Hawthorne Berry
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Gymnema  |  Hawthorne Leaf

Botanical:  Crataegus oxyacantha (also called Crataegus laevigata and Crataegus monogyna)
Family:  Rosaceae   (rose)
Other common names:  Crataegus, English Hawthorn, Whitethorn, Mayflower, May Bush, Mayblossom, Quickset, May Tree, Thorn-apple Tree, Quickthorn

Hawthorne Berry is a wonderful and trusted cardiac tonic that is used to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and significantly enhance blood circulation to the heart and brain.  It is used to strengthen the heart and manage angina, myocarditis (inflamed heart) and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Hawthorne (also spelled Hawthorn) is a thorny, deciduous, broadly-spreading hardwood tree or shrub that may grow to a height of twenty-five feet and bears small white flowers that produce red berries that somewhat resemble crabapples. The moderately-fragrant flowers are produced in late spring (May-early June) in panicles, with each flower bearing five white petals.  Later in the year they bear numerous small, oval dark red fruits called haws.  They are berry-like, but structurally are pomes with a single seed.  The bark of the Hawthorne is dull brown with vertical orange cracks, and the younger stems bear sharp thorns, but the young leaves are tasty in salads.  Hawthorne is native to all of Europe, the Mediterranean region, including northwest Africa and west and central Asia, and it now grows in many areas of North America.   The tree is found in roadsides, fields and woods, thriving in most soils, including alkaline, in sun or partial shade, but the fruit is more prolific when growing in an open, sunny position.  The Hawthorne is extensively planted as a hedge, especially for agricultural use.  Its spines and close branching habit render it effectively stock- and human-proof with some basic maintenance.  The traditional practice of hedge-laying is most commonly practiced with this species.  As a matter of fact, its English name, Hawthorne, comes to us from haw, which is an old English word for "hedge."  The tree's name simply means "thorny hedge."  The oldest known living specimen in the United Kingdom is said to be in the small village of Hethel, in Norfolk, and known as "The Hethel Old Thorn" and is reputed to be more than seven hundred years old, having been planted in the thirteenth century!  After the British General Enclosures Act of 1845, Hawthorne was used extensively as hedgerow, because of its thorny nature and quick growth.  Its botanical genus, Crataegus, is derived from the Latin word, meaning "hardness," referring to the quality of the tree's hard wood.  According to Christian tradition, the Crown of Thorns placed on the head of Jesus Christ was made of Hawthorne; and its May blossoms have long been associated with May festivals, i.e., selecting a "May Queen" and "King and Queen of the May."  In Gaelic folklore, Hawthorne marks the entrance to the “realm of the dead” and is strongly associated with the fairies.  Legend tells us that cutting the tree when not in bloom is unlucky, so it is commonly cut in springtime and decorated as the “May Bush.”  The haws are used to make wine, jelly and to add flavor to brandy.  Although Hawthorne was used medicinally in ancient Greece, it fell into obscurity until the nineteenth century, when the secrets of an Irish doctor's effective Hawthorne-enriched heart tonic were revealed, making it extremely popular for that use, and for which it is still acclaimed today.  Derived from the flower, leaves and fruits of the plant, Hawthorne is an important medicinal herb in Europe, the United States and the Orient, where it has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a heart tonic and a treatment for digestive disorders.  But currently, it is used primarily to treat heart failure.  In phytomedicine, Hawthorne usually refers to the fruit, leaf and/or flower, but Hawthorne Leaf is usually recommended and considered to have stronger properties.  The German Commission E in 1984 published one monograph on Hawthorne that included all of its aerial parts, including the berry, and was based on historical experience and many pharmacological studies on various preparations made from the three different plant parts.  Preparations of Hawthorne Berry were applied to the treatment of coronary circulation, coronary complications and weak heart, heart and circulatory disturbances, hypotension and arteriosclerosis.  However, the Commission E has since stated that because the effectiveness of Hawthorne Berry (used by itself) for its claimed applications has not been documented, therapeutic use is not suggested.  According to the Commission, the berry has been utilized traditionally to strengthen and invigorate heart and circulatory function, but these statements are based exclusively on historical record and long experience.  Thus, there are no clinical studies available on Hawthorne Berry alone, although there are copious scientific studies involving Hawthorne Leaf.  Hawthorne Berries are edible, and the haws are used to make wine, jelly and to add flavor to brandy.  Some of the constituents included in Hawthorne are beta-carotene, catechin, pectin, flavonoids (rutin, vitexin glycosides, kaempferol, quercetin), flavone derivatives (apigenin, luteolin), essential fatty acids, saponins, cyanogenetic glycosides, amino acids, amines (phenyletylamine, tyramine, O-methoxyphenethylamine), tannins (condensed proanthocyanidins), oligomeric procyanidins, many valuable minerals (calcium, choline, chromium, iron, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon and magnesium), B-vitamins, and the berries are a rich source of vitamin C.

Beneficial Uses:
Hawthorne Berry is an excellent cardiotonic that supports good heart health and protects it in a variety of ways.  It is thought to be especially effective in the beginning stages of heart disease, as well as speeding up the recovery time after a heart attack.  It is also believed to strengthen a weak heart muscle associated with age, relieve pressure and tightness of the chest, ease angina and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), as well as mild cardiac arrhythmia.  The bioflavonoids found in Hawthorne interact with key enzymes in the heart to increase the pumping force of the heart muscle and eliminate arrhythmia.  Hawthorne is also characterized as having positive inotropic (affecting muscle contraction) effects leading to a strengthened heart rate.  Although the Commission E no longer recognizes this use (due only to lack of clinical studies), Hawthorne Berry preparations have traditionally been shown to combat angina, a condition resulting from insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle.  According to Purdue University professor emeritus, V. E. Tyler, Ph.D., Sc.D., Hawthorne's beneficial effects on cardiac health have beta-blocking activities (drugs prescribed to increase coronary blood flow and help lower blood pressure and heart rate, stopping arrhythmias.)

Good heart health is further supported by Hawthorne's rich flavonoids, which are thought to dilate and open up the blood vessels (as a vasodilator), allowing oxygen-rich blood to get to the heart and reduce the risk of a heart attack.  It is thought that Hawthorne causes direct dilation of smooth muscle in coronary vessels thereby lowering their resistance and increasing blood flow.

Hawthorne Berry’s high vitamin C content helps to strengthen tiny capillaries in the brain, opening them and resulting in more nutrients and oxygen reaching the brain.  Because of its vasodilating properties, Hawthorne helps to stimulate and improve blood circulation to the brain, as well as the heart, and herbalists have long used it to treat age-related memory problems.  Scientific research has identified two ways in which the herb may work.  It appears to lower cholesterol, and since there is less platelet aggregation from cholesterol (blood clotting) in the arteries, this action allows the blood to flow more freely and reach the brain's tissues.

Improved capillary health is also known to relieve conditions such as blood shot eyes, glaucoma, swollen ankles and varicose veins.

Hawthorne reduces cholesterol and regulates blood pressure (both high and low), but when taken for at least eight weeks, is thought to be effective in lowering pressure, since its action develops slowly. It also appears to increase the liver's conversion of LDLs (bad cholesterol) into HDLs (good cholesterol) that do not clog arteries, which helps to stop plaque formation.  This is also beneficial in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart attack and strokes.

Hawthorne Berry may be of great help for arthritis and osteoporosis.  The anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins in the herb help to stabilize collagen in cartilage, reducing joint damage, and it is thought to prevent the formation of thromboxane-A2, a hormone involved in inflammatory processes. Hawthorne is said to stabilize the collagen in the bone itself, thereby helping to counter osteoporosis.

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) may be helped by the use of Hawthorne.  By increasing blood circulation to the brain and stopping inflammatory responses caused by allergies, the herb is believed to have a sedative effect on the central nervous system.  The sedative effect has also been used to treat insomnia and nervous tension.

Some preliminary research has claimed that Hawthorne Berry may be effective against certain serious diseases.  Its rutin content is a bioflavonoid that appears to accelerate the death of leukemia cells and Burkitt's lymphoma and may also deactivate plasmin, a chemical that allows cancerous growths to spread throughout the body.  According to (Upton et al., 1999a), the proanthocyanidins in the Berry "possess a higher degree of polymerization, a characteristic that reportedly increases antioxidant activity."

If diagnosed with angina, cardiac arrhythmias or congestive heart failure, use Hawthorne Berry only under the supervision of a physician.  Large amounts (more than the recommended dosage) of Hawthorne Berry may result in sedation or dramatic drop in blood pressure.  Signs of overdose include hypotension and arrhythmias.  Using Hawthorne may potentiate the effects of some pharmaceutical heart medications - consult with your physician before using this product, as the medication dosage may need to be lowered.  Use with caution in cases of colitis and ulcers. Children and pregnant or nursing women should not use Hawthorne Berry unless directed by a physician. Taking Hawthorne and medicines used to treat or prevent blood clots together may cause your blood to be too thin, making you bleed or bruise more easily.  Also, taking Hawthorne and Sulfinpyrazon (which is used to treat gout and may also be used to treat certain blood diseases) together may cause your blood to be too thin.

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