Hawthorn (Shan Zha)

Botanical Name: Western – Crataegus oxyacantha, C. monogyna. Eastern – Crataegus pinnatifida.

The leaves and berries of the Hawthorn are edible. The young leaves are used in salads and the berries are made into jams and jellies. This popular garden ornamental plant has long been known for its ability to treat many ailments of the heart and circulatory system.

Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.

Below is an overview of hawthorn, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of hawthorn.

How to use Hawthorn and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!


Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Get Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works.


Western Name: Hawthorn

Also Known As: Hawthorn Berries, Thornapple, Maytree, Whitethorn, Hawberry, Quickset, Aggles, Hedgethorn

Organs/Systems: Circulatory System, Heart

Key Actions: Cardiotonic, Hypotensive, Antiarrhythmic, Anti-ischemic, Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Nourishing, Restorative, Sedative, Antioxidant, Astringent, Antiparasitic

Medicinal Uses: Congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, high or low blood pressure, atherosclerosis, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, anxiety, promotes urination, menstrual problems. Can also treat tapeworms and other intestinal infections. Externally it is used to treat skin boils, sores, ulcers and frostbite.


Pin Yin: Bei Shan Zha

Also Known As: Shan Zha, Northern Chinese Hawthorn, Southern Chinese Hawthorn (C. cuneata/Nan Shan Zha)

Meridians: Liver, Stomach, Pericardium, Heart

Key Actions: Relieves Food Stagnation, Restores the Heart, Aids Circulation, Tonifies Yin, Clears Heat, Calms Shen, Promotes Urination, Transform Blood Stasis, Soften Nodules

Medicinal Uses: Digestive aid, loose stools, poor appetite, restlessness, fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, heavy feeling in chest, degenerative heart conditions of all sorts, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, feverishness, menopausal syndromes, stabbing cardiac pain, thrombosis, tachycardia, gallstones, urinary stones, angina, postpartum abdominal pain and clumps, hernia disorders.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Hawthorn is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the Rosaceae Family. It is currently estimated that there are 200 species. They can grow 16-49 ft. tall (5-15 meters), with small pome fruit and usually thorny branches. Some thorns can grow to be three inches long! The leaves grow spirally arranged on long shoots, and in clusters on spur shoots on the branches. The “fruit” (sometimes known as the “haw”) is berry-like but structurally contains 1-5 pyrenes that resemble “stones” of plums and peaches, etc.

Hawthorn is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia, and North America.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, Berries, Flowers, Buds

Flavors/Temps: Sour, Slightly Sweet, Slightly Warm, Slightly Cool, Bitter, Astringent

Caution: Considered safe in recommended doses, hawthorn is not recommended for use if a person is using Digoxin, a heart medication. Some people may experience stomach upsets, insomnia, or headaches from using hawthorn.

Key Constituents: Flavonoids (including: Hyperoside, Rutin, Quercetin, and Vitexin) Triterpene acids (including Ursolic acid, Oleanolic acid, and Crataegolic acid), Epicatechin, Catechin and Proanthocyanidins. Also contains Phenols such as Chlorogenic acid and Tannins. Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Manganese, Chromium, Zinc, Iron

History/Folklore: Many species of hawthorn make excellent bonsai trees. This herb also increases the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions. It also widens the blood vessels and increases the transmission of nerve signals. Research suggests it can also lower blood pressure and seems to lower the accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta.

Hawthorn is known for and used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF), chest pain, irregular heart rate, high or low blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol. Hawthorn helps to increase the production of bile, which can help reduce the amount of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

Hawthorn berries are packed with nutrition. They are a rich source of polyphenols that contain powerful antioxidant properties.

Many cultures have historically used hawthorn. For example, modern Chinese Medicine uses it to treat hepatoprotective activity and hepatitis. In Iran, the fruit is eaten raw as a snack or made into jelly. In Mexico, the berries (called “tejocotes”) are stuffed into pinatas during the pre-Christmas celebration Las Posadas. In the ancient Middle East, it is suggested that hawthorn was the source of Jesus’s crown of thorns. In Britain and Ireland, it is considered bad luck to uproot the plant. In Gaelic folklore, hawthorn is said to mark the entrance of the “otherworld” and is strongly associated with the fairies. Serbian and Croatian folklore notes that hawthorn is deadly to vampires and stakes used for their slaying must be made from the wood.

Hawthorn is an excellent example of an herb that is used very differently in the West than in China. In the West, the parts of the plant above ground are valued, however in the Orient, the roots are valued. In China, hawthorn is considered integral to formulas treating food stagnation. The berries are also often used to treat high blood pressure.

The Chinese hawthorn berry (Crataegus pinnatifida) is a small bright red fruit that resembles a crabapple. Hawthorn berry desserts are popular in the winter in China, as it is a wintertime berry.

This herb also surfaces in Arthurian legend with regards to Vivian, the young girl who sought to learn all Merlin could teach. She learned Merlin’s final and deepest knowledge, how to turn a man into a tree, and supposedly turned the magician into a hawthorn tree.

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Did you know?

Taste of Over-Ripe Apples

The “haw” in hawthorn derives from the Old English term for hedge, and is the name of the fruit. Hawthorn is edible, with a taste similar to over-ripe apples.

Food and Shelter

Hawthorns provide food and shelter to birds and mammals. The flowers are important for nectar-feeding insects. The “haw” is important to thrushes and waxwings in Winter, as they eat them and disperse the seeds in their droppings.
Fun fact!


A mix of the hawthorn berries, sugar, and chili powder is a popular candy called Rielitos in Mexico.

How to use Hawthorn to take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!

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ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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