Hawthorn (Crataegus species) has been used to treat heart disease as far back as the 1st century. By the early 1800s, American doctors were using it to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. Traditionally, the berries were used to treat heart problems ranging from irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure. Today, the leaves and flowers are used medicinally. There is even research to suggest that hawthorn might be effective when used in the treatment of mild-to-moderate heart failure.
Hawthorn contains many substances that may benefit the heart. These antioxidant flavonoids, including OPCs, may help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and protect blood vessels from damage.
The berries, leaves, and flowers have been used for medicinal purposes. Most modern preparations use the leaves and flowers, which are believed to contain more flavonoids than the berries.
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 was “safe but not superior to placebo.” The recommended daily dose of hawthorn extract is 160 mg to 900 mg.
Medicinal Uses and Indications.
Hawthorn is used to help protect against heart disease and help control high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both animal and human studies suggest hawthorn increases coronary artery blood flow, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure. It has also been used on the skin to treat boils and skin sores.
Hawthorn has been studied in people with heart failure (a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to other organs in the body). More studies are needed to understand how effective it may be. A number of studies conclude that hawthorn significantly improved heart function. Studies also suggest that the herb can enhance a person’s ability to exercise following heart failure. Participants in studies have reported that hawthorn significantly improved symptoms of the disease (such as shortness of breath and fatigue). One study found that hawthorn extract (900 mg/day) taken for 2 months was as effective as low doses of captopril (a prescription heart medication) in improving symptoms of heart failure.
A large study found that a standardized hawthorn supplement was effective in 952 people with heart failure. The study compared conventional methods of treating heart failure (with different medications) with hawthorn alone and in addition to the drugs. After 2 years, the clinical symptoms of heart failure (palpitations, breathing problems, and fatigue) decreased significantly in people taking the hawthorn supplement. People taking hawthorn also took less medication for their condition.
Heart failure is a serious condition, and you should never try to self treat with hawthorn. Ask your doctor if hawthorn is right for you.
Chest pain (Angina)
Preliminary evidence suggests it may help combat chest pain (angina), which is caused by low blood flow to the heart. In one early study, 60 people with angina were given either 180 mg/day of berry leaf flower extract or placebo for 3 weeks. Those who received hawthorn experienced improved blood flow to the heart and were also able to exercise for longer periods of time without suffering from chest pain.
High blood pressure
Although it has not been studied specifically in people with high blood pressure, some people think its benefits in treating heart disease may carry over to treating high blood pressure (hypertension). However, there is not enough research to conclude whether it is effective at lowering blood pressure, and if so, by how much.
In one study, hawthorn extract was found to be effective for hypertension in people with type 2 diabetes who were also taking prescribed medicines. Participants took 1,200 mg extract daily or placebo for 16 weeks. Those taking hawthorn had lower blood pressure than those taking the placebo.
You should talk with your doctor before using if you have high blood pressure.
How to use Hawthorn.
Drink tea up to three times daily after meals, using 1 teaspoon of leaves and flowers or a berry tea steeped in 500ml of water.
- Dried powder: 300–1,000 mg orally three times daily
- Herbal Tincture: 1-2 ml orally 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.
If you are taking prescription or nonprescription medicines, talk to your health care provider before taking herbal supplements. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use hawthorn without first talking to your provider:
Digoxin: Hawthorn may enhance the activity of digoxin, a medication used for irregular heart rhythms.
Beta-blockers: These drugs are used to treat heart disease by lowering blood pressure and dilating blood vessels. Hawthorn can make the effects of these drugs stronger. They include:
- Atenolol (Tenormin)
- Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
- Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA)
Calcium channel blockers (CCBs): These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure and angina by dilating blood vessels. Hawthorn can make the effects of these drugs stronger. They include:
- Norvasc (amlodipine)
- Cardizem (diltiazem)
- Procardia (nifedipine)
Phenylephrine: In a laboratory study, an alcoholic extract of berries reduced the effects of phenylephrine, a medication that constricts blood vessels and is commonly found in nasal decongestant products. Natural remedies, including cat’s claw, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), fenugreek, fish oil, ginger, and other herbs.
Medications for male sexual dysfunction (Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors): When used together, it may result in blood pressure dropping too low.
Nitrates: These medications increase blood flow to the heart and taking Hawthorn together with them might increase the chance of dizziness or light headedness.