cellular love


In 2010 I boat out to an Island off the coast of San Francisco. I am thinking about citizenship and radicality for my friend Mary Walling Blackburn; about how radical means roots, and citizenship refers to cities, how thorns can guide or teach. I wander through the ruins of an old immigration station sited there and sit down beside the hospital, which was likely not ever a site of healing for the Chinese and Japanese interned on the island in the early part of the 20th-century. I look for some kind of sign. I look up and see a Hawthorne tree. Its long, occasionally thorny branches have pinnately lobed, lanceolate leaves that are somehow like hands. These Hawthornes have white flowers, but they can also be pink. The flowers are always five-petaled, sweet but mild smelling, produced in 2- to 3-inch inflorescences. I identify with flowers in the Rose family because their ovaries are inferior like mine. I lie underneath it, cry a little and sleep.


A strong tonic, the Hawthorn is associated with the heart. It is used for treating all kinds of disorders of the heart and circulation system. It increases the blood flow to the heart muscles and restores the heart beat. Bioflavonoids in the fruit are thought to be largely responsible for its beneficial actions, although some herbalists claim the flowers and leaves are also very beneficial. Many claim the best medicine is made from a tincture of the berries, flowers, twigs and leaves. The bioflavonoids are also antioxidant, helping to prevent or reduce degeneration of blood vessels. The fruit is known to be antispasmodic, cardiac, diuretic, sedative, tonic and vasodilating. The bark is astringent and has been used in the treatment of malaria and other fevers. The roots are said to stimulate the arteries of the heart, and to treat menstrual disorders.

I embrace the textbook descriptions of this plant and find that Hawthorne tones tissues in a way that it unlocks their ability to regenerate. This strengthening seems to happen on a cellular level. Hawthorne has long been associated with mending a broken heart and I think this is because it helps a person to integrate their experience and reinvent themselves from the small cellular basics.

While many fruit trees in the Rosaceae family are pruned, Hawthornes rarely are, if ever. Often, they have many gnarled trunks coming up out of the ground, and lots of unruly branches. It is often host to many lichens and many different birds and other creatures appreciate the berries. The big long thorns are infrequent. You may never get poked or you may get poked once. Or often. The thorns seem to be there when there is a chance of taking too much, just a gentle but poignant reminder that many species rely on the meaty berries. It’s interesting how these thorns have this specific message. Some plants are riddled with thorns, these aren’t – there are just enough to keep you mindful and not so greedy. The thorns are long and pointy and they look old and a tiny bit wicked.

If we understand the signature of the plant as speaking to its action on the body, we might see Hawthorne as a medicine that ‘makes sense’ of a tangle of arteries and veins. I have used this plant in formula for uterine fibroids with success:

use this formula together with Blue Vervain tincture and Turmeric in some form
– 2 parts Hawthorne
– 2 parts Yarrow
– 1 part Red Root

Donna Haraway: “We have had forbidden communication; we have had oral intercourse; we are bound on telling story on story with nothing but the facts. We are training each other in acts of communication we barely understand. We are, constitutively, companion species. We make each other up, in the flesh. Significantly other to each other, in specific difference, we signify in the flesh a nasty developmental infection called love.”

Hawthorne helps when there is disconnection; Hawthorne’s meaty, sweet flesh is working on toning and regenerating actual tissues that help us to be responsive to the life forms around us.

also doubles as a zombie preventative
– mashed Hawthorne berries
– smashed ginger
– 1/2 tsp clove
– 1 cup cocoa nibs
– organic red wine

Hawthorne was used before enclosure in Europe in the commons. But then as the enclosure movement progressed, Hawthorns were used in hedgerows, and the hedgerows were planted to block people from using the lands as a regenerative resource. So the Hawthorne’s thorns drove people to new, overcrowded industrial cities for work and sustenance. Hawthorne was a profound resource in the commons, with hard wood, medicine, food (the fruits were called haws, and that’s how it got its name), but then it was manipulated to push people to cities.

But Hawthorn has another chapter. A future chapter. I think it can be a player in making commons within the city, and staunch the unsustainable flow of resources from the country to the city. Introduce a new paradigm of abundance in the city. Root City Thorn. I visit this tree many times. I visit the tree many times, and have many conversations with people about this tree’s promise. In the Fall, I eat the small but meaty berries. They are not very sweet. But then, sweetness is overrated.

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