Hawthorn is a thorny tree that thrives in hedgerows and fields in the temperate regions of Europe and the British Isles. Its name originates from the Greek word kratos meaning strength and refers
to the nature of the wood. Other names include white thorn and hogberry. It blooms in May producing luscious red fruits and hence receives one of its most popular names, May-blossom.
Hawthorn is now a frequently prescribed heart remedy in Europe. A potent antioxidant, it appears to work by opening up blood vessels that feed the heart, thus increasing this muscle's energy supply and enhancing its pumping power. It also helps to relieve mild or stable angina (chest pain), control high blood pressure, strengthen heart function, and reinforce a normal heartbeat. Hawthorn extracts should be standardized to contain at least 1.8% vitexin, also known as vitexin-2"-rhamnoside. This is the herb's primary active ingredient. The leaves, flowers, and berries of hawthorn contain a variety of bioflavonoids that appear to be primarily responsible for the cardiac actions of the plant. Flavonoids found in hawthorn include oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs), vitexin, vitexin 4'-O-rhamnoside, quercetin, and hyperoside. These compounds are often standardized in leaf and flower extracts, which are widely used in Europe.
Hawthorn’s cardio-protective benefits work in three ways: (1) Dilates blood vessels to improve blood flow and lower blood pressur. (2) Deters certain enzymes that can deteriorate heart muscles, thus correcting irregular heartbea. (3) Prevents plaque buildup in the coronary arteries by working as an antioxidant
These 3 effects are especially important to those suffering from mild hypertension, angina, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure. Especially since some heart medications, such as digitalis, may increase the possibility of irregular heart beat even though they work positively to increase the power of the heart. By preventing irregular heartbeat as well as increasing the heart's pumping power, Hawthorn provides an alternative way to treat heart disease. Besides being an amazing heart-remedy, hawthorn is also used to treat insomnia with its power to calm. It is also very beneficial to those suffering from arthritis, as it works to preserve connective tissue protein, otherwise known as collagen.
Like foxglove and the drugs made from it, hawthorn appears to improve the heart's pumping ability. But it offers one very important advantage. Digitalis and some other medications that increase the power of the heart also make it more irritable and liable to dangerous irregularities of rhythm. In contrast, hawthorn has the unique property of both strengthening the heart and stabilizing it against arrhythmias by lengthening what is called the refractory period. This term refers to the short period following a heartbeat during which the heart cannot beat again. Many irregularities of heart rhythm begin with an early beat. Digitalis shortens the refractory period, making such a premature beat more likely, while hawthorn protects against such potentially dangerous breaks in the heart's even rhythm. Also, with digitalis the difference between the proper dosage and the toxic dosage is very small. Hawthorn has an enormous range of safe dosing. Nevertheless, we don't recommend self-treating congestive heart failure! The disease is simply too dangerous. There are also medical treatments (such as ACE inhibitors) that have been proven to save lives in CHF, a benefit that hawthorn may not provide.