Herbalists have known for a long time that herbs soothe inflammation.
And for years now, science has shown that chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of many of our common modern day diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, skin rashes, pain, and many digestive issues. But the consequences of chronic inflammation became even more apparent when researchers realized that those with the poorest outcomes after contracting COVID-19 were often those with higher levels of inflammation.
Why is chronic inflammation such a huge problem in the Western world?
The thing is, addressing chronic inflammation isn’t a mystery!
We already have the knowledge and tools to do so. But, what makes it complicated is that there is no one simple solution for chronic inflammation. It’s an issue with many root causes, and what may cause chronic inflammation in Jane may not be what’s causing chronic inflammation in Joe.
And another roadblock to addressing chronic inflammation is that herbs still remain a missing piece of the puzzle for so many people.
Herbs are a powerful way to soothe chronic and systemic inflammation.
Let’s look at hawthorn and tulsi as examples.
Hawthorn for Inflammation
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is well known for its ability to support heart health. In fact, it’s been shown to benefit people with mild to moderate heart disease.1 And one of the ways we think it works is by reducing systemic chronic inflammation, which is often the underlying cause of heart disease.
But hawthorn isn’t just for the heart! This is one of my favorite herbs to throughout the body.
Studies have shown that hawthorn may strengthen the eyes and help protect the eye health of people with diabetic retinopathy specifically by reducing inflammation.2
In China hawthorn is often used to address digestive complaints. One review pointed out that it’s been in use for a long time! “It was mentioned first for ‘treating dysentery’ in Tang Materia Medica (Tang Ben Cao) dating back to 659 AD, the first known official pharmacopeia in the world.”3
A study published in 2020 showed that hawthorn extracts can reduce inflammation in the intestines, which could benefit inflammatory digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease.4
Hawthorn’s got a lot of ways to help us with chronic inflammation!
Herbalists often work with the berries, leaves, and flowers of hawthorn. Studies have also shown that even the seeds are high in inflammation-modulating constituents.5
In the following recipe we’ll specifically work with the leaves and flowers.
Tulsi for Inflammation
Whether you call it tulsi or holy basil, Ocimum sanctum is a powerful herb that can soothe inflammation!
Tulsi is a sacred herb in India and a common herb in Ayurveda. People have used tulsi for thousands of years to address many different health challenges.
Modern research has shown that some of its healing ability is due to the way it can modulate chronic inflammation. Like hawthorn, it can affect many parts of the body.
One study showed that tulsi and aloe vera could address gingivitis by decreasing gum inflammation.6
And one review showed that tulsi has anti-inflammatory, gastrointestinal, and hepatoprotective effects.7
Also like hawthorn, tulsi has a long history of being used to support heart health. I love working with tulsi because it’s easy for me to grow, I love the flavor, and I love how I feel when I regularly drink the tea.
How to Make the Best Hawthorn and Tulsi Tea Recipe
As herb lovers we often turn to tea for its many healing gifts.
But how do we know that the tea we make is actually full of the nutrients and constituents that will support our health and healing?
How do we make the best cup of tea?!
The answer to that isn’t clear-cut because there’s no one way to make any herbal preparation. Our own preferences, traditions, and habits often dictate how we go about making something. We could even argue that the best cup of tea is the one that you actually drink!
As an herbalist I like to glean my herbal knowledge from many sources: whether it’s reading historical texts, asking elders and practicing herbalists, reading books, or reading the latest scientific studies. In my mind, none of these sources necessarily stands above the other. Each source has its pros and cons, but together they give me a strong foundation to further build my own experiences on.
Speaking of scientific studies, I recently came across a really cool 2019 study examining different ways to make hawthorn flower and leaf medicines.
The researchers wondered how they could make the best tea with hawthorn leaves and flowers. And this made me wonder, how can we best use this powerful herb to soothe inflammation?
The researchers looked at dry vs. fresh hawthorn and leaves vs. the flowers, and they also compared different extraction methods to see what is the most potent. All of these methods were tested to see which had the highest nutrients. This study was so in-depth and fascinating! I wish we had studies like this for all of my favorite plants!
The tea recipe I am sharing with you is based on the findings in that study.
Out of all the extraction methods tested, a simple tea or infusion was found to be the simplest and best way to work with hawthorn medicine. I love that! I love teas because they are delicious and simple to make, and they are a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the plant world. I also love that this study showed that you don’t need to buy expensive supplements in order to get the best benefits with hawthorn!
In fact the researchers shared in their conclusion, “We believe that the home-made optimized protocol described in this work, which is based on a simple water-based infusion, is of very general use for those who are interested in medicinal plants. It presents the advantages of being very simple, fast, affordable, repeatable, and optimized.”8
Are you wondering if leaves or flowers are best? The study also showed that the flowers and leaves have different and complementary nutrients, so working with both is a good idea.
They also tested many different ways of making hawthorn tea. They concluded that the most important practice to increase the extraction of nutrients was to grind the dry plant. They recommend doing this just before you make the tea, otherwise the flowers and leaves can oxidize, which isn’t good.
The researchers really emphasized that grinding the plant material was important. They wrote: “Clearly, grinding the dry plant is the most important parameter to increase the extraction yields for all of the quantified components.”9
With the results of that study in mind, here’s how I recommend you make your hawthorn and tulsi tea.
Hawthorn and Tulsi Tea
This optimized tea recipe combines hawthorn and tulsi to soothe inflammation and calm the heart. Enjoy this regularly and at any time of the day.
Note: I recommend measuring out the herb amounts using a kitchen scale so you get an accurate amount. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, this is roughly 2 tablespoons of finely crumbed hawthorn flowers and leaves and 1 tablespoon of finely crumbed tulsi leaves.
Yield: 1 serving
What you’ll need…
- 3 grams dried hawthorn flower and leaf
- 1 gram dried tulsi leaves
- 12 ounces of water
- Grind the dried leaves and flowers using a spice grinder reserved for herbs. (You don’t want to use your coffee grinder because your tea will taste like coffee and vice versa.)
- Place the herbs into a French press or another glass container with a handle and pour spout.
- Boil the water. Pour the water into the French press.
- Let sit, covered, for 3–10 minutes. (The researchers said that it wasn’t necessary to steep for more than 3 minutes, but even steeping for ten minutes is fine.)
- Strain off the flowers and leaves, which you can now compost. If there are a lot of little bits still left in the water you can pour the tea through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.
- You can flavor your hawthorn and tulsi tea with a bit of honey or other sweetener if desired.
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Is chronic inflammation a concern for you?
Do you regularly turn to herbs to soothe inflammation?
Please share in the comments below.
- Habs, M. “Prospective, Comparative Cohort Studies and Their Contribution to the Benefit Assessments of Therapeutic Options: Heart Failure Treatment with and without Hawthorn Special Extract WS 1442.” Forschende komplementrmedizin und klassische Naturheilkunde /Research in Complementary and Classical Natural Medicine/ 11, no. suppl. 1 (2004): 36–39. doi:10.1159/000080574. ↩
- Liu, Suwen, et al. “Hawthorn Polyphenols Reduce High Glucose-Induced Inflammation and Apoptosis in ARPE-19 Cells by Regulating MiR-34a/SIRT1 to Reduce Acetylation.” Journal of Food Biochemistry, vol. 45, no. 2, Feb. 2021, p. e13623. PubMed, doi:10.1111/jfbc.13623. ↩
- Wu, Min, et al. “Roles and Mechanisms of Hawthorn and Its Extracts on Atherosclerosis: A Review.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 11, Feb. 2020. PubMed Central, doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.00118. ↩
- Liu, Feng, et al. “Total Flavonoid Extract from Hawthorn (Crataegus Pinnatifida) Improves Inflammatory Cytokines-Evoked Epithelial Barrier Deficit.” Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, vol. 26, Feb. 2020, p. e920170. PubMed, doi:10.12659/MSM.920170. ↩
- Peng, Ying, et al. “Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Neolignans from the Seeds of Hawthorn.” Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, vol. 26, no. 22, Nov. 2016, pp. 5501–06. PubMed, doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2016.10.012. ↩
- Penmetsa, Gautami S., and Sudha Rani Pitta. “Efficacy of Ocimum Sanctum, Aloe Vera and Chlorhexidine Mouthwash on Gingivitis: A Randomized Controlled Comparative Clinical Study.” Ayu, vol. 40, no. 1, Mar. 2019, pp. 23–26. PubMed, doi:10.4103/ayu.AYU_212_18. ↩
- Kamyab, Amir A. ’lam, and Ahad Eshraghian. “Anti-Inflammatory, Gastrointestinal and Hepatoprotective Effects of Ocimum Sanctum Linn: An Ancient Remedy with New Application.” Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, vol. 12, no. 6, Dec. 2013, pp. 378–84. PubMed, doi:10.2174/1871528112666131125110017. ↩
- Ngoc, Phu Cao, et al. “Optimizing Water-Based Extraction of Bioactive Principles of Hawthorn: From Experimental Laboratory Research to Homemade Preparations.” Molecules, vol. 24, no. 23, Dec. 2019. PubMed Central, doi:10.3390/molecules24234420. ↩
- Ibid. ↩