A tree native to Europe, North America, and northern Asia, hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) produces berries that contain potent antioxidants. Extracts of the berries (as well as hawthorn leaves and flowers) have long been used in herbal medicine. In the United States, hawthorn products are typically marketed for their effects on heart health.
Uses for Hawthorn
Hawthorn is purported to help treat the following health problems:
Benefits of Hawthorn
The antioxidants in hawthorn are thought to boost heart health by strengthening blood vessels and stimulating blood flow.
Although hawthorn's health effects have yet to be extensively studied in the United States, research suggests that hawthorn extracts may be useful in the treatment and/or prevention of these cardiovascular problems:
1) Chronic Heart Failure
Hawthorn may help manage symptoms and improve physiologic outcomes when used as a supporting treatment for chronic heart failure, according to a 2008 research review of 14 studies (including a total of 855 chronic heart failure patients). The review's findings indicate that treatment with hawthorn may lead to improvement in exercise tolerance and in symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath.
2) High Blood Pressure
In a pilot study published in 2002, 38 mildly hypertensive volunteers were assigned to a daily supplement of 600 mg of magnesium, 500 mg of hawthorn extract, a combination of magnesium and hawthorn, or a placebo. After 10 weeks, the 19 subjects who took hawthorn extract showed a greater reduction in resting diastolic blood pressure than other study members. What's more, hawthorn-taking participants were found to have lower levels of anxiety.
In a more recent study, published in 2006, scientists discovered that hawthorn helped lower blood pressure among individuals taking prescription drugs to treat their type 2 diabetes.
An animal study published in 2009 suggests that hawthorn may help reduce levels of blood fats (including cholesterol) and aid in the prevention of atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries).
More about Alternative Medicine for Atherosclerosis.
Using Hawthorn for Health
Given the extremely serious nature of heart disease, it's crucial not to attempt to self-treat a heart condition with hawthorn (or any other herbal remedy). Make sure to consult your physician if you're considering the use of hawthorn in treatment of a heart problem.
Safety Concerns for Hawthorn
Although hawthorn is generally considered safe, it may trigger adverse effects such as nausea, fatigue, sedation, and sweating.
Hawthorn may also interact with certain medications, such as blood pressure drugs and antiarrhythmics.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid the use of hawthorn.
Pittler MH, Guo R, Ernst E. "Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 23;(1):CD005312.
Walker AF, Marakis G, Morris AP, Robinson PA. "Promising hypotensive effect of hawthorn extract: a randomized double-blind pilot study of mild, essential hypertension." Phytother Res. 2002 16(1):48-54.
Walker AF, Marakis G, Simpson E, Hope JL, Robinson PA, Hassanein M, Simpson HC. "Hypotensive effects of hawthorn for patients with diabetes taking prescription drugs: a randomised controlled trial." Br J Gen Pract. 2006 56(527):437-43.
Xu H, Xu HE, Ryan D. "A study of the comparative effects of hawthorn fruit compound and simvastatin on lowering blood lipid levels." Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(5):903-8.