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I know Spring is well under the way when I find the first flowers of Hawthorn and Elder. Both of these trees grow prolifically where I live in Tuahiwi and are widely regarded as weeds. They are however,  both highly regarded in herbal medicine. 

Elder has been used in cosmetics and herbal medicines since the first century A.D and for centuries has been regarded as a plant that could cure almost anything. The flowers are used in teas to support the immune system and elderflower creams are great for healing skin conditions. In autumn, the berries, which are high in vitamin C are used to help with colds and flus. However, the birds also really like elderberries and I find it difficult to harvest the berries before the birds do. I tend to harvest the elderflowers in Spring and leave the berries to the birds in autumn. I use the flowers in teas and skin care but mostly I make a really nice  Elderflower Syrup which my whole family loves. This syrup with soda water makes a refreshing drink to have in summer (if the syrup lasts that long). It does use a lot of sugar initially, but the syrup is watered down considerably when being used.

Hawthorn is another plant in which the leaves, flowers and berries can be used. It is a heart tonic and widely accepted in Europe as a treatment for mild cases of congestive heart failure. Renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar says that Hawthorn is an all-purpose tonic for the heart, both physiologically and emotionally and that “Hawthorn helps the heart flower, open, and be healed,”. 

In spring, the leaves and flowers can be harvested for teas while in autumn the berries can be made into Hawthorn Syrup  and tinctures. In autumn, you may see me harvesting Hawthorn berries from trees on the roadside locally. The birds do not seem to like hawthorn berries as much as elder berries so I do seem to be able to harvest much more of these. 

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