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