How to mend a broken heart: hawthorn tincture

Over the last four years, I have been through more heartaches than most would go through in a lifetime.  Well, maybe other people have been through more than me.  But it certainly has been an emotional roller-coaster of highs and lows.  It hurt.  Deeply.  Thankfully I recovered. However, I wish I had known this magic tincture.

When you have a broken heart, it seems like it will never get better.  It is hard to reorient your thinking away from the past and to the present.  But more than that, research now shows that your heart can literally break due to emotional stress.  People suffering break up can feel intense pain in their heart area. They are at increased risk of heart attack during the fortnight after a breakup, and up to a year after a breakup.  The anguish experienced during a breakup is also similar to being addicted to cocaine (and probably just as hard to break). Yep, there is a reason it can seem hard to move on.

As the Bee Gees sang:

And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

This song really resonates with me as I have been there.  But I am resilient, and eventually, I got through.  Now I’m planning a wedding with my Neil in September.

Meanwhile, my Neil suffered from an actual broken heart when he had a heart attack last December. The arteries on his left side were totally blocked, and he had an 80% and 60% blockage on his right side.  Four stents later he has just finished heart rehab, is at work part-time and recovering well. Thankfully he suffered relatively little heart damage.  But he still needs to mend his broken heart – both physically, and emotionally (from before he met me). He tells me that when he went through the anguish of separation, he had heart pains for weeks.

Moving forward, and I started to become interested in the medicinal uses of the hawthorn trees.  Hawthorn is a prickly shrub that was traditionally used in the UK as fencing for cows and sheep – they are dense, sharp and not easy to get through. Hawthorn trees were introduced in pastoral areas in New South Wales, and they have taken off so well that they are almost noxious in some areas.

I began to notice hawthorn trees when I went out to visit my Neil, who at that stage lived in the country around 45 minutes out of Canberra.  Hawthorn trees were everywhere, and local friends at a Christmas party complained about what a curse they are.  I remember reading some recipes by avid forager Susan from Susan’s Sumptuous Suppers, and became interested in finding out if I could cook with them.  My first experiment was making cordial with hawthorn flowers, and I also made tea.  This autumn I started using hawthorn berries for the first time.

Hawthorn berries are reputed to be extremely good for the heart.  They are said to help improve heart condition and increase blood flow.  They help with stress conditions such as angina and taken with honey, they are also believed to help mend an emotionally broken heart.  They are also an excellent aphrodisiac.  If you are wondering why, this is because of its role in helping to improve blood flow – most food and medicine that is good for promoting blood flow also has this effect.

Hawthorn berries are best harvested in mid to late Autumn, pretty much right now, when the berries are bright red and starting to soften. They don’t taste like much when raw, just kind of woody. But they improve when they are cooked or where, like this recipe, they are made into a tincture.

You can use any type of strong liqueur for this (e.g. vodka or gin), but I Iike the flavour of brandy so this is what I use as a base.

Half of bottle of hawthorn tincture

Brandy, at nearly $27 a bottle, is expensive. So you might wonder why this is frugal?  A tiny 100ml bottle of tincture (which most likely is diluted) can cost up to $30, and a bottle of tablets is a similar price.  Comparatively, it is thus cost effective to make your own from foraged free hawthorn berries. Plus there it is more sustainable as you are making your own from available locally produced products rather than buying a bottle then throwing it away.

I am not really sure how much of this to use, but based on other homeopathic type medicines I have used in the past I think around a drop or two to half a cup of water is sufficient.  I find it takes a while for the hawthorn tincture to dissolve, so I tend to add one teaspoon to water in a passata bottle – and then drink a quarter of a cup before bedtime.  So far it seems to be improving Neil’s heart – I hope it heals yours.


  1. Enjoy a Sunday drive out in the country and forage for some hawthorn berries.  They are often grown by the side of the road.  We usually end up with around half a 2-litre plastic ice-cream container full.
  2. Pick over the berries, removing any that are a bit dodgy.  Also, remove leaves and stalks, and watch for the prickles.
  3. Wash the berries, and allow to dry in a colander for a little bit before using.
  4. Place in a large jar and cover with brandy. I sometimes add a few pieces of ginger.  Cover and allow to sit for up to around a month.
  5. Something amazing happens as the tincture matures.  At first, the berries are bright red. But by the second day, most of the outer colour has been stripped off the berries and they start to look a mottled orange.  After a month the liquid will be dark brown or red, and it will become gelatinous – almost as if you had boiled the berries to make ketchup.  It will no longer taste like brandy. It is hard to describe exactly what it tastes like, but more like homeopathic medicine.
  6. Strain off, bottle, and use diluted.
Berries in hawthorn, day one
Hawthorn berries (with ginger), strained, a month after soaking in brandy

Wishing you love and good health with this tincture.




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