blood supply, increases the pumping force. It may eliminate some kinds of arrhythmia, help control heart disease, enlargement of the heart, mild congestive heart failure and palpitations. Hawthorn improves the function of the heart muscle itself and is useful after a heart attack to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart. The herb is also useful for cases of angina pectoris, atherosclerosis, valvular problems and rapid heart rate. In Germany, it has become one of the most widely used heart remedies, prescribed by German physicians to normalize heart rhythm, reduce the likelihood and severity of angina attacks, and prevent cardiac complications in elderly patients with influenza and pneumonia.

Hawthorn berries prevent cell damage and slow down the ageing processes. It can help prevent formation of blood clots and limit the amount of cholesterol deposited on artery walls. Hawthorn is also popular in northern regions since it can relieve cold symptoms, chest pains and other problems common in low temperatures. This remedy can also aid the digestive system, boost the appetite and relieve abdominal pains. The berries can be crushed and used to ease diarrhoea, dysentery, and kidney disorders. A cup of Hawthorn tea is extremely useful and relaxing. Drink before going to bed to help avoid insomnia and sleep disorders. It is good for nervous tension too. Hawthorn extracts can be used directly under the tongue for fast and strong relief for the effects of high blood pressure, stresses, nervousness or anxiety.

The flavonoids in hawthorn reduce sensitivity to and damage from chemicals and pollutants, which can damage the lining of blood vessels.  
A decoction of the berries can be used as an astringent gargle for sore throats.
The bark is astringent and has been used in the treatment of malaria and other fevers.
Hawthorn also saw use as a diuretic in the herbal medicine system of medieval Europe It relieves fluid retention in the body and helps dissolve deposits of bladder and kidney stones and gravel.
The herb is helpful to women in menopause, as it aids in removing debility or night sweats a herbal douche for women affected by excessive vaginal discharges.  
It can treat migraine,   
The flowers are strongest as sedatives, and used externally can treat acne and skin blemishes.  
Hawthorn is also often used combined with the ginkgo to enhance memory and boost retentive power.    
The actions of the herb primarily lies in its ability to improve the circulation of blood inside the head, this results in an increase in the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and this also results in improved memory.
Hawthorn can also preserve collagen - the protein that forms connective tissue -which is damaged in such diseases as arthritis.  

INFUSION - Use 2 teaspoons of crushed leaves, flowering tops or berries per cup of boiling water. Steep 20 minutes. Drink up to 2 cups per day to improve circulation or as a tonic for various heart problems. Combine it with yarrow to treat hypertension.
TINCTURE of the flowering tops is used to treat angina, hypertension, and circulatory disorders. Dose: 4-5 ml three times daily. German physicians prescribe 1 tsp. upon waking and before bed
DECOCTION Decoct 30 g of berries in 0.5l water for 15 minutes and take to treat diarrhoea.  
JUICE - The juice of the fresh berries is a tonic for both the heart and the digestion.
Herbal extract in capsules or tablets, 80 - 300 mg, 2-3 times per day
Pills: recommended dose of hawthorn extract ranges from 300mg to 450mg
Hawthorn should be considered a long -term therapy. To mask its bitter taste, mix with sugar, honey, or lemon, or mix it into an herbal beverage blend.

The beneficial effects of hawthorn take some time to take effect but, taken over a period of months, it can reduce symptoms while, at the same time, acting as a tonic to the heart. Hawthorn products are generally considered safe for long term use. There are no known interactions with other drugs and no known contraindications to its use during pregnancy or lactation. Reports of nausea, sweating, fatigue and skin rash are rare. Caution: In people who don't have heart disease, large doses of hawthorn can cause blood pressure to drop, possibly resulting in dizziness and fainting. If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before trying hawthorn. You should never try to treat heart diseases yourself. Take the advice from a physician. Not recommended for people with low blood pressure, ulcers and certain heart conditions.

Hawthorn is also used in the manufacture of soap. The living plant can be woven in to a growing fence called a Hedgerow. The wood is used for fuel. The herb may be eaten in salads or used as a substitute for China tea.  The berries are used to make jelly and wine. They can also be dried, ground, mixed with flour and used to make bread. The flowers are used in syrups and sweets.

The planets, Mars and Venus rule the hawthorn tree. It guards wells and springs. Hawthorn is the Celtic 'Tree of Fertility' used during Mayday rites to symbolise love and betrothal and is under the protection of the faery realms. In Tree Magic, Hawthorn has magical powers to ward off evil. Hawthorn was often planted around homes for protection. It was common to attach sprigs of May to the cribs of newborn babies to protect against illness and evil spirits, or place some in the milking parlour to induce the cows to give extra pints of creamier milk. Mayflowers are used in protection, love marriage and fertility spells and are reputed to be erotic to men. Hawthorn wands were thought to be powerful and were often used in spells for love and marriage. The original May Poles were made of Hawthorn. On May eve, the May tree is bedecked with candles, which are lit at dusk to welcome summer. It was considered unlucky to take hawthorn indoors, as sickness and death would follow it. This may have been because the Christ’s crown of thorns is believed to have been made from hawthorn, or because the flowers smell of decaying corpses, or simply a fear of upsetting the fae. The Pilgrims named their ship the Mayflower after the blossom of the hawthorn tree


The fair maiden who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at the break of day
And washes in dew from the Hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be.
- Neltjc Blanchan Nature’s Garden 1900



By Sylvia Richards 23rd February 2010

NOTE: The writer is not a medical professional. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only, NOT medical advice. Consult a trained doctor or herbalist before attempting any treatment. We are not responsible for any misuse of information posted on this site.


© 2010 Sylvia Richards   All rights reserved