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.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Hawthorn East v. West.

Below is an overview of hawthorn, combining 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 take FULL advantage of hawthorn's healing powers...

Hawthorn (Shan Zha)

JOIN ME in an exploration of the healing herb, Hawthorn (Shan Zha). Explore the benefits and applications of Hawthorn, from Eastern and Western perspectives, and so much more!


Western Name: Hawthorn

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

Organs/Systems: Cardiovascular, 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: N/A

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

Key Medicinal Uses: Digestive aid, loose stools, poor appetite, restlessness, fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, heavy feeling in the 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:

It 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.

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

Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, Berry, Flower, Bud​

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


Many species of hawthorn make excellent bonsai trees. Medicinally, it is known to increase the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions. It can widen the blood vessels and increase the transmission of nerve signals. Research suggests hawthorn can also lower blood pressure and seems to lower the accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta.

Hawthorn is best known for treating 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 hawthorn 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 concerning 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 hawthorn berries, sugar, and chili powder is a popular candy called Rielitos in Mexico.

Take FULL advantage of hawthorn (Shan Zha)!

Connecting Eastern and Western perspectives on HOW and WHY this herb works. Find out how to safely and effectively use this healing herb for treating conditions and for your Body, Mind, and Spirit. Find True Health. Explore uses, safety information, benefits, history, recipes, gardening tips, essential oil information, if it applies, and much, much more in this online course.

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ATTENTION: All material provided on this website is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional or physician. Redistribution permitted with attribution. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. Be Free.

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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