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Hawthorn is small but powerful

Hawthorn berries (haws) with leaves
Hawthorn berries (haws) with leaves
Sarah Smith/Wikimedia Commons

When many of the current as well as prior generations were children they played with diminutive berries known as haws, borne by the hawthorn tree. The little fruits resemble crabapples yet are even tinier, have a stone-like seed, and frankly, are on the whole barely edible by all but those with the strongest teeth and a penchant for bitterness. For the most part they were used in slingshots or to just throw. For the younger folks rolling their eyes as they read this, just remember, this as all before video games.

To those among us involved in natural remedies, though, the fruits and leaves of the hawthorn are invaluable. These little berries, found both wild and domestically here in Michigan but native to Europe, contain a substance known as quercetin which is beneficial to those whose circulatory system needs help. To those who lead a sedentary life or have sluggish blood circulation for other reasons, such as slow metabolism, diabetes, obesity or advanced age, hawthorn infusions or capsules may speed up the rate at which blood flows. In addition this plant substance is able to improve the heart's function because of such action. It will also assist in cases of weak blood vessel walls, strengthening them while at the same time increasing blood flow.

For some people an increased circulatory rate may have the effect of giving a warm feeling, as when the face flushes. In cases like that, do not assume mistakenly that you are having hot flashes (especially men)--if there are no other indicators of menopause, it will be due to the improved blood flow. With that, however, you may notice a boost of energy thanks to your body receiving more input of nutrients and oxygen. For anyone suffering from anemia it can be beneficial. Should you be taking any medication -- either natural or pharmaceutical -- for blood thinning or for your heart or circulatory system already, bypass hawthorn altogether. It could combine with your other medication and result in an undesirable increased effect. More or less, too much of a good thing. Similarly, pregnant women ought to skip this herb as it could cause miscarriage.

Detroiters may already have hawthorn trees abundant in their neighborhoods, growing in private yards or in parks. Even in winter it is possible to find a few hardy leaves still clinging to stems despite having turned red or orange. You can also usually find the haw berries fastened firmly to their trees throughout winter, a tad shriveled and frozen which renders them well-preserved, actually. Check out the photo with this article to identify hawthorn leaves and berries, then go off on your search. Otherwise, you may also buy

hawthorn in capsule or tablet form at the following local health stores:

- Natural Food Patch, 221 W. 9 Mile Rd., Ferndale

- GNC, New Center One, 3031 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit


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