More on the Hawthorn berry

Posted By on February 1, 2011

Hawthorn: The Cardiotonic

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berry (Crataegum species) is considered one of the oldest known remedies in European medicine to be used as a cardiotonic. It has traditionally been used in the treatment of arrhythmias, hypertension, angina, atherosclerosis, and congestive heat failure. Researchers believe the benefits of Hawthorn stem from the flavonoids it contains and its ability to dilate blood vessels and increase heart rate. The dilation of blood vessels allows more blood and oxygen to flow into and out of the heart muscle, which consequently supplies the bodies’ organs with more oxygen rich blood. Hawthorns flavonoids, such as oligomeric procyanidins (a.k.a. OPCs) interact with enzymes that increase the efficiency of heart muscle contraction. The berries, leaves, and flowers of the plant are used in herbal preparations, but the leaves and flowers contain a greater concentration of flavonoids.

~Angina is chest pain that is caused from an insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart muscle. It can also be due to a spasm in the coronary artery. Angina often precedes a heart attack and can result from atherosclerosis. One study verified hawthorn’s effectiveness against angina through improvements in ECG in patients that had taken hawthorn for three weeks prior. It showed an increase in blood flow and oxygen delivery to the heart muscle, and a longer time span between angina attacks with exercise.

~Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the organs in the body. Hawthorn is very helpful in the early stages of congestive heart failure and the majority of the randomized double-blind studies conducted have demonstrated this. Patients reported a significant improvement of symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue in over 80% of these studies. One study done to compare the effectiveness of hawthorn to a leading heart prescription medication found that hawthorn did just as well as the prescription medicine in improving symptoms of CHF after two months.

~Atherosclerosis is the buildup of cholesterol containing plaque that collects within the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. An increase in the flow of highly oxygenated blood and improved circulation in the major arteries of the body may reduce the risk of heart attacks associated with atherosclerosis.

~Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) may become life threatening if not properly diagnosed and treated. In a large-scale hawthorn study lasting 8 weeks a significant reduction in arrhythmias were reported independent of the patient’s history of heart failure.

~Hypertension (high blood pressure) is considered a precursor to heart disease. Because there have not been studies done specifically on high blood pressure, evidence is vague, but still existent. Some studies have shown a mild reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and improved heart function. Hawthorn requires at least two to four weeks before any effect on blood pressure is seen.

~High Cholesterol, specifically the bad LDL cholesterol, has been significantly lowered by hawthorn berry extract in animal studies. Not only did it remove LDL from the bloodstream, but it also reduced the production of cholesterol in the livers of rats. Whether or not the potential is as great in humans is still to be discovered.

As you may have noticed, the risk factors for heart disease are interdependent. For instance, high blood pressure or cholesterol can increase the chance of developing atherosclerosis, which increases the possibility of a heart attack that can lead to congestive heart failure. It’s best to cover all the bases when it comes to heart disease prevention, which is why hawthorn berry is such a great choice!

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have medical problems seek a professional.

Works Cited
1.Murray, Michael N.D, Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. 1998. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Revised. 2nd Edition. Prima Publishing. Rocklin, CA, USA.
2.University of Maryland Medical Center. Hawthorn. http://umm.edu/altmed/ConsHerbs/Hawthornch.html Accessed 2/15/07.

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