Hawthorn can be considered a particular remedy for most cardiovascular disease. After a four-year study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Health, Crataegus gained recognition as a heart remedy in Europe. Hawthorn’s primary attribute appears to be an ability to improve coronary circulation. It dilates the coronary arteries. Consequently, it reduces the likelihood of angina attacks and relieves symptoms of angina when they occur. The herb thus directly affects the cells of the cardiac muscle, enhancing both activity and nutrition.
Used in conjunction with other cardiac herbs, Crataegus helps keep the heart in healthy condition, minimising the risk of the development of coronary disease. It is indicated for degenerative cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, and associated conditions, including angina pectoris, mild congestive heart failure, essential hypertension, and recovery after myocardial infarction. It is especially beneficial for loss of function due to old age that has not yet resulted in overt pathology. It causes no toxicity, accumulation, or habituation, and is safe for long-term use in the elderly.
Crataegus laevigata (Also used C. monogyna and C. pinnatifida)
English hawthorn, May bush, May tree, Haw, Tree of Chastity, Huath, quickset, thorn-apple tree, whitethorn; Cockspur; Cockspur thorn; Washington thorn; red haw; summer haw; sanzashi (Japanese); sanza (Korean); shan zha or shan zha ròu (Chinese)
Hawthorn was traditionally used in Europe for kidney and bladder stones and as a diuretic. The 16th- and 18th-century herbals of Gerard, Culpeper. and K’Eogh all list these applications. Its current use for circulatory and cardiac problems stems from an Irish physician who started using it successfully for such conditions toward the end of the 19th century.
A perennial to zone 4. Germination may take 2-3 years and require scarification with acid. Stratify about 90 days. Mostly germinated by birds. Prefers average, alkaline garden soil but tolerates most soil conditions. Good sun or partial shade in forested areas although shady conditions produce fewer flowers and fruit. Propagation of most species is by self-seed.
Widely grown as a barrier hedge plant, and as a showy ornamental specimen, sometimes attaining a height of 30 feet. Flowers are considered by many herbalists to be even more active than fruits. Flowers should be harvested when 30% to 40% open and dried in the shade. Berries should be harvested when fully ripe, dark red, and may be dried with low heat. Dried flowers and berries should be protected from light in well-sealed containers.
cardiotonic, diuretic, astringent, hypotensive, anti-sclerotic
High Blood Pressure, Angina, Gout, Fluid Retention,
Angina, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure
Studies show that substances found in hawthorn interact with the key enzymes in the heart to increase the pumping force of the heart muscle and to eliminate arrhythmias. Hawthorn also works to dilate the blood vessels, especially the coronary blood vessels. This enables more oxygen-rich blood to get to the heart and thus to reduce the risk that the heart will be deprived of oxygen, which causes the painful sensations of chest pressure and tightness commonly known as angina pectoris. German studies have confirmed that hawthorn is beneficial for people with angina when taken for at least eight weeks. Hawthorn’s action is not immediate but develops very slowly.
Atherosclerosis, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke
A large body of scientific research has shown that the fruit, leaves, and flowers of various hawthorn species dilate the blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and dissolve cholesterol deposits. Hawthorn fights atherosclerosis, in which cholesterol forms plaques on blood vessel walls, in two ways. It increases the rate at which the liver converts low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad,” artery-clogging kind of cholesterol) into high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol the “good,” artery-clearing kind. Scientists in India have discovered that tincture of the hawthorn species C. laevigata increases the rate at which the liver uses cholesterol to create bile, which enters the intestines and eventually leaves the body. Hawthorn also fights atherosclerosis by providing antioxidants, which prevent plaque formation.
Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss
Eastern medicine has long used hawthorn to treat age-related forms of memory problems, and scientific research has identified two ways in which the herb works. One is through its effect on cholesterol since fewer and smaller plaques in the arteries supplying the brain means that more blood reaches the brain’s tissues. The other way is through its high content of both vitamin C and substances that assist vitamin C, known as cofactors. These elements strengthen tiny capillaries in the brain, especially when these vessels are under stress from high blood pressure or microscopic blood clots. Open capillaries result in more nutrients and oxygen for the brain.
- In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, hawthorn leaf and flower extract (equivalent to 1.2 g/day leaf and flower standardised to 45 mg/day OPC) administered for 12 weeks increased exercise tolerance in patients with NYHA class II congestive heart failure. Exercise tolerance was reduced in the placebo group. No adverse reactions were reported in the hawthorn group. Some biochemical indices were monitored, and these either remained within their normal ranges or did not differ in a clinically significant manner during therapy.
- A significant benefit in cardiac parameters was achieved in a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial using hawthorn leaf and berry extract in 80 patients with mild congestive heart disease resulting from ischemia or hypertension. No adverse interactions with conventional medication were observed.
- In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, hawthorn extract significantly increased heart rate variability (HRV) in geriatric patients compared with placebo. (Low HRV is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, and a positive correlation exists between HRV and life expectancy.)
- In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, hawthorn extract (equivalent to 900 mg/day of dried herb for three weeks) was shown to improve pathology in patients with angina pectoris.
- In a postmarketing surveillance study, standardized hawthorn leaf and flower extract (equivalent to 2.7 g/day leaf and flower standardized to 19.8 mg/day of flavonoids for 8 weeks) was shown to be well tolerated and improved the symptom score on average by 66.6% in patients with heart disease (NYHA stages I and 11). Clinicians rated overall efficacy as better than 90%. Patients with borderline hypertension, tachycardia, and cardiac arrhythmias exhibited excellent results, with blood pressure, heart rate, and incidence of arrhythmias being reduced. A large number of patients previously unsuccessfully treated with digoxin alone were compensated for rest and slight stress with relatively small oral doses of the glycoside in combination with Hawthorn.
- In an uncontrolled trial, hawthorn berry tincture (equivalent to 4.3 g/day of berry) significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. When treatment was stopped, blood pressures returned to their initial values over 2 weeks.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Berry: 1,000 – 3,000mg
• Dried Powder: 1,500 – 3,500mg
• Tincture: 3 – 7mL (1:2)
Consult a physician if symptoms worsen, remain unchanged for longer than six weeks, or if water accumulates in the legs. Medical attention is necessary if pain occurs in the region of the heart, spreading out to the arms, upper abdomen or neck area, or in cases of respiratory distress
Seek the advice of a competent health practitioner when dealing with heart-related issues. It is unrealistic to expect a herb, even one with the proven ability of Hawthorn, to correct cardiovascular problems if diet and lifestyle issues are not addressed. To reduce the risk of heart disease, get plenty of exercise, drink pure water, eat whole natural foods, and get adequate rest. Avoid unnecessary risk factors like smoking, pollutants, and excessive stress.
Interactions with other drugs
Hawthorn may act in synergy with digitalis glycosides, beta-blockers, and other hypotensive drugs. Modification of drug dosage may be required.
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- Fritchey, P. (2015). Practical Herbalism. Warsaw: Whitman Publications.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
- Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum: 800 herbs, spices, essential oils, lipids, etc., constituents, properties, uses, and caution. Rutherford, N.J.: Herbacy Press.
- World Health Organization., & Ebrary. (1999). WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants (pp. electronic text.). Retrieved from https://virtual.anu.edu.au/login/?url=http://site.ebrary.com/lib/anuau/Top?id=10040306
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