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Hawthorn Information & Facts

Hawthorn or thorn apple is a shrub that bears small fruits like pomes on thorny branches. The fruits of the plant may be eaten raw or as jam or jellies. It can also be tossed in with other fruits to make a Christmas punch. Hawthorn became renowned recently, owing to its medicinal use as a heart tonic.

  • Hawthorn is a rich source of flavonoids, tannins and phenolic acids.
  • Hawthorn finds medicinal use mostly in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • The wood of hawthorn is also quite strong and sturdy and used in fencing and building posts.
  • Known as the super drug for cardiac health, hawthorn berries are used in other allopathic treatments.
  • The dried extract of hawthorn is available as hawthorn supplements. They are used for their diverse therapeutic uses and medicinal benefits.

Hawthorn And Health

Hawthorn is an herb that is also used for a number of medicinal purposes.

Some of the health uses of hawthorn are as follows.

High blood pressure occurs in an individual when the heart is unable to pump blood to all parts of the body. If left undetected and untreated, high blood pressure may lead to heart failure, which can be fatal. Symptoms of heart failure like difficulty in breathing, palpitations, and fatigue are believed to improve on the use of hawthorn. Hawthorn is considered a super herb for the heart. The flavonoids and procyanidins in hawthorn prove beneficial for the heart. Hawthorn is believed to improve oxygen supply and circulation through the arteries. It prevents the formation of deposits in the blood vessels. By its relaxing effect on the vessels, blood pressure does not build up in them. Hawthorn also stabilizes the protein, collagen, which builds strong arteries and veins. Arrhythmia refers to a condition of the heart characterized by irregular heartbeat. The berries of hawthorn are believed to be beneficial for arrhythmia and other ailments of the cardiovascular system.

Hawthorn is rich in flavonoids, which possess anti-oxidative properties. This helps to lower the lipid profile of the blood and detoxify the liver. In addition, hawthorn also adds to weight loss by preventing water retention in the body.

By increasing the body’s natural ability to use oxygen, hawthorn provides relief for asthma. In this condition, the person suffers for want of oxygen. Cardiac asthma, which displays similar characteristics as that of bronchial asthma, is also benefited by hawthorn berry. The walls of the arteries and cardiac muscles are firmed and this, in turn, keeps cardiac asthma at bay.

The dried berries of hawthorn can be mashed and taken as a decoction. This helps to reduce inflammation in the kidneys. The herb is also a good diuretic and relieves load off the kidneys.

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by a person’s state of excessive fidgeting and a feeling of anticipating worry. Hawthorn, in association with herbs like poppy and the mineral magnesium, is considered to help pacify the symptoms of anxiety and lend a feeling of serenity.

Hawthorn is considered effective in strengthening tiny capillaries present in the brain. They are stimulated to open and thus, added oxygen and nutrients reach the brain. As the herb helps to relax the walls of the blood vessels, blood circulation to the brain is enhanced. As the berry lowers cholesterol levels in the body, more blood can freely flow to the brain. This boosts the memory capacity of the brain as its cells are nourished. Thus, hawthorn enhances brain health by ensuring better supply of blood to the tissues of the brain.

Hawthorn Supplement Side Effects

Herbal supplements are not devoid of side effects. Adverse effects of hawthorn supplements on the health include headaches, nausea, and palpitations. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can be affected as the herb increases the chances of miscarriage. The advice of a certified physician should be sought when palpitations and excessive weariness accompany the treatment with hawthorn berry. Shortness of breath, mood changes, and any allergic reaction like rashes or swelling are possible and rare side effects of the hawthorn supplement.  Signs that the dose of hawthorn supplement has exceeded the normal amount are lowered blood pressure or hypotension and irregular heart rate or arrhythmia. The possibility of excessive thinning out of the blood also exists when hawthorn supplements are taken with drugs like aspirin or medication for gout.

Hawthorn is also known to have interactions with the effect of other drugs taken by a person. Digoxin is a drug used for irregular heart rhythms and its effect is enhanced by hawthorn supplements. Beta-blockers like atenolol, metoprolol, and propranolol lower the pressure of the blood and dilate the blood vessels. Hawthorn supplements taken along with these drugs enhance their effect and can be fatal for the person. The person is better off without driving or operating heavy machinery while on these drugs. The effect of calcium channel blockers like norvasc and cardizem are also strengthened as they correct high blood pressure and angina by relaxing the blood vessels. Phenlyephrine, which is used in nasal decongestants, shows decreased effect when hawthorn supplements are taken by the patient. Drugs containing nitrates are also interfered with and the patient can experience dizziness. Thus, hawthorn supplements are best avoided while the person is on other medications.

In all cases where the person is diabetic, has high blood pressure or low blood pressure, has liver dysfunction, or is alcohol dependent, the advice of a medical practitioner should be strictly adhered to before starting on hawthorn supplements. Breastfeeding and pregnant women also need to be given proper warning regarding the side effects of hawthorn supplements. Most importantly, allergies toward any medication should be strictly brought to the notice of the medical practitioner.

Hawthorn Supplement Dosage

Hawthorn supplement dosage is adjusted in accordance to its presentation.

  • Capsules or tablets: 80 to 300 mg, two to three times a day
  • Tincture: 4 to 5 ml, thrice a day
  • Berry preparation: 4 to 5 gm, daily

Results from the herbal supplement are manifested over a month or so of the treatment. At all times, the advice of a certified physician should determine the duration and dosage of the hawthorn supplement.

Submitted on January 16, 2014