Hawthorn — Crataegus oxyacanthoides

Hawthorn treeFamily: Rosaceae

Part used: Flowers, leaves, fruit.

Herbal action: cardiotonic, cardioprotective, antioxidant, astringent, hypotensive, antiarrhythmic

Indications: cardiac failure, myocardial weakness, paroxysmal tachycardia, extrasystole, cardiac angina, hypertension, atherosclerosis, chronic nephritis

Medicinal uses: Hawthorn is used to improve coronary circulation, increasing blood flow and relieving the angina associated with ischemic conditions. It is long-term remedy however, and rather than exerting the rapid inotropic effect of the digitaloides, Hawthorn gradually improves degenerative changes to the heart muscle by nutrient means and activating energy reserves. Hawthorn also has a beneficial effect upon cardiac arrhythmia, tachycardia and extrasystole, used as a more or less symptomatic remedy that should begin to exert its effects with 20-30 minutes after oral administration. Based on these observations, Hawthorn for use in aged, “senile hearts,” in any weakness of the myocardium after infectious diseases (e.g. pneumonia, influenza), in cardiac arrhythmia, and in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis. Hawthorn, is also indicated when shortness of breath, mitral regurgitation, and anemia as indications, as well as “…heart-strain, due to over-exertion or accompanying nervous explosions”. More recently, Hawthorn has been used by herbalists to treat anxiety and panic disorders, with many considering Hawthorn to be a specific for a ‘broken heart,’ feelings of resentment and anger, as well as a sense of spiritual disconnection. Both David Winston and Mathew Wood list it useful for “wandering mind” especially attention deficit disorder.

Hawthorn is also tonifying to the large arterial vessels.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the rather sour Crataegus pinnatifida fruit (Shan zha) is used to enhance digestive function. Hawthorn berries are heavily used in China as part of weight loss formulas as it expels phlegm, dissolves food and stagnation. This gives us a good look at how it works on the lipid metabolism in the body. It helps the digestion of meats and fats. As recently as the Renaissance, hawthorn berries were served with meat to help with digestion.