A few weeks ago I presented a blog entry about hawthorn. As spring has emerged, leaves now cover the hawthorn tree in my backyard. Hawthorn has received a lot of attention for its action on the circulatory system, and research has studied its effects here. But, what are the other actions of Hawthorn? For these answers, I turn to the work of one my favorite herbalists Matthew Wood.
I love Matthew Wood's work because he writes extensively about several different bodies of knowledge in herbalism, particularly Eclectic medicine. The Eclectic botanical tradition was at its pinnacle of glory around the turn of the 19th-20th century. It is based on physicians' careful observations and recordings of patients. With the rise of pharmaceutical medicine, it fell out of vogue, and the new standard eventually became the randomized, placebo control trial. Authors and teachers such as Matthew Wood are now supporting the reemergence of this knowledge. I am truly grateful to live in a time with access to so many systems of knowledge, and I believe each has immense value. But, I digress…
In addition to the circulatory benefits to the body, Matthew Wood suggests that hawthorn ameliorates many conditions of excitation/irritation/inflammation. These would may include autoimmune conditions, upper respiratory congestion, indigestion (particularly of fat), and a nervous inability to focus. He even learned that an inflamed boil can be pricked by a thorn of the hawthorn tree, and it will empty and heal out. Specific indications that hawthorn is needed include the following (1) red fingers and/or palms that blanch with pressure, and (2) dry, red irritated skin on the back of the hands. So, when you think hawthorn, think hot, red, irritated, and even agitated.
Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkley: North Atlantic Books, 2008.