Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) is a common thorny shrub in the rose family, with small white, red, and pink flowers that bloom in May. Herbal medicines containing hawthorn leaves and flowers have been used for centuries, commonly made into a liquid as part of an herbal tea or drops. Hawthorn can also be made into a solid pill form.
Hawthorn fruit has a long-standing reputation as one of the most valuable tonic remedies for the cardiovascular system. Medical herbalist David Hoffman suggests that no other herb provides the nourishing regeneration for the cardiovascular system that hawthorn does.
Health Canada’s monograph for hawthorn does recognize the use of the fruit (traditionally) in Herbal Medicine to help maintain and/or support cardiovascular health in adults.
A standardized hawthorn fruit extract has been clinically shown to be both efficacious and safe in improving the quality of life of heart failure patients under long-term therapy (Degenring et al. 2003).
General Information of Hawthorn
Hawthorn has been utilized as a dietary supplement to treat heart disease as far back as the 1st century. It has been the subject of hundreds of studies, including nine double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials. Traditionally, hawthorn berries were used to manage heart problems such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, heart failure, and the hardening of the arteries.
By the early 1800s, American doctors used hawthorn as a natural herbal medicine to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. Now the leaves and flowers of a hawthorn plant are used as natural medicine.
What is Hawthorn Used for?
Hawthorn contains many elements that may be beneficial for a healthy heart. Their antioxidant flavonoids, including OPCs, may help dilate blood vessels, better blood flow, and preserve blood vessels from damage. Most modern mixtures use hawthorn leaves and flowers, which are believed to contain more flavonoids than the berries themselves.
Uses & Effectiveness of Hawthorn
Studies conducted suggest that hawthorn increases coronary artery blood flow, increases circulation, and reduces blood pressure. Modern natural medicine utilizes hawthorn to help protect against heart disease and control high blood pressure and cholesterol.
According to the Natural Medicine Journal, “Hawthorn also appears to slightly increase the strength of the cardiac muscle contractions and decrease blood pressure, resulting in increased exercise tolerance and protection against congestive heart failure.”
Precautions of Hawthorn
Hawthorn contains components that may trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. As with any health supplement, speak with a health care provider before use.
Hawthorn is safe for adults and is generally recommended for short-term use. While rare, hawthorn can cause:
- stomach upset
Herbal Benefits of Hawthorn
According to a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center report, scientists believe hawthorn helps the heart by producing dilation of the smooth muscle that lines the coronary arteries, increasing blood flow to the heart.
Hawthorn is also rich in polyphenols, a potent antioxidant compound found in plants. Antioxidants help the body neutralize unstable molecules such as free radicals that can cause harm to the body. Free radicals can come from a poor diet, cigarette smoke, and environmental toxins such as air pollution. Polyphenols are associated with many health benefits, including a lower risk of:
- some cancers
- Type 2 diabetes
- some infections
- heart problems
- premature skin aging
Hawthorn has long been used for heart and blood vessel conditions such as congestive heart failure (CHF), chest pain, and irregular heartbeat frequency (arrhythmia).
Although the use of hawthorn for arrhythmia in humans has not been studied scientifically, it traditionally has been used for this purpose. Studies have shown that taking hawthorn can help increase blood pumped out of the heart throughout contractions, open the blood vessels, and improve nerve signal transmission.
Hypertension/High Blood Pressure
According to early research, several studies conclude that hawthorn can significantly improve heart function and seems to promote blood pressure-lowering activity. Hawthorn also appears to cause the relaxing of the blood vessels farther from the heart. It appears that this effect is due to proanthocyanidin, a component found in hawthorn.
In one study conducted by the British Journal of General Practice, hawthorn extract appeared to be effective for hypertension in those struggling with Type 2 diabetes who were also taking prescribed medicines.
Participants in the study took 1,200 mg hawthorn extract or a placebo every day for 16 weeks. Those taking hawthorn had lower blood pressure than those taking the placebo.
Before taking hawthorn, speak with your doctor if you have high blood pressure.
As hawthorn is considered a natural cardiovascular amphoteric, it acts as food for the heart, nourishing and protecting the heart against potential damage. The antioxidants found in hawthorn seem to reduce symptoms and improve exercise capacity by increasing blood flow to the heart and the strength of heart contractions and reducing resistance to blood flow in the extremities.
Studies also suggest that hawthorn can enhance a person’s ability to exercise following heart failure!
Helps Prevent Hair Loss
Surprisingly, hawthorn berry is an ingredient found in some hair growth products! Studies suggest that the polyphenol found in the berry may promote healthy hair growth.
1) How Much Hawthorn Can you Take a Day?
When taking hawthorn, the typical doses found on the market are 250–500 mg, taken three times daily. One report found in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology believes that the minimum effective dose of hawthorn extract for heart failure and other related illnesses is 300 mg daily.
2) How Long Does It Take for Hawthorn to Lower Blood Pressure?
One review of 29 clinical studies of over 5,500 people found that hawthorn was safe when used in recommended dosages. The doses found to be safe were from 160 to 1,800 mg daily for anywhere from 3 to 24 weeks.
Those taking hawthorn for its blood pressure benefits may not notice any improvement for 6 to 12 weeks.
3) How Do You Take Hawthorn?
Three times daily after meals; 1 teaspoon of leaves and flowers/ 8 oz boiling water.
- Dried powder: 300-1000 mg orally three times daily
- Liquid extract: 0.5-1 ml orally three times daily
- Tincture: 1-2 ml orally three times daily
- Solid extract: 1/4-1/2 teaspoon orally once/day
- Syrup: 1 teaspoon orally two to three times daily
- Extract: 160-900 mg/d orally div two to three times daily
- Powder: 200-500 mg orally three times daily
- Tincture: 20 drops orally two to three times daily
4) How to Make Hawthorn Tea?
Here is a simple recipe to make your own Hawthorn Berry Tea from betternutrition.com:
- 1 tsp. dried hawthorn berries
- ½ tsp. dried albizia bark
- 1¼ cups filtered water
- 1 tsp. dried or fresh lemon balm
- ½ tsp. dried wood betony
- ¼ tsp. dried rosebuds or petals
- ¼ tsp. dried heartsease
- Honey, to taste (optional)
- Place hawthorn berries and albizia bark in a small saucepan with filtered water.
- Heat to nearly boiling, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and immediately add remaining herbs.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain into a large mug, and add honey, if desired.