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Hawthorn

Botanical name(s):

Crataegus oxyacantha

Other name(s):

English hawthorn, haw, May, Mayblossom, Maybush, Mayflower, whitethorn

General description

The hawthorn is a woody shrub or small tree. It has thorns and brightly colored fruit.

In Europe, hawthorn is used as a prescription and an over-the-counter heart tonic. This herb isn’t as well-known in the U.S.

Hawthorn contains flavonoids. These may interact with key enzymes to enhance the heart muscles ability to contract. They may also increase blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscles. Hawthorn is said to help treat angina pectoris and ischemia. It may also treat hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Medically valid uses

Hawthorn became a popular herbal remedy in Europe and North America toward the end of the 19th century. Findings from test-tube, animal, and a few human studies show that hawthorn may be safe and effective for mild heart failure. But there is contradictory information about the effects of hawthorn extract in people heart failure. More studies are needed. People with heart failure shouldn’t take hawthorn.  

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through studies.

Hawthorn is said to act as a calmative. This affects the nervous system and nerve function. It may cause a mild sedative effect. It may also act as a circulatory stimulant. This means it improves circulation.

It’s also claimed to reduce the risk for atherosclerosis. It may also slow down the central nervous system. Hawthorn may also relieve chronic insomnia. It may also help circulation in swollen legs and feet.

Dosing format

Hawthorn comes as oral capsules, dried leaves or flowers, infusion, liquid extract, or tincture.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Hawthorn is tolerated well by most people at normal doses. However, it’s a potent herb. It can cause sedation and very low blood pressure at high doses. For this reason, you should only take hawthorn under the care of a healthcare provider.

Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use hawthorn.

German health authorities say that people shouldn’t take the herb for more than six weeks at a time.

Note that hawthorn won’t stop an angina attack.

You shouldn’t take hawthorn with other heart medicines. These include digitalis. Don’t take sedatives or sleeping medicines while taking hawthorn. You also shouldn’t take hawthorn if you’re taking phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors. These include sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Poulson, Brittany, RD, CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.
Last Review Date: 8/1/2016