HERBS; Medicinal, Magical & Metaphysical

The study of herbs could take many lifetimes and there are a lot of sub categories and "herbal adjacent" things to study besides how they heal physically. As with life itself, the physical, mental and spiritual can all be healed and enhanced using herbs and there are a wide variety of ways, from teas and tinctures to Rootwork in the Hoodoo or in the Gypsy tradition and even to the use of entheogens, to explore. This zone is meant to be open to ALL of those avenues of study and discussion. DISCLAIMER None of the information presented here is meant to replace medical treatment. Only use herbs as medicine if you know what you are doing, not if you just THINK you know what you’re doing, if you’re wrong there can be negative side effects. Improper use of herbs, just as improper use of prescription drugs, can harm or kill. Remember, natural doesn't always mean safe. Cross reference at least three reliable sources of information before taking an herb. Be sure about dosage and longevity...
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Hawthorne

    SoulFish
    by
    Hawthorne

    Hawthorne, of the genus Crataegus Laevigata (also oxycantha or monogyna, depending upon which of the three most common species you're looking at) are all from the Rosaceae family. The genus name crataegus is derived from the Greek word kratos, which means strength, just as the wood of the Hawthorne is known for its strength. Greeks and Romans alike associated Hawthorne with hope and happiness. As such, it was widely used in floral arrangements for weddings; there again is that association with the heart. The Romans also believed that this plant kept evil spirits at bay and thus would use it in the babies cradle for protection. This also came from their association between this herb and the Goddess Cardea, strikingly similar to Cardio, she was the Goddess of marriage and childbirth. Cardea was mistress to Janus, the God with two faces, one always looking into both worlds and guarding doorways and portals, due to this association she was thought of as the hinge on the door of the year.  On the other side of that coin, especially with the popularity of Christianity, love of this plant got twisted into an overwhelming sense of foreboding and a belief that if it was brought into a home someone in that home would die.

    Gypsy lore holds that Hawthorne is a favorite plant of the Fairy folk and as such is sacred to them. Having Hawthorne in one's home was said to draw fairies to that home. It was also believed that it was unlucky to gather this herb prior to the month of May. Similarly, the Irish connected the plant with their fairy lore. Since the 1300's Irish people have thought that the plant itself is protected by fairies and that cutting it down or harvesting part of it without proper reverence or at the right time of the year would incur their wrath. Other names they called this plant were Hedgethorne, May Blossom, Quick, Thorn, Haw, Hagthorn, Beltane Tree, White Thorn, Ladies' Meat and Bread and Cheese Tree. That last one in reference to when the young leaves and leaf buds were gathered and eaten right off the tree. There is an association here with long life, as fairies are known for being immortal and Hawthorn plants have been known to live for over 400 years.  It was even applied in the old days to livestock. If a calf was born premature its afterbirth was hung in a Hawthorn tree to ensure that it would grow and have a long and healthy life. It's likely that people who ate those young leaves and leaf buds were doing so hoping to extend their own lives.

    As with many beliefs, these past associations became nothing more than pretty stories, likely altered stories, as Christianity became more and more prevalent and the church set out to convert Pagans.  The Pagans who believed that Hawthorne was a tree of life, birth, weddings and fertility were now being told that Hawthorn was associated with misfortune and bad luck. In Rome, Greece and Britain it became a tree of enforced chastity. No marriages were allowed from May through mid-June as it was considered unlucky to marry during the month of the Hawthorn. There was one legend of the Hawthorne that was a bit more appealing to some Christians and that is the legend of the "Holy Thorn of Glastonbury" which flowers at Christmas time and in May. It was said to have appeared on the isle of Avalon around 37CE not too long after the crucifixion of Jesus. It is said that the tree grew from a staff belonging to Joseph of Arimathea that he had thrust into the ground at Wearyall Hill at Glastonbury.

    Hawthorne is a wonderful cardiac medicine. It dilates blood vessels allowing blood to flow more freely and lower blood pressure. It also works directly on the heart muscle to help a damaged heart work more efficiently.  It also helps with nervous conditions and insomnia. Culpeper, in the 17th century, recommended Hawthorn for "inward tormenting pains" and also, as a poultice, to remove thorns. A versatile plant, it can be made into wine, used as a tea or simply eaten, the leafy buds are not only a tonic but taste great on a salad as they lend it a salt and peppery taste and the flowers are edible as well.  The Haw, or fruit, is the part of the plant most associated with nervine properties and a wine made of these fruits helps to prevent miscarriage. In North America there are between 800 and 900 species of this wonderful plant.

    In closing I want to point out that the use of herbs as medicine is something that should only be done after serious consideration and research. It's best to consult someone who is a trained herbologist before ever using any herb as medicine.

     

    Resources:

    -The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl

    -Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy

    -Rodales Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

    -Culpepers Complete Herbal and English Physician by Nicholas Culpeper

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