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Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) Health Benefits

Hawthorn is a small tree that generally grows up to a height of 9m and has beautiful white flowers and bright red berries. Hawthorn is also popularly known as Whitethorn and Mayflower. There are more than 250 known species of Hawthorn but the one used for various medicinal purposes is a spiny shrub, with origin from the Northern wooded climatic zone of eastern North America and Europe.

hawthorn

Hawthorn

The herb of hawthorn has been historically used in conditions of stones in both human organs – kidney and bladder. In a few European countries, herbs’ berries extract is considered as safer and effective therapy for treating mild to moderate congestive cardiac failure. Health care providers also believe that the berries are helpful in bringing the elevated blood pressure down back to its normal range. Said this, hawthorn is a potent antihypertensive herb.

Family: Rosaceae

Active ingredients: Hawthorn’s usable part berries contain procyanidins, flavonoids and other active components. Particularly, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins (responsible for the reddish and bluish shades of the herb) have been found to have powerful antioxidant properties.

Health Benefits of Hawthorn

The herb of hawthorn is considered to be potent heart tonic. The herb is believed to have direct beneficial effects on the functioning and pumping of the heart. If used in proper dosage, it dilates the blood vessels and hence can be prescribed as potent antihypertensive herb. The herb is labeled as ‘food for the heart’ because of its property of improving the blood flow to the heart through coronary arteries.

Coronary artery disease

Though the herb cannot be considered as a first line therapy for coronary artery disease, it has shown enough evidences in clinical trials and researches about improving overall cardiac health when taken for a long duration. The fruit is stated to have cardio-tonic, coronary vasodilator and hypotensive action. Traditional medicine practitioners prefer the herb to help curing myocardial weakness, arteriosclerosis, Buerger’s disease and paroxysmal tachycardia.

The herb has shown great results on improving oxygen uptake, regulating the heartbeats and improving the pumping efficiency of the heart. Nevertheless, typical cardiovascular indications for the prescription of hawthorn include…

  • Palpation of the heart
  • Mild angina
  • Heartbeat irregularity
  • Early signs of heart weakness

High blood pressure (Hypertension)

The berries, leaves and flowers of hawthorn contain a good amount of procyanidins, those are the flavonoid compounds possessing powerful antioxidant properties. This property of the herb improves the blood circulation and lowers the resistance to blood flow in peripheral blood vessels. Particularly, leaves and flowering tops are researched and the scientific documents reveal that they have super concentration of procyanidins and hence can play great role in lowering the elevated blood pressure due to any reason. This action of hawthorn herb is due to its potent action of slowing the heart rate and simultaneously dilating the blood vessels.

The best part of the herb, as scientists believe, is it slows the heart rate in case of heart’s overactive mode and stimulates it in case of underactive state. Said this, it is an ideal herb that regulates the heart rate and checks the normal blood pressure.

Circulatory Problems and Raynaud’s phenomenon

Since the herb of hawthorn has shown beneficial effects on cardiovascular ailments, it has been also prescribed in case of poor blood circulation on peripheral areas of the body. In other words, in conditions like diabetic neuropathy and other neurological disorders wherein the numbness due to poor blood circulation is noticed, herbal extract of hawthorn has shown promising results.

Hawthorn is beneficial in case of intermittent claudication and Raynaud’s phenomenon (poor blood circulation in the hands and feet).

Dosage and Side Effects

Dried Fruit: 0.3-1.0 gm. as an infusion thrice a day.
Liquid Extract: 0.5-1.0 mL (1:1 in 25% alcohol) thrice a day.
Tincture: 1-2 mL (1:5 in 45% alcohol) thrice a day.

Data from randomized controlled trails reveal that hawthorn preparations are quite tolerable when taken within the normal dosage. Nevertheless, there is a lack of information in regard to use of hawthorn in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The herb is proved to interact with antihypotensive drugs, antihypertensive drugs and inotropic agents and hence, is to be used cautiously.

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