Alternative Names: Hawthorne, haw, may bush, may tree, may blossom, mayflower, quickset, thorn-apple tree, or whitethorn.
The leaves, flowers, and berries of hawthorn contain a variety of bioflavonoid-like complexes that appear to be primarily responsible for the cardiac actions of the plant. Bioflavonoids found in Hawthorn include oligomeric procyanidins (OPCc), vitexin, quercetin, and hyperoside. The action of these compounds on the cardiovascular system has led to the development of leaf and flower extracts.
While there are over 250 species of shrubs called Hawthorn, Crataegus oxycantha
(or sometimes called C. laevigata
) is one of the more common species used medicinally. While the dried fruits (berries) are most often used, the flowering tops and leaves have very similar properties and are used with some frequency for the similar conditions.
Hawthorn is sold as dried berries, capsules and tinctures. Extracts are often standardized for one of two different chemical compounds: total flavonoids
(usually calculated as vitexin) or procyanidins. An average dose is 200mg of an extract standardized for approximately 1.5% vitexin or 2.0% flavonoids.
Function; Why it is Recommended
Hawthorn contains an abundance of flavonoids
including hyperoside, quercetin
, vitexins, rutin
and more. A number of other compounds are also found in hawthorn such as proanthocyanidins
, various vitamins and minerals, fructose, beta-sitosterol, xanthine derivatives and more.
Hawthorn is antispasmodic
, and a vasodilator
. Hawthorn may help the heart in several ways. It may open (dilate) the coronary arteries
, improving the heart's blood supply. It may increase the heart's pumping force. It may eliminate some types of heart-rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias
). It may help limit the amount of cholesterol
deposited on artery
It is very good for treating either high or low blood pressure by strengthening the action of the heart; it helps many blood pressure-related problems.
Hawthorn is best known as a cardiotonic. Used frequently in cases of congestive heart failure
and high blood pressure; it is the hyperosides and the vitexins (especially the vitexin-2 rhamnoside) that are present in hawthorn enabling it to effect these conditions. Essentially, hawthorn has been shown to increase the inotropic
effect (contractile force), and increase the tolerance of the heart to lower oxygen (hypoxic) conditions.
As a cardiac
tonic, it protects arterial
walls. Studies have confirmed that the plant is a rich source of healthy chemical compounds, including procyanidins and the flavonoids rutin
and vitexin, which have the ability to dilate coronary blood vessels – the vessels supplying the heart with vital oxygen and nutrients. It can normalize blood pressure and prevent palpitations and arrhythmias
; it has also been used for support of cardiac
(high blood pressure), arterisclerosis (hardening of the arteries
pain), and tachycardia
(rapid heart beat). Cardiovascular
effects result from taking the herb over a prolonged period.
Researchers in Germany recently gave hawthorn extract to patients suffering from congestive heart failure
and found the patients experienced fewer overall symptoms and showed improvements in stamina and a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate during exercise. Hawthorn is good for arthritis
because it helps stabilize collagen
, the protein found in joints that are destroyed by inflammatory
diseases. It also has antioxidant
While many herbalists recommend the whole, dried berries, leaves or flowers; extracts are available in which the extract has been standardized to various amounts of vitexin rhamnosides. Look for hawthorn berries in products for the heart, or in products where flavonoid
compounds would enhance effectiveness of the product.
Side-Effects; Counter-Indicators and Warnings
The herb is considered non-toxic. There are no known interactions with prescription cardiac
medications or other drugs. Large amounts of hawthorn may cause sedation and/or a significant drop in blood pressure, possibly resulting in faintness.
There are no known contraindications to its use during pregnancy or lactation
Be warned that if you do take a digitalis prescription, this could elevate your blood level and should be monitored closely by your physician. However, no cases have yet been reported so far as we know.