Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacanthas)
Hawthorn berries have been used since the Middle Ages to support the heart and normalize cardiovascular functions. Today, hawthorn berries are one of the most valuable medicinal herbs used in the treatment of congestive heart failure and circulatory disorders.
European studies have shown that this botanical increases blood flow to the heart and brain, protects the heart from irregular beats, enhances the strength of the heart’s contractions, and mildly lowers blood pressure. Compounds in hawthorn can help protect the heart against oxygen deprivation, a condition that often leads to angina, a disease marked by intense chest pain.
Hawthorn is rich in bioflavonoids, which relax and dilate the arteries. These compounds are powerful antioxidants that help increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. This reduces the work required by the heart to circulate blood, and in-turn reduces blood pressure and stress to the heart muscle. The bioflavonoid substances give strength to the walls of blood vessels and improve blood flow to other areas of the body. Components in hawthorn have also been shown to lower cholesterol, and the amount of plaque in arteries.
Hawthorn normalizes heart action, which benefits the entire body by improving circulation and increasing tolerance for physical exertion. The herb appears to increase the power of the heart’s contractions, making the organ more efficient. It helps prevent irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias, which can lead to heart attacks.
Hawthorn in combination with other drugs is given for cardiac problems such as palpitations, angina, and rapid heart beat. Studies have shown that the herb restores blood pressure to normal, not only lowering high blood pressure but also raising blood pressure that is low.
Hawthorn’s flowers, leaves and berries are all used in herbal supplements Each is high in flavonoid content, which gives the plant powerful antioxidant properties. Hawthorn contain three groups of compounds which are key to the plant’s positive effects on the cardiovascular system. These constituent groups are the triterpenoid saponins, the amines and the flavonoids. By inhibiting free radical formation, hawthorn’s antioxidant activity can be beneficial in maintaining healthy heart vessels and promoting overall heart health.
Hawthorn is also a diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess salt and water and thus supporting weight-loss programs. It has also been used treat digestive problems, nervous tension, insomnia, and sore throat. Combined with Ginkgo Biloba it works to enhance poor memory by improving circulation of blood within the head and increasing the amount of oxygen to the brain.
The herb is best-used long term, because the active constituents do not produce rapid results. The benefits develop slowly, and have a direct effect on the heart itself, especially in cases of heart damage and heart problems associated with liver disease. It is gentle and safe for long-term use with no toxic side effects.
Parts Used: Berries, young stems, leaves, and flowers.
Common Use: Helps treat heart disease and related symptoms. Considered by herbalists to be the world’s best cardiac tonic. Used for beginning heart disease, mild heart-muscle weakness, angina, and arrhythmia. Hawthorn promotes healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels by relaxing blood vessels, increasing metabolism in the heart muscle, and improving blood supply to the heart. Also used for sleeplessness, nervousness, poor digestion, and weight control.
Care: Perennial that tolerates most soil mixes. Full sun to partial shade. Hawthorn trees with their white rose-like flowers are considered one of the most beautiful spring flowering shrubs.