How Hawthorn Healed My Dog

My little mutt, Petunia, likes to curl up around my feet. About two months ago, she was sleeping like this when I noticed that her heartbeat wasn’t going in a predictable rhythm. There was a random spasm in the mix. I took her to the vet, a conventional dog doctor, and he confirmed that she does have a mild arrhythmia.

I asked the dog doctor if it would be okay to make Petunia some hawthorn medicine and give it to her myself, and he said “Yes, dogs can take all those herbal medicines people can take.” Hawthorn, Crataegus spp., is a traditional heart medicine for people. The spring twigs and autumn berries can be made into an alcohol or glycerin tincture that, if taken regularly over time, will strengthen the heart, steady the heartbeat and lower blood pressure.

To get further information on adjusting dosages for animals, I ordered the book Herbs for Pets by Gregory Tilford and Mary Wulff-Tilford, which multiple people had recommended to me on Facebook. The Tilfords say that you don’t have to make an extract — you can just feed the berries to your dog straight.

Coincidentally, there happens to be a nice big hawthorn tree at Petunia’s favorite dog park, where we go almost every day. Even better, this tree still has plenty of berries on it, which it seems to shed slowly all the time. At first, Petunia ignored the berries covering the ground, as do most of the dogs. She was initially wary when I picked them and fed them to her, but now she gobbles hawthorn berries like a vacuum cleaner.

It has been a little over a month now that she’s become a berry-eater, and already her heartbeat is steadier. The spasm is much more subtle; nearly undetectable. It worked that fast. Hawthorn is healing Petunia’s heart safely, naturally, and entirely for free.

It does have one side effect: dog gas. Actually, audible dog gas. Which in people would be gross, but in a dog is pretty hilarious. I laughed and laughed the day Petunia turned around to look at her butt in shock! (It’s not all that common — mostly happens when Petunia eats a ton of berries at once. She thinks these are the best treats in the world).

For info on how to identify hawthorn, and a tincture recipe, click here.

Please be careful where you harvest hawthorn. Only choose full-grown trees or shrubs in places you are familiar with, because Portland Metro and Portland Parks and Recreation actually spray chemical herbicides on small hawthorn bushes in our parks to try and kill them. They consider hawthorn a harmful invasive species in need of eradication — but I would beg to differ!

Tell your friends that hawthorn is free heart medicine for people and dogs — share this post!

Then explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

20 thoughts on “How Hawthorn Healed My Dog

  1. Pingback: Bushcraft & Wilderness Skills On The Web

  2. Can i give my dog Hawthorn extract instead of the berries? the lil bottle they sell at the stores? i cant seem to find some anywhere :(

  3. Pingback: How to: Hawthorn Flower Medicine « First Ways

  4. Pingback: How To: Make a Glycerin Tincture « First Ways

  5. G’Day! Firstways,
    In addition to your post I was wondering, Just wanted to post a little note to let you know how much I enjoy your site. It’s nice to see a quality dog resource for us canine lovers. Keep up the grrrrr-eat work!

    Kindest Regards
    Debbie Moore – webmaster for Dogs and Puppies Central – a site all about responsible dog ownership.

  6. This is great to know! My boyfriend and I have a Maine coon cat, a breed which is predisposed to arrhythmia and heart disease. I wonder if I can find a local, pesticide-free source of hawthorn.

    I have a couple of questions, if you wouldn’t mind looking through your book for me. Would feeding berries work for a cat as well as a dog? Or is there another recommended method to give a cat hawthorn?

    Thanks so much for this information!

    • Hi Jessica,

      I looked in the book for you, and the section on hawthorn says hawthorn works for dogs, horses, rats and people, but there is no mention of felines. The way the book is designed, I would expect the authors to say something if it were unsuitable for cats, but just be safe, you might want to call a holistic veterinarian and ask.

  7. Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming Foraging with Kids book:

    MADELEINE and the HAWTHORN TREE — A true story

    Once upon a time, a young dietetic student by the name of Madeleine attended one of my tours in Brooklyn and fell in love, head-over-heels, with a hawthorn tree. They weren’t teaching aspiring dieticians anything about herbs back then, so Madeleine had to read up on herbs on her own. But she never imaged that one day, she’d come face-to-branch with this fabled tree of her studies, with berries that people have been using for hundreds of years to strengthen the heart.

    And the berries tasted great too! So Madeleine gathered as many as she could, and ate them all on her way home. But the next day, strolling by herself in Central Park, she found her own hawthorn tree, near the famous Alice-in-Wonderland statue. She looked so happy eating the fruit that before long, a crowd of passers-by had joined her. All except for one man, who stood aside, watching.

    Madeleine offered him a berry, but he refused. When she asked why, he reluctantly explained:

    “When I saw everyone eating these berries, I broke one open, but there was a worm in it.

    “Mine has a worm in it too!” exclaimed someone else.

    “So does mine!” cried another.

    “They all have worms inside!” gasped someone else.

    The morals of the story:

    1. Look before you eat.

    2. Never accept a hawthorn from Madeleine. (Fortunately for Madeleine, she isn’t a vegetarian!)

    • Thanks! I’ve since realized that the reason the berries seem to always be falling is because squirrels are in the branches, attempting to collect the berries at the far edges of the branches but often missing and dropping them!

  8. This makes me so happy! I’m so in love with Hawthorn, it grows all over our local dog park too, spray free. Hooray for Petunia! (She looks like a younger version of my sweet side kick, Pikitau, whom I brought with me all the way from NZ)

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