The Benefits of Hawthorn

hawthorn berry
Hawthorn berries. Neil Holmes/Photolibrary/Getty Images

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. Keep in mind that scientific support for the potential benefits of hawthorn is limited. 

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.

3) Atherosclerosis

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).

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 the treatment of a heart problem.

Caveats

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. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications have not been established. If you're considering the use of hawthorn, talk with your primary care provider first.

Sources:

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.

Continue Reading