Appalachian Ways: Making Hawthorn Remedies

Here at Dancing Sun Cabins, we believe in love.  And what better way to celebrate love than to talk about hawthorn trees.  Hawthorn remedies heal the heart.  They are known to heal grief and sadness and loss.  They are known to heal the heart of it’s physical and emotional ailments.

Hawthorn heart

We are so fortunate to have so many hawthorn trees in our forest.  They are planted near old homesteads and places of community which makes me believe that people have been utilizing their healing properties for generations in these hills.

The journey begins......

As with so many good things, this process begins with a journey into the woods.  Walking to the hawthorn patch in autumn has become a ritual for my heart and it blesses me in so many ways.

I usually invite a close friend to come along. It is a bit of a hike, so we come prepared with our baskets and backpacks filled with snacks for the journey. We hike with gratitude in our hearts for the beauty of the forest in fall. The colors and movement of the leaves inspire us. Stories, dreams, and inspirations fly from our lips and swirl around us like the leaves in the gentle breeze.

Gathering hawthorns
Photo by Wendy Stancil

There are many varieties of hawthorns and they grow all over the world in many different environments.  The ones we like to harvest have huge red berries.

These ancient hawthorn trees grow way up high and look like huge huts for the wildlife.  They make a thick shelter for the mamas to bed down with their babies. Their limbs protect the interior space with long sharp spikes that grow every inch or so along the branches. It is a reminder that we must stop and, with respect, ask to enter.  Then, we must find the door. We circle the spiked limbs until we find an opening where the animals have been coming in.   It is like walking into someone’s home and one must enter with respect.

The berries cover the ground like a magical gift from the tree.


The limbs offer protection, not only for the berries but for deer, elk and other critters who find safety in her branches.

Elk near us

Hawthorn remedies are all about soothing the digestion and nourishing the heart.   I love to make something that herbalists call oxymel.  This is a way of preserving the medicinal qualities of the berries in vinegar and honey.  This is kind of a foolproof method as it really doesn’t require much but a crockpot, some high-quality organic apple cider vinegar with the “mother” in it, some good honey and some clean jars.  The acidity of the vinegar preserves it well for the year.  Oxymel is a 1:1 combination with honey which preserves the product even further and makes it a delicious way to make drinks.  I like to mix it with spritzer water.  It is delicious and then I get my apple cider vinegar dose for the day in addition to the benefits from the berries.

Fresh washed hawthorns


To make this wonderful concoction, I wash the berries by soaking them and stirring them in the sink.  I even add a little vinegar to the water just to help clean them.
This is the recipe I received from EagleSong Evans Gardener. For more recipes and herbal ideas from this talented herbalist, click here.

4 lbs of Hawthorn berries

4 lbs of Apple Cider Vinegar

4 lbs of Honey

I strain the berries and add them as follows to the crockpot.  I put  4 lbs of berries into 4 lbs (8 cups) of organic apple cider vinegar with the mother and cook on low for about 12 hours.  As soon as they turn plump and brown, I  mash them up and cook them a little longer.   Hawthorn berries have big seeds in them so it is important to mash them and get all the pulp in contact with the vinegar.

I then strain them with this old fashioned strainer that allows me to further mash them.  If I want a clearer vinegar, I would further strain the solution through cheesecloth, but I don’t mind the fiber in my vinegar.

Then, I mix the vinegar with the honey in a blender.   You don’t ever want to heat the honey as it ruins many of its wonderful healing properties when you heat it up.  Instead, mix one quart of honey with one quart of hawthorn berry vinegar and mix it up in your blender.  This will make your Oxymel. It will be foamy and yummy.

Then just add a tablespoon to your favorite spritzer water for a delightful autumn drink.   I also like to add it to ginger ale.

I hope you enjoy your hawthorn trees wherever you may be.  Getting to know this wonderful tree has brought much joy into my life.