Herbs for the Heart

Jo Francks MH

I recently gathered hawthorn berries to make Hawthorn Berry Syrup. This is an annual event although this year it was hard to find a tree with berries. It seemed as if they all froze! But my husband, being on the lookout for me, found a tree that had some berries on it and they were just right for picking. After picking for a while and deciding when enough was enough (I get a little carried away), it was time to get the process going.

I washed the berries and put them in the biggest stainless steel pot I have (this pot has made many batches of syrup). Cover the berries with distilled water 2 inches above the level of the berries. Bring this to a very low simmer. This means when there is steam coming off the top but no bubbles. Keep it covered and simmer for about a half hour and turn off the heat. I let this steep for about an hour. Now strain the liquid off and save it.

Put the berries back in the pan and use a potato masher and vigorously pound and mash them up. Add more distilled water to an inch above the berries. Bring to a simmer for a half hour and let steep for an hour covered. Strain this and use a muslin cloth or cheese cloth and squeeze all the liquid out of the berries. Now combine all the liquid.

The next process takes me several days to complete. This time I had to use two pots because I had so much liquid. I take a plastic ruler and measure how much liquid I have in the pot. As it simmers down I know when it is done by measuring it with the ruler. The pots should have straight sides for this method to work. Measure the liquid in a marked container if you prefer then as it simmers down pour back into the container to measure the progress. I put my pot of hawthorn liquid on the small burner of my electric stove and put it on low (it needs to be below 120). If I can put my finger in it and not have to remove it because it is burning I know the temperature is below 120. I stir it several times a day while it is simmering. It forms a gel because the berries have some pectin in them. It's okay, just keep simmering and stirring.

When it simmers to ? the original volume I know it's done. During this time I took a trip to the local liquor store and picked up some brandy. Now let me tell you because Dr. Christopher made this recipe with grape brandy. The first time I made this my husband went to the store for me and asked for grape brandy. The lady running the store did some research and made some calls and it turns out that all brandy is made from grapes. Regular old brandy is grape brandy.

So it's time to add some vegetable glycerin and some brandy to the simmered down decoction. Add ? of each to the liquid. So to one quart you would add 1 cup of brandy and 1 cup of glycerin. This is the finished product. Store it in a glass bottle out of the light in a cool dark place. It will keep a couple of years if stored properly. It can be stored in the refrigerator for long term. The dosage is ? to 1 teaspoon three times a day.

This recipe can be made with dried berries. Simply add distilled water to the berries overnight to rehydrate. Don't discard the water, just add more until you have the right amount.

Making your own herbal medicine is enjoyable and rewarding. Just remember to have fun!