Herb: Black Hawthorn

Latin name: Crataegus douglasii

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Black Hawthorn:

An infusion of the shoots has been used to treat diarrhoea in children and sores in babies mouths. A poultice of the chewed leaves has been applied to swellings. An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. An infusion of the sapwood, bark and roots has been used as a stomach medicine. The thorns have been used as a treatment for arthritis.The point of the thorn was used to pierce an area affected by arthritic pain. The other end of the thorn was ignited and burned down to the point buried into the skin. This treatment was very painful but it was said that after a scab had formed and disappeared, the arthritic pain had also disappeared. The thorns have been used as probes for boils and ulcers. Although no other specific mention has been seen for this species, the fruits and flowers of many hawthorns are well-known in herbal folk medicine as a heart tonic and modern research has borne out this use. The fruits and flowers have a hypotensive effect as well as acting as a direct and mild heart tonic. They are especially indicated in the treatment of weak heart combined with high blood pressure. Prolonged use is necessary for it to be efficacious. It is normally used either as a tea or a tincture.

Description of the plant:


9 m
(30 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Open woods, banks of mountain streams and on rocky banks.

Edible parts of Black Hawthorn:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A very pleasant flavour with a sweet and juicy succulent flesh, it makes an excellent dessert fruit and can be eaten in quantity. The fruit can also be used for making pies, preserves etc, and can be dried for later use. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter and is borne in small clusters. The fruits I have eaten have been considerably larger than this. There are up to five fairly large seeds in the centre of the fruit, these often stick together and so the effect is of eating a cherry-like fruit with a single seed.

Other uses of the herb:

The spines on the branches are used as needles for lancing boils, removing splinters etc. Wood - close-grained, heavy, hard and tough. Used for tool handles etc.

Propagation of Black Hawthorn:

Seed - this is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, some of the seed will germinate in the spring, though most will probably take another year. Stored seed can be very slow and erratic to germinate, it should be warm stratified for 3 months at 15C and then cold stratified for another 3 months at 4C. It may still take another 18 months to germinate. Scarifying the seed before stratifying it might reduce this time. Fermenting the seed for a few days in its own pulp may also speed up the germination process. Another possibility is to harvest the seed "green" (as soon as the embryo has fully developed but before the seedcoat hardens) and sow it immediately in a cold frame. If timed well, it can germinate in the spring. If you are only growing small quantities of plants, it is best to pot up the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in individual pots for their first year, planting them out in late spring into nursery beds or their final positions. When growing larger quantities, it might be best to sow them directly outdoors in a seedbed, but with protection from mice and other seed-eating creatures. Grow them on in the seedbed until large enough to plant out, but undercut the roots if they are to be left undisturbed for more than two years.

Cultivation of the herb:

Open woods, banks of mountain streams and on rocky banks.

Known hazards of Crataegus douglasii:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.