Hawthorne Berry may very well be the 'herb of every month'.
As it seems nearly everyone should take this nearly every
day. But we’ll get to that.
For purposes of this article, we shall refer to all botanicals
as 'herbs'. It’s a bit incorrect, but it’s a common
misconception. Perhaps clearing that subject up will be the
focus of another article soon.
Herbs, in general, can be a little scary for people. . .
understandably so. Herbs can be very potent medicine, or a
potent poison. This isn’t always the most prevalent
belief in western cultures, however. Some think of herbs as
being weak, or a pale substitute for 'real' medicine, the
kind that comes in an orange plastic bottle and is manufactured
in a chemical laboratory. No, herbs are food, or decoration,
but not the serious stuff of real medicine. Use them for a
snack, or make a nice flower arrangement. But when the going
gets tough. . . get me a real pill. . . right? Well, let’s
take a closer look.
Socrates was certainly a western man. It’s too late
to ask him now, but if we could. . . ask him if the herb hemlock
was weak. Drinking a cup of it was his death sentence in Athens
in 399 BC.
Ever had a run in with an herb called Toxicodendron diversilobum?
The name is kind of a giveaway, at least the 'toxico' part.
This is poison oak. And it’s no fun when it so much
as gets its oil on your skin.
And have you ever seen all the castor bean plants growing
along the railroad tracks through Santa Barbara, and even
on the beach at La Conchita? It may surprise you to know that
that may very well be the world’s most deadly plant.
Two beans can kill you. This is the source of ricin, a poison
so deadly it is used as a weapon. Sadly, there is no antidote.
Then there’s deadly nightshade, or belladonna. This
one takes three berries to kill you, or one leaf. Its action
is to inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system, by blocking
acetylcholine (ACh). The good news here is that this is the
antidote for toxins that have the opposite effect, such as
cholinesterase inhibitors, the neurotoxins used in chemical
warfare. You may remember the scene from the movie The Rock
where Nicolas Cage’s character had to inject atropine
directly into his heart to save his life from the deadly nerve
gas. The atropine was derived from deadly nightshade.
Still think herbs are weak and ineffective? Sometimes modern
science takes an herb and makes it better, it’s true.
Willow Bark is the source of aspirin. The extract of willow
bark, salicylic acid, has been in use since the time of Hippocrates
(400 BC) for fever, and pain reduction, much as it is today.
It was made better, though accidentally, by stabilizing it
to acetylsalicylic acid. This form caused less irritation
of the mouth and stomach, and is referred to as Aspirin. Aspirin
is one of the most widely used medicines world wide.
There are also medicines that work better in its original
form. Hawthorne berry is an herb that works better as a whole
than it does when broken into its chemical components.
Hawthorne has been used for heart and circulatory conditions
for centuries. Its popularity is perhaps at a low, and it
is time to bring it back. It has been suggested that the crown
of thorns that Jesus wore on his head was from the Hawthorne
tree. That same tree has one of the hardest woods known, and
the hottest burning. There is also some evidence to suggest
tat the mythic Tree of Life in the Celtic traditions is a
Hawthorn tree. It has been held sacred by humanity in the
past, and it may be again. It just may be the only thing known
to mankind to cure heart disease.
I get it that this is a very controversial statement. Conventional
medical thought is that there is no cure for heart disease.
I was at a seminar primarily for MD’s and nurses one
time, and the speaker was presenting the statistics on current
medical treatment of heart disease. He concluded that a placebo
was a statistically significantly better treatment than the
current medicines used. He then went on to suggest that it
might be malpractice to withhold proper treatment: a placebo.
His comment was made in jest, and his real point was that
the mind is a powerful healing tool. The healing power of
the mind was the focus of the seminar, not heart disease,
but the facts remained fresh in my mind.
Hawthorne was investigated by the pharmaceutical industry.
They were looking for a compound to extract from it to use
as a heart drug. The attempts were not successful, and the
investigations were abandoned. It is useless to them without
a patent, and you can’t patent a plant.
The good news for humanity is that a simple extract from
the plant works very well as a safe effective anti inflammatory
agent that has proven extremely valuable in regulating blood
pressure, increasing blood flow to the heart, reducing the
symptoms of ulcerative colitis, reducing calcification of
the vascular system. It also reportedly gives people a 'warm
pleasant' sensation around the heart after taking it. It was
this same extract that a Doctor in Ireland in the late 19th
century used to gain notoriety for 'curing' heart disease.
There are very few contraindications to taking Hawthorne.
Allergy to Hawthorne is the biggest one. There is the potential
for Hawthorne to enhance the efficacy of other heart medications,
so care must be taken here. If you are pregnant, or nursing,
then I’d suggest not taking it.
I encourage you to read more about this wonderful
herb. Here are some resources:
Berries Extract and Heart Health
Did You Know?
By the way Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine also
"Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite
for many diseases."
- Hippocrates, 460-377 BC.
Eric Watts is a native of Goleta, and a graduate of
Doctoral studies were done in Los Angeles, at Cleveland
Chiropractic College. An avid sportsman, he believes
maintaining peak performance is critical for us to enjoy
our lives, our bodies, and our beautiful environment
in Santa Barbara.