The Heart-Healthy Herb: Hawthorn Berry Benefits, Uses, Forms and Dosage

by: HumanN

You may be surprised to learn that there is a plant that can help improve your heart health. This plant, known as the hawthorn plant, comes in a variety of species (Crataegus oxyacantha and Crataegus laevigata are two medicinal species of hawthorn) and is a deciduous plant that is actually a thorny shrub or small tree 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 and red, or sometimes black, berries. Hawthorn berries appear from May through September. Other names for hawthorn include English hawthorn, Haw, May blossom, May bush, May tree, Quick-set, Shan-cha, Thorn-apple tree or Whitehorn. [01]

While some varieties of the hawthorn plant are often used as ornamentals and hedges, the hawthorn plant has also been used in traditional medicine in a number of cultures for centuries. The hawthorn herb has been used to treat a variety of health conditions, including digestive problems, kidney stones, and cardiovascular disease. [02]

All parts of medicinal species of the hawthorn plant are used in herbal medicine, including the hawthorn berry and hawthorn root, as well as the hawthorn leaf and flowers. Hawthorn berries are also known as “haws.” Studies have shown many potential hawthorn berry benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as overall health benefits due to its antioxidant properties. Hawthorn has also been used to help treat conditions such as anxiety, digestive issues such as tapeworm and intestinal infections, and menstrual issues [03, 04]


5 Hawthorn Berry Benefits & Uses

What is hawthorn berry good for? 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. Side effects from hawthorn tend to be minimal. Keep in mind that heart conditions and other health concerns should be evaluated by your health care professional. In addition, sometimes herbal remedies and supplements can interact with medications, so it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist first before taking a new supplement.

How long does hawthorn berry take to work? It may take four to eight weeks before you see noticeable hawthorn berry benefits.

Here are five key hawthorn berry benefits:



Cardiovascular Health

The C. oxyacantha species provides many clinically documented hawthorn berry benefits. A study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry demonstrated that a standardized extract has shown results in treatment of various heart conditions, including: early stages of heart failure, angina pectoris, high blood pressure, mild arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and atherosclerosis. [05] A number of German studies have shown improved cardiac function as a result of treatment with hawthorn. [06] Certain bioactive compounds found in the plant are what make it so effective at treating heart problems. These compounds include flavonoids, phenols and procyanidins. Hawthorn is a natural diuretic. Its ability to reduce fluid buildup helps to relieve congestive heart failure. [07]

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 in addition to its positive cardiovascular effects. In other words, it appears that hawthorn berry benefits weight loss as well. [08]

A German study focusing on patients with heart failure found that administering a standardized hawthorn extract as a both an “alternative and partly as a supplement” to medication showed measurable improvement in patients’ health. In the study, 952 patients were enrolled. Of these patients, 588 received the hawthorn extract (known as “special extract WS 1442”) either in addition to therapy or as a single therapy. The remaining 364 patients received therapy without the addition of the hawthorn remedy. Within two years the patients who received the hawthorn treatment, either with or without therapy, showed more improvement in their symptoms than those who only received therapy. [09]  



Chest Pain (Angina)

A small clinical study researched the effects of aerobic exercise and hawthorn on 80 stable angina pectoris patients ranging in age from 45 to 65 years old. The patients were randomly divided into four groups to observe whether or not exercise and/or 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. [10]


Blood Pressure

You may be wondering, how is hawthorn berry good for blood pressure? Hawthorn causes blood vessels to relax, which widens the vessels and allows blood to flow more easily. [11] A randomized clinical trial that studied effects of the C. laevigata species on lowering blood pressure in 79 type 2 diabetes patients taking medication was the first such study to find that hawthorn berry benefits can include lowering blood pressure in hypertensive 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 greater improvement in blood pressure reduction than the placebo group. [12]


High Cholesterol

A study published in Experimental Biology and Medicine looked at the effects of a cultivar of hawthorn as a more effective, stronger potential to Shan-Zha, a Chinese hawthorn remedy. The researchers found that this cultivar lowered serum cholesterol in mice and could potentially have a similar effect on humans. [13]

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 and did not receive the extracts. The researchers concluded that the triterpenic acids found in hawthorn showed cholesterol lowering effects in the group that received the hawthorn extracts. [14]


Anti-Inflammatory and Digestive Benefits

The high antioxidant content found in hawthorn helps provide anti-inflammatory effects. Once again, the flavonoid component of hawthorn has been shown to be particularly effective at providing these benefits, including lowering cholesterol and inflammation. [15]

A 2008 study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that used rats to test the free-radical-scavenging, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, and antimicrobial effects of a hawthorn berry ethanol extract determined that the antioxidant properties found in hawthorn can help guard against inflammation and even help provide antimicrobial benefits to the gastrointestinal system. [16]

Another animal study published in the Journal of Food Medicine concluded that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of hawthorn can protect against colitis, an inflammation of the colon. [17]

Hawthorn berry benefits include these vitamins and other nutrients: [18]

  • B-vitamins, including folic acid: antioxidant and important for metabolism
  • Vitamin C: boosts immune system and cardiovascular health
  • Flavonoids, including rutin: antioxidants; improve blood flow by helping to dilate blood vessels
  • Phenols: anti-inflammatory and antiseptic
  • Procyanidins: antioxidant compounds that also give the berries color
  • Vitexin: antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory
  • Catechins: antioxidant
  • Saponins: help the body absorb nutrients
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Benefits & Uses Summary

Hawthorn berry benefits and uses include improved cardiovascular health and blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant properties and key vitamins, minerals, and other active compounds.



Hawthorn Berry Forms

If you’re wondering how to use hawthorn berries, there are actually several ways to enjoy hawthorn berry benefits. From a soothing cup of tea to a hawthorn 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 source and buy organic herbs and products when possible. 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) has 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:

  • Hawthorn tea/hawthorn berry tea (also known as an infusion): A tea can easily be made from either dried hawthorn berries or leaves.
  • Hawthorn berry supplement: Hawthorn supplements are available in a wide variety of brands.
  • Hawthorn berry powder: Hawthorn berry benefits can easily be gained by adding a berry powder to smoothies, shakes or juices or using it to make a tea. You can also encapsulate hawthorn berry powder to make your own capsules.
  • Hawthorn berry tincture: A tincture can be made by filling a jar with either mashed frozen or fresh hawthorn berries or whole hawthorn leaves and flowers and then covering them with 100 proof vodka. Make sure the jar is capped tightly and shake periodically over the next few weeks. The resulting tonic is then strained and bottled.
  • Hawthorn syrup: A hawthorn syrup recipe can be made by combining dried hawthorn berries, water, honey, brandy, and a cayenne tincture.

What about consuming hawthorn berries for health benefits? Are hawthorn berries safe to eat?

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.

Forms Summary

You can enjoy the health benefits of hawthorn extract in a variety of forms including tea, supplements, powders blended into smoothies or shakes, tinctures, and syrups.


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 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. [19, 20]

Suggested Dosages of Hawthorn: [21]

Dosages of hawthorn vary depending on the form of the remedy. See below for guidelines.

Tea

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.

Fruit

Hawthorn berries are available for medicinal use in a few different forms. Consume hawthorn fruit in the following dosages:

  • Dried powder: 300–1,000 mg orally three times per day
  • Liquid extract: 0.5–1 ml orally three times per day
  • Tincture: 1-2 ml orally three times per day
  • Solid extract: 1/4-1/2 teaspoon orally once/day
  • Syrup: 1 teaspoon orally two to three times per day

Leaf/Flower

Dosages for hawthorn leaf and flower remedies are as follows:

  • Extract: 160–900 mg per day, divided into two to three oral doses per day
  • Powder: 200–500 mg orally three times per day
  • Tincture: 20 drops orally two to three times per day

Dosage Summary

Dosages can vary according to the form of hawthorn you consume. Follow the guidelines above or those included with the product you purchase to ensure you take an appropriate dose.


Side Effects  

What are the side effects of hawthorn berries? Fortunately, side effects from hawthorn are rare. That being said, they can occur sometimes in some individuals.

Side effects from hawthorn remedies may include: [22, 23]

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Vertigo
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Circulatory problems
  • Nosebleeds
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach

Hawthorn is not intended for children. Do not use hawthorn if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you 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.


Drug Interactions

If you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, talk with your doctor or health care provider first before taking any herbal supplements or remedies. If you are taking any of the following medications, talk with your doctor before taking hawthorn or hawthorn berry supplements: [24]

  • Digoxin: Hawthorn may increase the action of this 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.
  • Male 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.

You should also avoid using hawthorn or hawthorn berry remedies if you have a known allergy to members of the rose family.



5 Action Steps for Hawthorn Berry Benefits

Follow the steps below to incorporate hawthorn berry benefits into your diet and wellness routine:

  1. Check with your doctor if you have any health concerns, especially regarding heart or cardiovascular health.
  2. As with any supplement, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking hawthorn supplements or hawthorn berry remedies to make sure there is no risk of interactions with other medications or supplements.
  3. Try consuming one eight-ounce cup of hawthorn tea up to three times daily after meals.
  4. If you prefer to take a supplement or extract, follow the dosing guide included in this article or with the product you purchase.
  5. You can also try incorporating hawthorn powder into a smoothie blend.


Key Points About Hawthorn Berry Benefits

  • 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.
  • 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 products when possible.
  • Do not attempt to diagnose a heart condition without consulting a health care provider.
  • Talk with your health care provider first before taking hawthorn or other supplements.
  • Do not give hawthorn to children.
  • Do not take hawthorn remedies if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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