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Hawthorn brandy

December 7 2004 at 10:55 PM
Sarah Head 
from IP address

I thought I would bring this out as a separate subject so that it didn't get lost in the smoking issue.

Brandy seems to have been the preferred medium for tincturing all forms of the hawthorn. The method of production is similar to any other tinctures. If you would like to produce a truly medicinal quality tincture go to Michael Moore's site where there is a list of alcohol quantities and strengths for each kind of herb.http://www.swsbm.com (This site is a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to study medical herbalism)

NB Hawthorn is a powerful heart medicine. Do not take if you are taking other heart medication or are concerned about heart problems.

However, if you're happy to play with herbs in the kitchen, as I do, this is my method. Find a clean, empty glass jar with a screw top lid. I use either an empty 2lb cook-in sauce or honey jar. Fill the jar to the top with either fresh or dried leaf or blossom or haws from the hawthorn tree, crataegus monogyna. Don't mix leaf, blossom or haws together, it is best to make a single tincture and then mix together a small quantity if you are going to take this medicinally and want the best effect.

When the jar is crammed full of leaf, blossom or haws, cover with brandy and then stir with a chopstick to remove all the air bubbles. Refill with more brandy so that no vegetable matter has contact with the air. Carefully screw on the lid firmly and shake the jar. You may then find you need to add more brandy if more air bubbles have been dislodged. Label the jar with content and date (this is extremely important - there is nothing more frustrating than finding a jar with no label when the contents are completely decomposed and indicipherable!) Place the jar in a dark, cool place. Write in your diary or on a calendar you look at the date for three weeks hence. Shake gently once a day for three weeks (or if you're like me, go and look at it every so often and think "Oh! I was supposed to shake this daily, oh dear!")

At the end of the three weeks you will have three fascinating end products. Strain and place in a sealed, steralised bottle with a screw cap. (You can steralise a clean bottle or jar by placing on the bottom shelf of an oven on minimum heat for 10 minutes. Remember to use oven gloves when you take the bottle out of the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Let the bottle cool before adding the cold hawthorn brandy.) Seal and label the bottle (unless you are going to use it for a blind tasting, which, I can assure you, will produce some interesting comments from your friends.)

The hawthorn leaf brandy will taste like a very earthy medicine. The hawthorn blossom brandy will smell like cherries and taste lighter. The haws brandy has a flavour you either love or hate. I suppose you could call it "essence of tree" and it hits the taste buds on the top left side of your tongue towards the back. My oldest friend fell in love with it. One of our Round Table friends asked my husband if he used it to grease the axles of our vintage caravan (this was at a blind tasting which was part of a herbal quiz one camping weekend).

I made the hawthorn brandy liqueur by accident a few years ago. I had picked the haws after the frost and when I strained them after the requisite three weeks, the resulting fluid was almost completely gelatinous. It was a bit like decanting frog spawn without the potential tadpoles. Someone told me it was the pectin in the haw being released by the frost and it was that which had precipitated into the brandy. I hate wasting anything, so I decided to experiment by adding ground cloves, fennel seeds and lemon peel to the gelatinous mess in another glass jar and this time left it in a hot, dark cupboard for six weeks. I then strained it into a bottle and added a small cupful of sugar, put it in the larder and forgot about it. I should add that I did taste it when I'd strained out the spices and added the sugar and I thought then it tasted quite good. Now, two or three years later, it is truly amazing! I might omit the cloves next time as they are quite strong.

Hawthorn is the most wonderful tree. It supports the heart to work more effectively, it helps with fluid retention and high blood pressure. More of it's properties can be found in Jill Rosemary Davies' little In a nutshell book which sells in remaindered bookshops for £1 (nci).

I could talk about hawthorn for ages, but everyone would be asleep!

Have fun with your brandy making!


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mary hawthorn

hawthorn brandy.

December 9 2004, 1:46 PM 

thank you very much for the recipe and i wouldnt be bored if you talk hawthorn all day..i am new to this site but i have an advanced herhalist diploma..but i am more interested in growing and making things from herbs,,my garden is like a jungle so my other half says..i have 2 big hawthorn trees that the birds have planted and one eldertree courtesy of the birds,,i shall definately be trying these recipes,,,i allready make ointments and dry flowers and herbs ..i have made wine for years but when i saw your post of you sipping hawthorn brandy well that perked me up..something new to try..thanks again...mary hawthorn

Sarah Head

Re: hawthorn brandy.

December 9 2004, 10:53 PM 

Hi Mary

If you look at page 9 of this bulletin board and follow the herbal liqueurs thread, you will find where I posted the original Christina Stapely recipes for Melissa and Rosemary liqueurs. The hawthorn brandy liqueur is based on those.

I have a hawthorn hedge around my garden which my neighbour would dearly love me to get rid of, but I can't. The birds hide and nest in it, it makes the garden "safe" and I love the arrival of tiny bunches of blossom when the may arrives. I was also very grateful when I had a high blood pressure scare this year to be able to go out into the garden and make some hawthorn and lemon balm tea.

If you've got an elder tree, now is the perfect time to collect some thin branches and practice making whistles or beads for jewellery. The green bark peels off really easily with a kitchen knife so your beads can be either green or white and the pitch pushes out really easily. I have a lovely bracelet and necklace made from elder, hawthorn, blackthorn, rowan and hazel, which my father helped me make. The medallion in the centre is from the Glastonbury thorn picked up from a pile of prunings left by one of the abbey gardeners.

Elder bark, if you do prune a branch, can be made into a very effective double infused oil for bruises. You could also start your own ogham set by making elder and hawthorn sticks. Cut a piece about a hand's length long, sand the ends and carve away a flat piece on one end where you can paint or ink the correct symbol. Glennie Kindred has produced a beautiful book called Tree Ogham, which gives the energetic side of the twenty druid sacred trees and how to make your own ogham set. It is incredibly simple and very effective. A friend of mine has made her ogham sticks about a foot long and has taken all the bark off and sanded them really well so they are incredibly smooth. They are a lovely set, but I prefer to leave at least some of the bark on mine as it gradually teaches you to recognise the bark for each tree.

Best wishes


mary hawthorn

hawthorn brandy

December 10 2004, 11:23 AM 

thank you very much sarah..you have really inspired me..one of my hawthorns is on my front garden and it is huge but because i live on a main road i cant use that tree as all the fumes are bad off the cars,,the other one is at the rear garden,,so thats okay as i have fields at the back..my neighbour kept hacking at our elder tree he was old and didnt like anything hanging over his rackety old fence,,so its a bit mis shaped..anyway he is in an old peoples home now so i shall have to wait and see what lovely person buys his bungalow...we intend to move in 42 months time as my old man retires then so i shall have to get some hawthorn cutting to take with me ...will try to see if i can get some growing this year and keep it in a pot till the time is right to go..you would love my garden as i have it full of wild flowers and herbs,,i grew mullein 7 foot tall this year..i have green fingers..its all higgledy pigglydy with chives and oxeye daisys growing out of every crack they can get in and feverfew is rampant ..i hate thinning out,,,i grew hops that wound themselves up a tree and down the other side,,cant wait till i start growing seeds again..i am going to go out in a minute and get some elder twigs and start carving...their is some thing you may be able to help me with...i have pernicious anaemia and it took the gp so long to find out what was wrong that i ended up with neuropathy in my foot and if i walk on it for too long it hurts like crazy,,their is some ointment for sale on the neuropathy sites but it is made with red pepper and can cause skin irritation well i have sensitive skin so wouldnt risk it..can you suggest any herbs i could combine to try and make some ointment i have tried comfrey..i need something stimulating,,i get b12 injections for the anaemia but the foot pain is long term damage as the nerve endings have been damaged..its not as bad as it was but i am only 48 and allthough i dont go out much as i prefer to be in the garden i do need to shop occasionally..so any sort of relief would be good..thank you once again,,,you sound like my sort of person,,i am sure my house will be full of wood chippings shortly..i am saving all my coffee jars at the moment i am going to paint them with glass paints and make some fancy herb jars...mary hawthorn

Sarah Head

Re: hawthorn brandy

December 11 2004, 6:02 PM 

Hi Mary

I'm glad you found my ideas useful. We're the same age, although I shall be a year older at the end of January! I'm sorry to hear about your foot. When I was asking about herbs for nerve damage for a friend of mine who has post-polio syndrome on Henrietta's herb list, the unanimous answer was to use a St John's wort oil salve and massage it in frequently. As it happens, I'm about to go into the kitchen and make some salve for my uncle who is recovering from an emergency appendectomy to rub on his scar tissue and for a solicitor I work with who has managed to rub skin off his hand, knee and shin from falling on astro-turf whilst playing hockey. He said the last time he damaged his hand, it took five years for the scar to heal, so I thought I'd give him something to rub on it to speed up the healing a bit.If you'd like to email me off list with your address, I'll put some in the post for you. (I've got loads and it needs using up)

I envy you your 7ft mullein, something ate my one plant this year. I also want to grow ox-eye daisies as they're supposed to make a tasty relaxing tea and I'd like to try some.

Must dash...my husband has just knocked one of my baby african violets over whilst trying to clear a space to put the Christmas tree in the lounge. It looks ok, but I'd better sort the soil out! Do you know the story of Milton Friedman and the african violet lady?

Best wishes


mary hawthorn


December 12 2004, 1:16 PM 

sarah ,,,thank you for all your help..i have included my e mail address..its funny you should say st john wort as the only thing the doctor can guve me is pain killers so i refused so i did a bit of research and i have been taking st john wort and ginseng and my foot is a lot better,,it only hurts when i pound footpaths around shops if i am on grass its fine..this summer just gone i had a glut of st johns wort and i never picked it..i believe it was a sign from nature of what i should take..and by the time it was all gone i decided to try st john wort capsules and i could have kicked myself,,as i let loads of it flower and die off,,to be honest i hardly picked anything this year i just sat looking at it all..i would like some of your ointment i will refund your postage..shall make some myself next year,,,i get my herb seeds from suffolk herbs i usually spend around £50 then i have so many plants i am pushing them in every nook and cranny,,i am still making beeds its really difficult to get the middle bit out i need a bodkin pin shall get one next time i go out..i am using a small pin at the moment and its irritatingly slow...i hate my husband going in the garden he occasionally does a bit of weeding then i end up not speaking to him all day as he weeds herbs or wildflowers..i kicked his weeding bucket up in the air last time he did a spot of his weeding i saw him weed some dames violet i was furiouse..now my blood is sorted i have enough energy to take over all the garden so he is banned,,no i dont know the violet story,,,,,to be honest most of my herb reading and the course i did has all been medical i have loads of herb books ,,but the majority are healing herb ones i e mail my daughter yesterday with 2 book requests for herb books concerning crafts..to keep me occupied...as husband works long shifts,,,so their is jist me and overgrown dog sat here..take care,,,mary

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