- Family Rosaceae
- Crataegus spp.
- Haw, May, Mayblossom, Maybush, Mayflower, Whitethorn, English Hawthorn, Hedgethorn
- Spanish: Tejocote, Chist , Manzanilla, Manzanita
- Nahuatl: Tex cotl
- It is contraindicated in children under twelve.
- Do not use during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- High doses can produce hypotension, cardiac arrhythmias, sedation, dizziness, and tremors.
- It may cause hypertensive episodes if used in conjuction with beta-blockers.
- Do not use with other antiarrhythmics as it has the same action as Class III antiarrhythmics.
Indigenous to northern temperate zones of Europe, Asia, and North America, hawthorn is a deciduous, thorny, shrubby tree, growing to twenty-five feet in height and producing small, glossy, green leaves, white flowers that have an unpleasant smell and bitter red to blue berries. Its thorns indicate it is a member of the rose family. The berries, flowers, and dried leaves of the species that have white flowers (C. oxyacantha, C. laevigata, C. monogyna) all share similar properties that benefit the heart. The garden hawthorn that has red flowers has no medicinal value.
The herb has been traditionally valued for its astringency and used to treat diarrhea, heavy menstrual bleeding, and to draw out splinters.
It was known in the Middle Ages as a symbol of hope, and taken for many ailments.
Hawthorn was long used in Germany as a hedge to divide plots of land as its sharp thorns served to ward off intruders.
In Europe, it was used for kidney and bladder stones, as well as a diuretic. Tthe herbals of the 16th to 18th centuries all list these uses.
Its current use for circulatory and cardiac conditions stems from an Irish physician who started using it successfully on his patients toward the end of the 19th century. Since then, it has become a widely prescribed heart tonic, available in both prescription and over-the-counter preparations.
- cardiac tonic
- dilates peripheral blood vessels
- bioflavonoids (rutin and quercitin)
- amines (trimethylamine in the flowers only)
Flowers, leaves, fruit, and various mixtures of different plant parts
The active ingredients are flavonoids and compounds called procyanidins oligomers (PCOs), along with a number of other compounds thought to benefit the heart and circulation. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that help increase the amount of vitamin C inside the cells and stabilize the nutrient by protecting it from oxidative damage. Vitamin C is also known to strengthen capillary walls. Its antioxidant properties are also believed to reduce cholesterol levels and the fatty plaque buildup in the arteries, both leading to atherosclerosis.
Trimethylamine, found in the flowering tops, stimulates the circulation and is widely used as a heart tonic. Large doses, given by injection, have been used successfully for highly irregular heartbeats.
Research over the past century has confirmed its considerable tonic heart action, and is one of the most popular cardiac herbs used today. Its medicinal effects are caused mainly by the bioflavonoids which relax and dilate the arteries, especially the coronary arteries, thus increasing blood flow and reducing symptoms of angina. Since it is strongly antioxidant, the herb also helps to prevent or reduce degeneration of the blood vessels.
Hawthorn also contains substances that inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), an approach used by some of the most widely prescribed medications to lower blood pressure.
Hawthorn is used mainly to ease the symptoms of CHF (congestive heart failure), to lower high blood pressure, to rid the body of edema, and to correct irregular heartbeat. It may be necessary to take hawthorn for three months before noting improvement, but it can be taken indefinitely to treat chronic heart failure and other disorders.
The berries help the heart function normally although research suggests that they contain fewer cardiac-influencing constituents than the flowers.
The berries are also used for diarrhea and combined with ju hua and gou qi for hypertension.
In China, their variety produces berries called shan zha and used mainly for symptoms of food stagnation, which can include abdominal bloating, indigestion, and flatulence. They are also believed to move the blood during stagnation, especially after childbirth. Capsules from the powdered berries are given for abdominal pain caused by blood stagnation or for pain of angina.
Decoctions of the flowering tops are used for circulatory disorders.
The powdered flowering tops are made into tablets and used for long term use.
Infusions from the flowers or leaves help improve poor circulation and restore blood pressure to normal levels. Western herbalists note that it is extremely effective in increasing blood flow to the heart muscles and in restoring a normal heartbeat.
Not only is hawthorn successfully used in treating high blood pressure, but it also seems to raise lowered blood pressure and restore it to normal ranges. For hypertension, hawthorn can be combined with yarrow.
Hawthorn, combined with ginkgo biloba, is used to enhance poor memory. It works by improving the blood circulation within the head, thereby increasing the amount of oxygen to the brain.
Mexican Hawthorn (Crataegus pubescens, C. mexicanus) is a relative of the European hawthorn (C. mongyna or C. laevigata). It is a big-leafed, thorny shrub with white blossoms that have an unpleasant scent. The berries are a yellow-orange and used to treat coughs and colds. In Michoacán, a diuretic tea is made from the leaves, roots, or bark and used to treat adult-onset diabetes.