The other day I shared a tonic recipe with some of my Patreon supporters using hawthorn and rosehips infused into brandy. I wildcraft both the herbs I use in the tonic here in Spokane so I thought I might share a little about each of their properties. I encourage you to seek them out in your area, if for no other reason than to get to know their spirits and the land spirits of the area in which you dwell. If you do forage, please keep ethical wildcrafting practices in mind and leave some for other foragers and the animals who rely on them in the winter.
Please note that I am not a doctor. All thoughts on the herbs I work with are via my own research, and it is part of your job, if you chose to walk to path of herbalist, to take the time to look up drug and health interactions any remedies might have on you and discuss it with your doctor.
I have several different varieties of hawthorn within blocks of my home, but the particular tree the fruit in the picture above is from is my favourite of them. She borders the edge of a park my children love, and shares her space with another favourite tree of mine, rowan. I believe she is a Quebec or Scarlet hawthorn but since she is recent discovery and I will need to wait for her flowers in the Spring to narrow it down further.
Hawthorn berries tastes a little bland raw to me, and does not truly shine until I infuse or cook her. My children love them though. Just remember to spit out the seeds, I will get to that in a minute.
In folklore the hawthorn was particularly significant to the Druids who saw it as a healing tree as well as one in which some fae dwelled. In the Celtic ogham hawthorn (huathe) rules the 6th lunar month of the year and is said to carry powers of sacred marriage, purification, relaxation, and happiness. Later in history hawthorn became associated with witches, and, with the intrusion of forced Christianity into part of Europe, evil as well. Having hawthorn and elder (another marvelously medicinal tree) in your home was seen as bad luck, no doubt in an effort to demonize those who practiced ancient healing arts.
Hawthorn has multiple medicinal properties, most notably for cardiovascular health, and is often used to reduce blood pressure and stimulate the heart. It is also said to act as a mild sedative (particularly the flowers.) In herbal medicine it is used to treat circulatory disorders, migraine, menopausal conditions, anxiety, and insomnia.
I want to note here, as a chronic migraine sufferer, I have not found relief from my migraines in hawthorn’s medicine, which is not to say it will not work for you, but it does not for me. I use the tonic I will be sharing tomorrow to ease my anxiety, not treat migraines or heart conditions. It also tastes damn good!
On a final preparation note, hawthorn have large seeds that contain amygdalin (cyanide bonded with sugar.) Apple seeds contain it too. From what I understand, if you consume the seeds, the amygalin changes into hydrogen cyanide in your small intestine. In small amounts it will create pretty bad indigestion. In large amounts, well, needless to say, don’t eat the seeds.
There are two ways to remove the seeds, cook the hawthorn and press them though a food mill to separate the seeds (the Gather Victoria blog has a great hawthorn ketchup recipe that cooked berries would be suitable for!) or cut them in half and remove them manually. For tonics, I opt for this second method and usually just use a butter knife to pop out the large seeds.
Rose (R. rugosa)
The second plant you till need for tomorrow’s tonic is rose, specifically rosehips. These are another readily forage-able plant. If you are here in Spokane they grow all up and down the centennial trail. Look along ditches and roadways as well as by riverbanks for this very hardy plant. And bring a good set of gloves because wild roses are prickly! Myrddin (my 10-year-old) spotted the beautiful wild rose in the picture above while out walking the other day, only blocks from the hawthorn we love. Biggest hips I have EVER seen on a rose!
Rose hips are a very rich source of vitamin C, helping support the immune system and counter the body’s stress response (also good when it comes to helping my anxiety.) I know another local witch who makes the most amazing rose oil for treating skin conditions too. It is one of the few things that soothes by winter dry skin.
Coming back to heart health again, rosehip tonic is said to reduce capillary fragility so some herbalists say such tonics help over time with varicose veins – I cannot attest to this personally but I have herbalist friends who use it as such.
To end with a mention towards rosehip preparation, DON’T EAT WHOLE ROSEHIPS. The seeds have little hairs all around them that are incredibly irritating (think itching powder levels of irritating.) When I first started foraging years ago this information was missing from the book I was using at the time and I ate a couple whole ones. It was awful. (If you are with someone who does this, milk soothes… somewhat.)
When I use them fresh, I cut them in half and scrap the hairs and seeds out with a small spoon or blunt end of a butter knife.
If you have no fresh hips available you can use dry ones, I string mine up in my dining room to dry in the fall. Once they are fully dry I put them in my food processor and crack them open, then I transfer them to a mesh sieve and shake, shake, shake them OUTSIDE. The hairs will fall through the sieve. Then I change my clothes because THE ITCHING. Omg. (Save hairs to play a horrible prank on a sibling. Kidding!)
That is all for today. As this posts (hallelujah for scheduled posts!) I am off at a rune reading job for the evening.
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