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Hawthorn Tincture and Syrup recipes

Hawthorn is Rhiannon’s heart-medicine plant, and now is the perfect time to gather some berries to make tincture, elixir or syrup in celebration and gratitude for this amazing tree.

As one of the oldest known healing herbs, hawthorn has immunity-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and general wellbeing properties. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is medicine for the heart on all levels. This sacred tree of Rhiannon, Goddess of love, Queen of Beltane, is indigenous to countries across the northern hemisphere.

This small thorny tree has a long-recorded history of medicinal use in both Europe and China, as well as in North America. Poetically – and significantly – Hawthorn is a member of the Rose family.

Hawthorn’s place as heart medicine was noted by Greek physician, Dioscorides, in the first Century CE and was used as a tonic in 1st century Rome, where it was viewed as a symbol of both love and marriage, for Hawthorn can provide nourishment to the spiritual heart (emotional body) as well as the physical heart. A superior heart tonic and restorer, as well as emotional support for broken hearts, Hawthorn is a true gift of the Goddess of Love.

Hawthorn tincture increases the heart muscle’s ability to contract while it gently relaxes blood vessels. It relaxes the smooth muscles of the coronary artery walls and allows more blood to flow into the cells of the heart. This means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to heart cells and waste products are removed.

As a flower essence, Hawthorn helps open the heart to giving and receiving love, and can help in healing heartache. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance.

Hawthorn trees, with branches that are armoured with thorns, has fragrant small, pinkish-white flowers that bloom in thick clusters typically around May 1st, Beltane. Hawthorn has many colloquial names such as the May, May thorn, and thorn apple. Maypoles were said to be made from hawthorn trees and there is great lore surrounding hawthorn in Beltane and May Day rituals which have long included hawthorn (or May) flowers and branches.

The berries are red to blue-black in colour and have large seeds (that contain trace elements of arsenic, like apple seeds do), while the leaves are serrated and medium to dark green coloured.

They are a favourite food for many birds, including Rhiannon’s blackbirds, and in exchange, the birds distribute the seeds far and wide. They germinate best after passing through a bird’s digestive system since the stomach acid breaks down their seed coat.

Hawthorn’s flowers, leaves, berries and bark can be used in medicinal and energetic potions. For me, all this marks it a Tree of the Goddess Rhiannon.

In the Vale of Avalon, Rhiannon’s trees, the Hawthorns, are laden with beautiful red berries, and it is a total delight to forage some to make Hawthorn berry tincture, which is a sweet medicine of Love for the heart, and which makes the perfect blend of opposites when mixed with Hawthorn Flower tincture, which we will make at Rhiannon’s festival of Beltane.

When gathering, just remember the simple rules:

  • never pick from the first source you see (in case it is the only one)
  • never pick more then you need and no more then 1/3 of what is there (leave some for the birds, beasts, and the plant itself)
  • always pick with gratitude, reverence, and prayer: give thanks and rejoice in your freely given bounty.

You don’t need to make a huge amount, as a little goes a long way, as the mature tincture is highly concentrated and potent.

Hawthorn (berry) tincture:

Once you have your berries, wash and roughly chop them, or smash them lightly in a pestle and mortal. If you keep the berries whole, you will get a beautiful clear liquid if put in alcohol, but less of the properties of the berries. I tend to make a bit both ways, for different magical purposes.

Now you will need a sterilised glass bottle or jar, some fresh Hawthorn berries and strong food grade alcohol (grain ethanol) or strong alcohol of at least 80-proof (for example vodka, gin, white rum will do).

Place berries in the jar or bottle and add alcohol, the ratio to use is 1:2, in other words, twice as much liquid to berries, or 1 part berries, 2 parts alcohol.

Shake the bottle or jar to mix everything well to pull as much of the healthful properties from the berries as possible. Leave is a closed jar or bottle, in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks, shaking every day.

After this time, you will need to strain it, keeping the pulp of the berries for later in a bowl in the fridge, I recommend double straining the tincture through muslin or paper coffee filters held in a funnel, to get the clearest tincture without any ‘bits’ or ‘cloud’ remaining. This will prolong the shelf life (which should be about 5 years).

Bottle the clear tincture into small glass doppler bottles (always use glass, as it does not react with the properties of the tincture).

Invoke Rhiannon, sovereign Queen into the finished tincture in whichever way feels right for you. Label, store and use daily, a few drops under the tongue, to ease the heart and boost your body.

Hawthorn Berry Syrup:

You will need some of your berry tincture as well as good runny honey to make your hawthorn berry syrup.

When you strain the tincture, keep the berry mush and put in a small saucepan.

To the berries, add enough water to cover well and simmer for about 1 hour to make a strong decoction. Stir often and add a little more boiling water if the berries dry out too much.

The proportions water to berries for this is 1:2 or 1 part berry to 2 parts water.

After an hour, strain and squeeze the berries through a cheese cloth/muslin cloth to get most of the juice out.

Return this liquid to the saucepan.

Simmer to reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Add the same amount of clear honey as decoction you’ve got, in other words, the proportion juice to honey is 1:1.

Stir well until all is honey is mixed and melted in.

Now add your prepared hawthorn tincture the proportion is 1:4, or 1 part tincture for every 4 parts syrup.

Store in sterilised bottles, always use glass, as it does not react with the properties of the syrup. Invoke Rhiannon, sovereign Queen into the finished syrup in whichever way feels right for you.

Label, store and use daily. Open bottles will last for several months in the fridge.