Hawthorn is a thorny, flowering tree or shrub of the rose family. Other names include haw, mayblossom, shanzha, thornapple or whitehorn. It is native to the northern hemisphere, primarily in temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia. The small leaves, flowers, berries, stems, and even the bark of the plant are often used in herbal medicine to help treat heart disease, digestive issues, and more.
Hawthorn berries are tiny fruits which are red to pink in color which grow on trees and shrubs belonging to the Crataegus genus. Different types of hawthorns produce slightly different fruits. The berries have a tart, tangy taste and mild sweetness. These red berries are used to make jams, jellies, candies and even wine. For centuries, hawthorn berries have been the key part of traditional Chinese medicine.
The fruitful benefits of hawthorn are mainly derived from its unique mixture of vitamin B, Vitamin C, flavonoid rutin (the key antioxidant which improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels), phenols (anti-inflammatory and antiseptic) and other antioxidants including procyanidins, vitexin, catechins and saponins.
Dated back to the first century, hawthorn had been prominently known as a heart tonic. Scientists think that hawthorn helps to dilate the smooth muscles of the coronary arteries, thereby increasing blood flow to the heart. It is also thought to increase heart muscle contraction and control heart rate.
Chronic Heart Failure
Hawthorn is a natural diuretic with its ability to decrease fluid build-up which help to relieve congestive heart failure. It has been shown to improve heart function and decrease symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue. Some studies also suggested that hawthorn could enhance a person’s ability to exercise following heart failure.
Chest Pain (Angina)
Preliminary evidence suggests hawthorn may help combat chest pain (angina), which is caused by low blood flow to the heart.
High Blood Pressure
Hawthorn causes blood vessels to relax, which widens the vessels and allows blood to flow more easily. In fact, hawthorn berry is one of the most commonly recommended food in traditional Chinese medicine to help treat high blood pressure. However, there is not enough research to conclude whether hawthorn is effective at lowering blood pressure.
In animal studies, hawthorn extract has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides cause plaque build-up in blood vessels and the blood vessel is completely blocked, this may cause heart attack or stroke.
The high antioxidant content in hawthorn provide anti-inflammatory properties which can improve one’s health in general as chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases including type 2 diabetes, asthma and certain types of cancers.
Hawthorn extract and berries have been used for centuries to treat digestive problems, especially indigestion and stomach pain. The berries contain fibre which has been proven to reduce constipation and decrease the transit time of food in one’s digestive system (improves digestion issues).
The antioxidant contents in hawthorn makes it useful for applying topically to the skin, particularly on burns, sores, or acne. The organic compounds are anti-inflammatory in nature and are good for reducing itching on healing wounds or from other skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis.
Hawthorn may provide a very mild sedative effect which in turn helps to decrease anxiety symptoms. It is said to be able to improve mood by impacting hormonal levels positively.
In addition to the antioxidants eliminating dangerous toxins from the body, the vitamin C in hawthorn also helps in boosting the activity of your white blood cells to help fight against infections.
Eliminates Intestinal Infections
Aside from boosting digestive health by improving nutrient uptake and eliminating constipation, hawthorn is also found to be good at eliminating any intestinal infections, such as tapeworms.
Recommended daily dose of hawthorn extract is around 160mg-900mg. An observed minimum effective dose for cardiovascular benefits is 300mg daily, with a maximum benefit achieved within 6-8 weeks of therapy.
Prepared by: Chew Ee Wei, a HTM Pharmacist.
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