You may be surprised to learn that hawthorn berry benefits include heart health, normalizing blood pressure and cholesterol, and gastroprotective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Hawthorn plants (crataegus oxyacantha, crataegus monogyna, or crataegus laevigata), are deciduous plants that are actually thorny shrubs or small trees in the rose family. It is native to the northern hemisphere and grows in temperate climates throughout the world, including North America, Europe and Asia.
The hawthorn plant has small leaves, red, pink or white flowers, with red or blackberries. Also known as English hawthorn, haw, mayblossom, shanzha, thornapple or whitehorn.
While some varieties of the hawthorn plant are often used as ornamentals and hedges, the hawthorn plant has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries. The hawthorn herb has been used to treat a variety of health conditions, including digestive problems, kidney stones, and cardiovascular disease.
Every part of medicinal hawthorn is used in herbal medicine, including the Hawthorn leaf, root, berry and flower. Hawthorn berry benefits extend past improved cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and cholesterol. They exhibit overall health benefits due to its antioxidant properties and been used to help treat anxiety, menstrual issues digestive issues — such as tapeworm and intestinal infections.
Hawthorn Berry Vitamins and Nutrients:
- B-vitamins, including folic acid (antioxidant and important for metabolism)
- Vitamin C (immunity and cardiovascular health)
- Flavonoid rutin (an antioxidant that improves blood flow by helping to dilate blood vessels
- Phenols (anti-inflammatory and antiseptic)
- Procyanidins (antioxidant compounds)
- Vitexin (antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory)
- Catechins (antioxidant)
- Saponins (help the body absorb nutrients)
Hawthorn Berry Benefits
Hawthorn berry is clinically proven to help improve cardiovascular health, chest pain (angina), blood pressure and high cholesterol. Plus, its antioxidant properties make it effective for overall wellness.
The Cochrane Library (a reputable, strict reviewer of studies) published, “results suggest that there is a significant benefit in symptom control and physiologic outcomes from hawthorn extract as an adjunctive treatment for chronic heart failure.”
The C. oxyacantha species provides clinically documented hawthorn berry benefits. A study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry demonstrated that a standardized extract has shown results in various heart conditions, including early stages of heart failure, angina pectoris, high blood pressure, mild arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and atherosclerosis.
Certain bioactive compounds found in the plant may be why it is effective at treating heart problems. These compounds include flavonoids, phenols and oligomeric procyanidins. Hawthorn is a natural diuretic. Its ability to reduce fluid buildup helps to relieve congestive heart failure.
Research has also shown that hawthorn can help improve metabolic effects, particularly in patients with high cardiovascular risk. This study showed that the use of hawthorn vinegar can also help lower body weight.
A German study focusing on patients with heart failure found that administering hawthorn extract showed measurable improvement in their patients’ health. 952 patients were enrolled and within two years the patients who received the hawthorn treatment showed more improvement in their symptoms than those who only received therapy.
Chest Pain (Angina)
A small clinical study researched the effects of aerobic exercise and hawthorn on 80 stable angina pectoris patients ranging from 45 to 65 years old. The patients were randomly divided into four groups to observe whether or not exercise and hawthorn would affect their cardiovascular health.
They were observed over a 12-week period. The researchers concluded that combining exercise with hawthorn is an effective strategy for lowering the risk of atherosclerosis and other heart problems.
Hawthorn causes blood vessels to relax, which widens the vessels and allows blood to flow more easily.
A randomized clinical trial that studied the effects of the C. laevigata species on lowering blood pressure in 79 type 2 diabetes patients taking medication. This was the first such study to find that hawthorn berry benefits can include mitigating the hypotensive effects in patients with type 2 diabetes who are also taking medication.
In the study, 39 patients took a daily dose of hawthorn extract for 16 weeks and 40 patients in a second group took a placebo. The hawthorn group showed a greater improvement in blood pressure reduction than the placebo group.
A study published in Experimental Biology and Medicine looked at the effects of hawthorn. The researchers found that it lowered serum cholesterol in mice and could potentially have a similar effect on humans.
Another study examined the lipid-lowering effects of hawthorn by comparing two groups of hamsters, one that received hawthorn extracts and one that was the control group. The researchers concluded that the triterpenic acids found in hawthorn showed cholesterol-lowering effects in the group that received the hawthorn extracts.
Anti-Inflammatory Digestive Benefits
The high antioxidant content found in hawthorn helps provide anti-inflammatory effects. The flavonoid component of hawthorn has been shown to be particularly effective at providing these benefits, including lowering cholesterol and inflammation.
A 2008 animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested the free-radical-scavenging, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, and antimicrobial effects of a hawthorn berry ethanol extract. They determined that the antioxidant properties found in hawthorn can help guard against inflammation and even help provide antimicrobial benefits to the gastrointestinal system.
Another animal study published in the Journal of Food Medicine concluded that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of hawthorn can protect against colitis — inflammation of the colon.
Hawthorn Berry Forms
There are actually several ways to enjoy hawthorn berry benefits. From a soothing cup of tea to a supplement, it’s easy to find a way to incorporate hawthorn berry into your wellness routine.
Hawthorn berry recipes include candies, jams, and jellies. Loose hawthorn berries can be purchased in the bulk section at most health food stores.
When purchasing herbs or herbal remedies, be sure to buy them from a reputable organic source. The medicinal benefits of hawthorn are derived through either liquid or dry extracts.
An herbal extract means that the active components of the plant (phytochemicals) have been extracted or removed in order to make them easier to absorb into the body — without going through the digestive process.
For example, using hawthorn extract vs. hawthorn berry, for medicinal purpose, makes it faster and more convenient to gain the medicinal effects of the plant rather than consuming the whole berries.
Liquid extracts include teas, tinctures, and syrups. Powdered extracts are made by drying liquid extracts. Hawthorn berry forms that are often used for medicinal purposes include:
- Tea (also known as an infusion)
- Dietary Supplements:
Hawthorn berries are safe to eat but the seeds are not. Like apple seeds, hawthorn seeds contain cyanide. Plus, it’s faster and easier to get the health benefits of hawthorn by using a hawthorn extract that has been made specifically for medicinal purposes.
Hawthorn Berry Dosage
Clinical trials have tested dosages of hawthorn ranging from 160 to 1,800 mg/day in standardized extracts over the course of three to 24 weeks. A minimum effective dose for mild congestive heart failure is a standardized extract of 300 mg taken daily, with maximum benefits at about six to eight weeks of therapy.
Clinical trials on patients with class II and III congestive heart failure found that 900 mg of hawthorn extract was “safe but not superior to placebo.” The recommended daily dose of hawthorn extract is 160 mg to 900 mg.
Drink hawthorn tea up to three times daily after meals, using 1 teaspoon of hawthorn leaves and flowers or a hawthorn berry tea steeped in 8 ounces of water.
- Dried powder: 300–1,000 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 daily
- Syrup: 1 teaspoon orally two to three times daily
- Extract: 160–900 mg per day, divided into two to three oral doses daily
- Powder: 200–500 mg orally three times daily
- Tincture: 20 drops orally two to three times daily
It traditionally takes about 4-8 weeks for the noticeable benefits of hawthorn berry to appear.
What are the side effects of hawthorn berries? Fortunately, side effects of hawthorn are rare. That being said, they can occur in some individuals.
Side effects from hawthorn remedies may include:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Circulatory problems
You should also avoid using hawthorn or hawthorn berry remedies if you have a known allergy to members of the rose family.
Hawthorn is not intended for children. Do not use hawthorn if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult your doctor before adding any supplement to your daily regimen.
If you have any adverse effects or don’t notice any improvement in your condition within six to 12 weeks, see your doctor.
If you have heart disease, do not self-treat. Only use hawthorn under your doctor’s supervision.
If you are taking any of the following medications, talk with your doctor before taking hawthorn or hawthorn berry supplements:
- Digoxin: Hawthorn may increase the action of this heart medication, which is used to treat arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats.
- Beta-blockers: Hawthorn may intensify the effects of these medications, which are used to treat heart disease by lowering blood pressure and causing blood vessels to dilate.
- Calcium channel blockers (CCBs): These medications work by dilating blood vessels to ease high blood pressure and angina. Hawthorn may strengthen the effects of these medications.
- Phenylephrine: Based on the results of a laboratory study, hawthorn may reduce the effects of phenylephrine, which is a medication commonly used as a nasal decongestant that causes the blood vessels to restrict.
- Sexual dysfunction medications: Hawthorn may cause blood pressure to drop too low when used in combination with these medications.
- Nitrates: Hawthorn may cause dizziness or headaches if used in combination with these drugs as they cause blood flow to the heart to increase.
Action Steps for Hawthorn Berry Benefits
- Check with your qualified health care provider if you have any concerns, especially regarding heart or cardiovascular health. Make sure there are no interactions with other medications or supplements.
- Try consuming one eight-ounce cup of hawthorn tea up to three times daily after meals.
- Add a supplement or berry extract and follow the dosing guide included in this article.
- Incorporate hawthorn powder into a smoothie blend after workouts.
- The hawthorn berry, root, leaves and flowers are used in herbal medicine.
- Studies show hawthorn berry benefits include improved cardiovascular health, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as overall health benefits due to its antioxidant properties.
- Do not give hawthorn to children.
- Do not take hawthorn remedies if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Talk with your health care provider first before taking hawthorn or other supplements.
- Hawthorn can be consumed in several forms, including: tea, tincture, powder, supplements, or syrup.
- It may take up to four to eight weeks to see noticeable effects from taking hawthorn remedies.
- Always purchase herbs and herbal remedies from a reputable source and buy organic.