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Hawthorn,  Crataegus oxyacantha

Hawthorn for a Healthy Heart

When it comes to heart health, there are few herbs that have been as well researched and validated as hawthorn. Known for its cardioprotective effects and its ability to support heart function in patients already suffering from heart disease, hawthorn is worthy of your consideration as a supplement if you have any heart issues.

In my practice, I’ve used hawthorn as a standardized tablet from MediHerb and as a liquid extract in custom formulas from KW Botanicals. Other excellent manufacturers in the market include Gaia Herbs and Herb Pharm- both of which are available at natural food stores.

Indications:

  • Chest Pain
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol

Recommend dose:

  • 250-500 mg daily of hawthorn extract (flower & leaf).
  • Active constituents include flavonoids, approximating 1.78% of the leaf and flower, and procyanidins, accounting for 2.96% of the fruit, are thought to be the most pharmacologically active constituents of hawthorn. Other constituents include triterpene acids and phenolic acids.1
  • Caution: Do not use during pregnancy or lactation without consulting your physician

Use in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, the fruit (Shan Zha) of the hawthorn shrub is used. Hawthorn fruit/berry has the following indications:

  1. Digestive problems; especially those caused by overeating meat and greasy foods.
  2. Painful conditions; promotes the blood and qi circulation.

Modern TCM also uses hawthorn fruit to treat coronary heart disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, vocal cord nodules and polyps, and bacterial dysentery.2

Note: modern uses likely include the leaf and flower, and not the fruit.

Clinical Validation

Hawthorn extract is advocated as an oral treatment option for chronic heart failure. Also, the German Commission E approved the use of extracts of hawthorn leaf with flower in patients suffering from heart failure graded stage II according to the New York Heart Association. 3

Hawthorn Research

  • According to the highly-regarded Cochrane Library a 2008 meta-analysis of hawthorn “suggest[ed] that there is a significant benefit in symptom control and physiologic outcomes from hawthorn extract as an adjunctive treatment for chronic heart failure.”
  • Another research review from 2010 published by the NIH has this to say: “…current research to date suggests that hawthorn may potentially represent a safe, effective, nontoxic agent in the treatment of CVD and ischemic heart disease (IHD).”4

Additional Reading

While there is plethora of information online regarding hawthorn, I found this article, from the University of Maryland Medical Center, to be especially helpful. It’s thorough, but easy to read.

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