Hawthorn is a plant. The leaves, berries, and flowers of hawthorn are used to make medicine. Hawthorn is widely regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment for the early stages of heart disease and is endorsed by Commission E- the branch of the German government that studies and approves herbal treatments.
Hawthorn is used for diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as congestive heart failure (CHF), chest pain, and irregular heartbeat. It is also used to treat both low blood pressure and high blood pressure, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), and high cholesterol. So far, research suggests that hawthorn might be effective in treating congestive heart failure, but there hasn’t been enough research on other heart-related uses to know if it is effective for them. Some people use hawthorn for digestive system complaints such as indigestion, diarrohea, and stomach pain. It is also used to reduce anxiety, as a sedative, to increase urine output, and for menstrual problems. Hawthorn is also used to treat tapeworm and other intestinal infections. Some people apply hawthorn to the skin for boils, sores, and ulcers. Hawthorn preparations are used as a wash for sores, itching, and frostbite.
How does it work?
Hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, widen the blood vessels, and increase the transmission of nerve signals.
Hawthorn also seems to have blood pressure-lowering activity, according to early research. It seems to cause relaxing of the blood vessels farther from the heart. This effect is due to a component in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin. Research suggests that hawthorn can lower cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). It seems to lower accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta (the largest artery in the body, located near the heart). Hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.
It is used to promote the health of the circulatory system and has been found useful in treating angina, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia. It has been found to strengthen the heart and stabilise it against arrhythmias.
Its use in the treatment of hepatitis in modern Chinese medicine is supported by the demonstration of hepatoprotective activity in animal studies.
Before taking hawthorn, talk with your healthcare professional if you take any medications.