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11 Lesser Known Health Benefits Of Hawthorn, The Heart Herb

Scientifically termed as Crataegus monogyna, hawthorn is a thorny, flowering shrub native to Europe, North America, and northern Asia [1] . Hawthorn berries or haws (the tiny sweet red berries) are the most widely used part of the plant. However, the leaves, flowers, berries, stems, and even the bark, have long been used in herbal medicine since ages. The red berries are packed with nutrition and are used in the treatment of digestive problems, heart issues and high blood pressure[2] .

Hawthorn is a significant part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is often termed as the 'heart herb' due to the plethora of cardio-protective abilities it possesses. In traditional Indian medicine, hawthorn has been widely used for its ability to boost cardiovascular health and improve the digestive system. In some countries, it is called as May-tree or thornapple and is a member of the rose family [3] .

Loaded with various health benefits, hawthorn improves blood flow, guards against blood vessel damage, and even helps to dilate blood vessels. Hawthorn is extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety and stress, and helps promote your sleep quality[4] . Basically, hawthorn is an all-rounder in the health scenario and can be incorporated in your diet. Hawthorn can be consumed in the form of liquid extracts (teas, tincture and syrups) and is available in the form of dietary supplements as well (powder) [3] .

Read on to know more about the amazing benefits of hawthorn and the impact it has on the human body.

Nutritional Information Of Hawthorn

The unique combination of minerals, vitamins and other organic compounds can be accorded as the reason behind the exceptional nutritional benefit possessed by hawthorn [5] .

The most beneficial nutrients and chemicals compounds found in hawthorn are as follows [5] :

  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Flavonoids, including hyperoside
  • Quercetin
  • Vitexin
  • Rutin
  • Pentacyclic triterpenes
  • Acantolic acid
  • Neotegolic acid
  • Choline
  • Acetylcholine
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Caffeic acid

Health Benefits Of Hawthorn

Packed with nutrients and minerals, hawthorn can be beneficial to your body in various ways [6] [7] [8] [9] .

1. Boosts immune system

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of hawthorn helps to strengthen your immune system. The antioxidants help eliminate the dangerous toxins from the body. Along with that, the vitamin C in hawthorn also helps to boost the white blood cells activity, thereby improving the functioning of your immune system.

2. Improves heart health

Hawthorn is widely known for its ability to improve and maintain one's heart health. Used in both traditional and modern medicine, hawthorn helps to reduce the chances of cardiovascular issues by increasing stamina, reducing shortness of breath, boosting energy and eliminating fatigue. It is extremely beneficial in treating angina, chest pain caused by decreased blood flow to the heart. Studies have revealed that hawthorn can be used as an effective natural remedy for avoiding and treating angina [10] .

Apart from these, the proanthocyanidins in hawthorn are asserted to reduce the tension of the blood vessel walls, protecting your heart. The organic compounds, saponins, catechins, and other beneficial antioxidants in hawthorn are extremely beneficial in destroying the dangerous free radicals affecting heart health.

3. Stabilizes blood pressure

The nutritional properties of hawthorn help stabilise blood pressure levels. If the blood pressure is too low, hawthorn can help regain it and likewise, if the levels are too high, hawthorn helps to bring it back to normal. This, in turn, aid in establishing a healthy blood pressure in your system, thereby protecting your body against hypotension and hypertension.

4. Improves digestion

Hawthorn berries and hawthorn extract have been used for treating digestive issues, particularly indigestion and stomach pain since ages. The fibre content in hawthorn berries aid digestion by reducing constipation and acting as a prebiotic. It is also beneficial in eliminating bloating, cramping and even ulcers[11] .

5. Fights cholesterol

Hawthorn helps to eliminate bad cholesterol and boosts good cholesterol in your body [12] . The flavonoids in the herb treat the imbalanced cholesterol levels as well as blood fat levels (high triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol) and avoid the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels. A 2016 study revealed that hawthorn not only reduced the overall high cholesterol levels but also decreased LDL cholesterol, liver cholesterol and triglycerides[13] .

6. Boosts metabolism

Possessing metabolism-boosting properties, hawthorn improves your metabolism and helps break plateau. By doing so, it burns a lot of calories from your body and allows your metabolism to function at optimal levels [12] .

7. Aids weight loss

As aforementioned, hawthorn boosts your metabolism rates which, in turn, results in the burning up of calories. If you are looking forward to losing some weight in a healthy manner, incorporate hawthorn into your diet.

Note: Consult a doctor before incorporating hawthorn into your daily diet.

8. Prevents cancer

The powerful antioxidant property of hawthorn makes it beneficial in the fight against cancer growth. The antioxidants in hawthorn aid by preventing the development and destroying the free radicals in your body. It also helps cleanse your body from external toxins and cleanse your system[14] .

9. Treats insomnia

Controlled and prescribed consumption of hawthorn is known to help treat your lack of sleep. Hawthorn is known to help improve one's sleeping patterns and ensure a good night's sleep without any hindrances.

10. Reduces anxiety

Since ages, hawthorn has been used in treating psychological conditions such as stress, anxiety, and even depression. Consuming hawthorn helps to improve one's mood and increase overall energy. By positively impacting your hormonal levels, it can help you feel at ease [15] .

11. Improves vision

The vitamin A content in Hawthorn is the reason behind it being recommended for improving eye health. Its vitamin A content helps improve and maintain one's eyesight and vision and even prevent cataracts [16].

Healthy Hawthorn Recipes

1. Hawthorn cordial recipe (for heart health)

Ingredients [17]

  • 1 cup dried hawthorn berries
  • 1 apple, chopped, seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dried hibiscus
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 cups brandy

Directions

  • Place all the herbs, fruits and spices in a jar.
  • Add the pomegranate juice and honey.
  • Fill the jar the rest of the way with brandy.
  • Infuse this for 4 weeks, shaking often.
  • Strain it and keep it stored in a dark, cool location and is best consumed within 1 year.

2. Hawthorn tea

Ingredients

  • Hawthorn berries, dried
  • 500 ml of water
  • Honey for taste

Directions

  • Boil water for two minutes on the stove.
  • Drop 4 to 5 berries into the boiling water.
  • Reduce heat and steep for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Strain the berries and pour the tea into a cup.
  • Add honey for taste.

Side Effects Of Hawthorn

Excessive consumption of hawthorn can cause the following side effects in some people [18] [19] .

  • Upset stomach
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Heart irregularities
  • Mood swings
  • Nosebleeds
  • Insomnia

Some of the precautions to be considered are as follows [20] :

  • Avoid consuming hawthorn if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Do not give hawthorn products to children.
  • Some medications such as digoxin, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs), nitrates, phenylephrine and phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors interact with hawthorn.
View Article References
  1. [1] Zhang, Z., Chang, Q., Zhu, M., Huang, Y., Ho, W. K., & Chen, Z. Y. (2001). Characterization of antioxidants present in hawthorn fruits. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 12(3), 144-152.
  2. [2] Chang, Q., Zuo, Z., Harrison, F., & Chow, M. S. S. (2002). Hawthorn. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 42(6), 605-612.
  3. [3] Rigelsky, J. M., & Sweet, B. V. (2002). Hawthorn: pharmacology and therapeutic uses. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 59(5), 417-422.
  4. [4] Bahorun, T., Gressier, B., Trotin, F., Brunet, C., Dine, T., Luyckx, M., ... & Pinkas, M. (1996). Oxygen species scavenging activity of phenolic extracts from hawthorn fresh plant organs and pharmaceutical preparations. Arzneimittel-forschung, 46(11), 1086-1089.
  5. [5] Guo, R., Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2008). Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1).
  6. [6] Chang, W. T., Dao, J., & Shao, Z. H. (2005). Hawthorn: potential roles in cardiovascular disease. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 33(01), 1-10.
  7. [7] Pittler, M. H., Schmidt, K., & Ernst, E. (2003). Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure: meta-analysis of randomized trials. The American journal of medicine, 114(8), 665-674.
  8. [8] Nojima, S., Linn, C., Morris, B., Zhang, A., & Roelofs, W. (2003). Identification of host fruit volatiles from hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) attractive to hawthorn-origin Rhagoletis pomonella flies. Journal of chemical ecology, 29(2), 321-336.
  9. [9] Quettier-Deleu, C., Voiselle, G., Fruchart, J. C., Duriez, P., Teissier, E., Bailleul, F., ... & Trotin, F. (2003). Hawthorn extracts inhibit LDL oxidation. Die Pharmazie-An International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 58(8), 577-581.
  10. [10] Fong, H. H., & Bauman, J. L. (2002). Hawthorn. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 16(4), 1-8.
  11. [11] Tankanow, R., Tamer, H. R., Streetman, D. S., Smith, S. G., Welton, J. L., Annesley, T., ... & Bleske, B. E. (2003). Interaction study between digoxin and a preparation of hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha). The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 43(6), 637-642.
  12. [12] Bahorun, T., Aumjaud, E., Ramphul, H., Rycha, M., Luximon‐Ramma, A., Trotin, F., & Aruoma, O. I. (2003). Phenolic constituents and antioxidant capacities of Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn) callus extracts. Food/Nahrung, 47(3), 191-198.
  13. [13] Özcan, M., Hacıseferoğulları, H., Marakoğlu, T., & Arslan, D. (2005). Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) fruit: some physical and chemical properties. Journal of Food Engineering, 69(4), 409-413.
  14. [14] Tadić, V. M., Dobrić, S., Marković, G. M., Ðorđević, S. M., Arsić, I. A., Menković, N. R., & Stević, T. (2008). Anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, free-radical-scavenging, and antimicrobial activities of hawthorn berries ethanol extract. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 56(17), 7700-7709.
  15. [15] Kirakosyan, A., Seymour, E., Kaufman, P. B., Warber, S., Bolling, S., & Chang, S. C. (2003). Antioxidant capacity of polyphenolic extracts from leaves of Crataegus laevigata and Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn) subjected to drought and cold stress. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 51(14), 3973-3976.
  16. [16] Sokół-Łętowska, A., Oszmiański, J., & Wojdyło, A. (2007). Antioxidant activity of the phenolic compounds of hawthorn, pine and skullcap. Food chemistry, 103(3), 853-859.
  17. [17] Learning Herbs. (2018, Jun 31). Hawthorn for the Heart (Plus a Hawthorn Cordial Recipe) [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/hawthorn-cordial-recipe/
  18. [18] Chang, Q., Zuo, Z., Chow, M. S., & Ho, W. K. (2006). Effect of storage temperature on phenolics stability in hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida var. major) fruits and a hawthorn drink. Food Chemistry, 98(3), 426-430.
  19. [19] Dehghani, S., Mehri, S., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2019). The effects of Crataegus pinnatifida (Chinese hawthorn) on metabolic syndrome: A review. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 22(5), 460-468.
  20. [20] Wang, S. Z., Wu, M., Chen, K. J., Liu, Y., Sun, J., Sun, Z., ... & Liu, L. T. (2019). Hawthorn Extract Alleviates Atherosclerosis through Regulating Inflammation and Apoptosis Related Factors: An Experimental Study. Chinese journal of integrative medicine, 25(2), 108-115.
Story first published: Sunday, May 5, 2019, 10:00 [IST]
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