Tagged: Folklore

Hedgerow love

Rowan berries in a decorative floral circle

It’s a wonder that I haven’t driven off the road as I pass by some glorious herbs craning my neck to have a good look!

This summer I have been particularly drawn to the forming rowan berries. Perhaps naming my daughter is what’s done it, or an inkling of their importance in Folklore…

Either way, I am saddened that this year our tree has 3 paltry bunches of berries. Not deterred, I find that the tree just down the road is LADEN! Absolutely heaving with luscious looking berries in huge clusters. So, I took my mini Rowan for a little forage… she might as well get used to it (in fact, a friend once told Rowan-the-pre-verbal-baby that she would need to get used to mummy popping into the bushes, camera in hand, for a closer look at some herb or other!)

We picked about 8 bunches and I have filled a bowl. We will be making some house decorations and a necklace for Rowan to wear. Rowan is reputed to be the very best of antidotes to witchcraft, fairies and other ill-doings. Carrying a twig will keep you safe from witches’ curses. Eating from the tree will sate you for nine meals and the wood used on the chimney breast will prevent witches from their favourite entry point – down the chimney.

I hope that the adornment of Rowan with a rowan-necklace won’t prevent mummy-witch from giving her daughter a kiss whilst she’s still young enough to accept them from me!

Hawthorn – at the heart of it all

It’s September and the hawthorn berries are looking glorious. Plump and juicy. Time to get picking.

History and folklore

Hawthorn is ominous and magical, holy to Pagans and Christians. Scottish farmers traditionally harvest 13 weeks after the blossom scents the air. It’s gorgeous and heady. ‘Cast ne’er a clout til the May be out’ – refers to remaining dressed for winter until the mayflower (or hawthorn) blossoms. Rather wonderfully, if you have hawthorn in your perimeter hedging, it will ward off the bad faeries. And, who doesn’t need a bit of protection from them in their life!?

Identifying hawthorn

But what about the berries? There are a few types of hawthorn and one way to tell the difference is in the stones inside the fruit. Crataegus monogyna has a single seed, Crataegus leavigata has more and the cross between the two plants, Crataegus oxyacanthoides usually has more too. However, for once, this distinction is more important to botanists than herbalists as we can use them all. Hurrah!

The medicine

Some of the best medicine comes from mixing the flowers, leaves and berries together. In order to do that, you have to pick them at different times. So, in September, it is the time of the berries. You can allow them to dry by laying them on a sheet of paper in a very dry, warm place such as an airing cupboard or use a dehydrator.

The flowers have a distinct almondy taste to them. This indicates the presence of constituents which are known to be active on the heart. Harvest these with the new leaves in May. Herbalists generally like to make two hawthorn medicines (leaf and flower / berries) and sometimes blend them together.

Why use hawthorn?

Herbalists use hawthorn for heart conditions in order to encourage a greater flow of blood through the heart, to strengthen and slow the heart beat without raising blood pressure. It is said that sportsmen use it as it may enhance exercise duration. It has a very low incidence of side effects and has no known contraindications. Always preferable in a medicine.

Seeking help

There are many more ways to use hawthorn which are best done with a medical herbalist. Those conditions range through arteriosclerosis, atheroma, thrombosis, angina, tachycardia, atherosclerosis and intermittent claudication. If you suffer from any of these get in touch with a herbalist and see if you work well together.

Just for fun

I made a rather tasty Hawthorn vodka (as per Sloe Gin) which has the distinct notes of almonds which indicate the presence of constituents which work with your heart. However, this is purely an occasional drink, not a medicine – there’s way too much sugar which is renowned for damaging the cardiovascular system.

Notes: None of the information included here is intended as medical advice. Please seek help from a medical herbalist when using herbs for serious, life affecting conditions. Foraging is fun so don’t forget to leave plenty behind. Pick only what you will use and pick no more than 10%. Wildlife depend on wild foods to survive.