Hawthorn Tree (Crataegus oxycantha) - Side Effects and Benefits

Botanical Name of Hawthorn Tree: Crataegus oxycantha, from the Greek, kratos, meaning hard, and oxus, meaning sharp, and akantha, meaning "a thorn".

Other Common Names: Hagedorn, Haw, Hazels, Gazels, Ladies Meat, Bread and Cheese Tree , Mayblossom, Hedgethorn, Maybush, Mayflower, Whitethorn.

Habitat: Hawthorn is usually grown from cuttings as the seed can take eighteen months to germinate. This woody tree grows in temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. And as one of its common names implies, Hawthorn is often used as a hedge.

Plant Description: The Hawthorn tree grows to a considerable height of 10m, and is known to live to a great age. The white rose like flowers attract carrion insects, such as flies, as the pungent smell of decomposition is a factor in the flower’s aroma. The red fruit is rich in bioflavonoids and is the most common part employed in herbal medicine. Historically, Hawthorn was used as a food as much as a medicine, although today its reputation is as a circulatory tonic.

Plant Parts Used: Dried haws or berries, green stems and leaves.

Therapeutic Uses and Benefits of Hawthorn

* Hawthorn is primarily used to treat heart disease and its associated illnesses like angina pectoris. Like many heart herbs, Hawthorn improves stroke volume by increasing the amount of blood per heart beat. Blood flow becomes greater as the heart muscle produces a stronger contraction.
* The Hawthorn tree is also used to treat irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and as a result, Hawthorn increases blood flow to all areas of the body while improving circulation by dilating the blood vessels.
* The rich bioflavonoid content of Hawthorn berries assists the circulatory system by strengthening and toning the smooth muscle that makes up the arterial walls, helping to reduce the risk of stroke and aneuryism.
* There are many phytochemicals in Hawthorn, the most important being crataegus acid which is responsible for the vasodilating effect on the arterial walls; while it is the procyanthocyanidins found in Hawthorn that are associated with its beneficial effects on the heart.
* One German study into Hawthorn indicated that this herb normalises blood pressure, not only to treat high blood pressure but to increase blood pressure that is too low. Hawthorn also has a secondary action as a diuretic, a common symptom of heart failure.

Dosage and Administration

Recommended dosage of Hawthorn is 300 to 500mg daily; however improvement will not be noted for six weeks after commencing treatment. It is important to have a medical professional prescribe your individual dose of this herb as it must be taken with a focus on its interaction with other medications. High doses of Hawthorn will act to decrease cardiac output and lower doses will increase cardiac output.

Side Effects and Possible Interactions of The Hawthorn Tree

It is essential to consult your health care professional when altering medications and you should thoroughly investigate how your medications may interact with each other. This is especially important when looking at synthetic heart medications and Hawthorn. Other medications that may interfere with Hawthorn are Asthma medications, Viagra and Clonidine and other cardiac herbs. Pregnant women are advised to avoid Hawthorn as it may increase the risk of miscarriage and there is little information on the effects of this herb on babies and young children. Other side effects of Hawthorn are dizziness, insomnia, sweating and digestive upsets.

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About The Author, Subodh Jain