Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus monogyna or C. douglasii) and Chinese Crataegus (Shan Zha) is an herb that is extremely popular is both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine alike. In Chinese Medicine we use Shan Zha to alleviate food stagnation by assisting in digesting meats and greasy foods and to nourish the heart and improve circulation. In Western Medicine hawthorn berry is used to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and a great herb for overall cardiac and circulatory health. Since we just had the most gluttonous of all holidays (Thanksgiving) I thought it would be a great herb to focus on this month.
It was Thanksgiving 23 years ago that I decided to go vegetarian, and then subsequently vegan and more recently gluten free. When I was 12 I had my first pet, Buddy, a parakeet. This little bird really made me think twice about the turkey focused holiday and I decided I could not eat my beloved Buddy’s turkey friend. So I am thankful for Buddy for laying the groundwork for many positive changes that I have come to make. I am also very thankful for my amazing and supportive family. Okay now back to the topic at hand… hawthorn berries!!!
Since we tend to eat lots of high fat foods during the holidays hawthorn berries are a perfect herb to help us digest our favorite holiday foods. Hawthorn berries are available in tea, tincture, powdered and capsule form. Making tea is a great way to enjoy this herbal medicine and you can have it with your meals to help you digest your food.
Hawthorn Berry Tea
- 1-2 teaspoons dried berries
- 1 cup water
Bring water and berries to a boil, reduce heat to let simmer while covered for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the berries and enjoy! Can also add some sweetener and or lemon juice to taste. A sprinkle of cinnamon is good too.
Formulas for Improving Digestion
There are many great Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas for eliminating food stagnation and helping to aid digestion of our heavy holiday meals.
Bao He Wan- Contains hawthorn and other herbs like Shen Qu* (fermented massa) to digest all types of foods. *Shen Qu is a fermented product, but sometimes contains gluten.
Curing Pills (Kang Ning Wan)- is another great formula for reducing food stagnation, but again contains Shen Qu (gluten).
Mu Xiang Shen Qi Wan- aids in digestion and is even supportive for digestive issues from a stomach flu. Gluten Free!!!
Even though there are great formulas and herbs to improve digestion the best way to feel good over the holidays is to eat healthy foods, eat slowly and chew your food!!!
Here is a great site for getting Hawthorn Berries and some interesting history and folklore too… Have fun!