Rowan/Mountain Ash

Rowan/Mountain Ash (Hua Qiu)Rowan/Mountain Ash (Hua Qiu)

Botanical Name: Western – Sorbus aucuparia, Pyrus aucuparia. Eastern – S. phaushanensis, S. hupehensis.

The rowan is a sacred Tree of Life in Celtic mythology. The entire shrub/tree is useful, including the bark, leaves, and fruit (berries). Often called mountain ash, it is not a true ash, even though it has similar leaves. The bark can be used to treat diarrhea and as a douche to treat leucorrhea. A gargle made from the berries is used to treat sore throats and the berries themselves are used to treat scurvy and malaria.

Below is an overview of Rowan/Mountain Ash (Hua Qiu), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Rowan/Mountain Ash (Hua Qiu).

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Western Name: Rowan/Mountain Ash

Botanical Name: Sorbus aucuparia, Pyrus aucuparia

Also Known As: Rowan Berries, Rowanberries, Whitty Pear, Mountain-ash (not to be confused with true ash, Fraxinus ornus), Quickbeam, European Ash, Bilberry, Witchwood, Thor’s Helper, Wiggy, Delight of the Eye

Organs/Systems: Respiratory, Skin, Digestion

Key Actions: Antiscorbutic, Anticancer, Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, Antibacterial, Diuretic, Laxative, Emmenagogue, Aperitive, Hypoglycemic, Emetic

Medicinal Uses: Kidney stones, urinary dysfunction, urinary tract infection (UTI), diarrhea, sore throat, digestion, skin health, healing wounds, cancer prevention, leucorrhea, cirrhosis, cystitis, gallstones, scurvy, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, diabetes, arthritis, menstrual complaints, inflammation of the mucous membranes.


Pin Yin: Hua Qiu

Botanical Name: Sorbus phaushanensis, S. hupehensis

Also Known As: Shan Hui

Meridians: Lung, Kidney, Stomach

Key Actions: Cools, Clears Damp Heat, Supports the Stomach, Promotes Urination, Reduces Inflammation, Heals Wounds

Medicinal Uses: Sore throat, fever, malaria, asthma, urinary dysfunction, kidney stones, gallstones, leucorrhea, hemorrhoids, nausea, diarrhea, urinary tract infection (UTI); heals wounds.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Rowan belongs to the rose family, Rosaceae. There are dozens of different cultivars and species. The members of this genus are deciduous trees or shrubs, with most species tending to be more shrubby in nature, especially in higher elevations. The leaves are pinnately-compound on bright red leaf stalks that turn golden orange in the fall. The small white flowers, which bloom in May and June, are held in flat-topped clusters that give way to bright red berries. The berries are actually “pomes” and not berries, as berries are in fact a single fruit.

Rowan trees like to grow on forest edges, including inhospitable hillsides, or craggy granite outcroppings. For thousands of years, they have grown in Scandinavia and Newfoundland. They like cold climates and are now found in Northern Europe, high in the Balkans, and in Northern Asia.

Rowan/Mountain Ash (Hua Qiu)Parts Most Frequently Used: Berries, Leaves, Bark

Flavors/Temps: Acidic, Astringant, Bitter, Cooling

Caution: The raw berries contain a high level of toxic parasorbic acid that is changed into beneficial sorbic acid after they have been heated or frozen. Eating high doses of raw berries is not advised. The seeds are highly toxic.

History/Folklore: Rowan berries are high in vitamin C, sorbic acid, dietary fiber, and a unique blend of antioxidants that contribute to their medicinal attributes. The high levels of antioxidants make them a kind of super food for preventing cancer and premature aging, boosting eye health, and increasing cellular regeneration that can help improve healing rates.

The high levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) stimulate the production of white blood cells. Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant, collagen, and muscle-building capacities, as well as its ability to build and repair blood vessels.

In America, the bark has been used to treat fevers associated with malaria or similar illnesses. Native American tribes used the trees for food. The berries were dried and then ground and added to flour to make bread and to soups as a thickener.

Depending on the cultivar, the berries can be toxic, though most of the toxicity diminishes in the heating or freezing of the berries.

The rowan tree is sacred to Thor, the God of Lightning, who therefore rarely strikes the tree with lightning. This adds to the tree’s reputation as being both lucky and sacred. It is considered to ward off evil and sorcery and is often planted near homes; sometimes its branches are pinned above doorways. The tree’s white flowers and red berries are symbols of the sacred blood and seed which are identified with the colors white and red.

In Greek mythology, Hebe, the goddess of youth, shared with the gods an elixir of youth from a magical chalice, which by accident she lost to the demons. The gods sent an eagle to recover the cup. The leaves of the rowan are said to be the wings of the eagle and the red berries drops of its blood that were spilled while fighting the demons.

In the Celtic Tree Calendar, the rowan stands for the second month of the year, known as the time of quickening. It is associated with the powers of intuition and communication with the spirit world. Druids would dye their lunar ritual robes and garments black with the bark and the berries. They also wove beds from the bark and small stems which they would lie upon to induce trances. Rowan trees are often found planted around the ancient stone circles used for sacred ceremonies and near church yards to protect and guard the dead.

Rowan also is said to belong to the Great Goddess. It is the tree of the Queen of Fairies and is associated with the spirit world. It offers protection on spirit journeys and on journeys of the soul to the Otherworld. Rowan wood is the traditional wood used for carving runes or magic wands. In Scotland, using any part of the tree was taboo unless it was being used to make ritual objects.

In Norse mythology, the first woman was made from a rowan tree. (The first man was made from an ash tree.)

Rowan symbolizes resilience, strength in facing adversity, determination, and defiance. It is the tree of life that transmits the quickening power of fertility and abundance.

Its common name, Quickbeam, refers to the tree’s magical powers of transmitting fertility. The tree is renowned for growing quickly and for its resilience.

At one time British farmers would drive their cattle through whoops of rowan to protect the cows. Bears, moose, white tail deer, squirrels, and many varieties of birds eat the berries.

The name Sorbus derives from the Latin, meaning ‘service tree.’ The European botanical name, aucuparia means to ‘catch a bird.’ Rowan means ‘becoming red’ and derives from the German word raudnian. The name rowan is also said to derive from the word rune. Runes are the letters used in the Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. Rune stones or carvings were used as tools for divination.

The berries are commonly used in alcoholic beverages, liqueurs, jams, jellies, and as a bitter side dish for certain game dishes. Rowan wine is considered an aid to inducing second sight.

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Key Constituents:

Vitamins C and A, Sorbic acid, Fiber, Antioxidants (including Anthocyanins, Tannins, Polyphenolic compounds, Flavonols, Quercetin, Rutin), Malic acid, Sorbitol. Fruit – Tartaric acid before ripening, and Citric and Malic acids after ripening. Pectin.

Did you know?

Heat or Freeze

Picked in the wild or fresh off the tree/shrub, rowan berries contain a high level of toxic parasorbic acid that is changed into beneficial sorbic acid. Heating or freezing the berries facilitates this important transformation.


Girl and Boy

The name Rowan can be used to name both girls and boys, though it is slightly more popular as a boy’s name.

Fun fact!


Rowan berry juice is helpful for treating wheezing and asthma.


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