English hawthorn, haw, May, Mayblossom, Maybush, Mayflower, whitethorn
The hawthorn is a woody shrub or small tree with thorns and brightly colored fruit.
In Europe, hawthorn is used both as a prescription and an over-the-counter heart tonic. Although this herb is not well known in the United States, more Americans, including physicians, are now contemplating various uses for it.
Hawthorn contains flavonoids, which interact with key enzymes to enhance the heart muscles ability to contract ,as well as increase blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscles. Hawthorn is useful in the treatment of angina pectoris, ischemia and atherosclerosis.
Medically Valid Uses:
Hawthorn became a popular herbal remedy in Europe and North America toward the end of the 19th century, when its heart-healing properties were discovered.
Findings from test-tube, animal and a handful of human studies are showing that standardized extracts of hawthorn may help the heart in a number of ways. The most important action of hawthorn is that it dilates blood vessels, especially the coronary blood vessels.
Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.
Hawthorn has been used for relieving insomnia and nervous disorders. It has also been used externally as a poultice to treat embedded splinters, felons and whitlows. The herb is high in vitamins C and B-complex. Hawthorn reportedly acts as a cardiac tonic (invigorates and strengthens the heart), as a vasodilator (affects the nervous system and nerve function due to its ability to dilate the blood vessels), as a calmative (affects nervous system and nerve function due to its ability to cause a mild sedative effect) and as a circulatory stimulant (improves circulation).
It is also claimed to possibly improve blood circulation, stabilize blood pressure, strengthen the heart muscle, reduce the risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and slow down the central nervous system. Finally, hawthorn may be helpful in relieving cardiac insufficiency and chronic insomnia, and in improving circulation in swollen legs and feet.
An infusion is made with one teaspoon (1.8 grams) of dried leaves and flowers in water taken two to three times per day. The common dose for tincture is one teaspoon taken morning and night for several weeks. Two to three 455-mg capsules can be taken two to three times per day.
Hawthorn can be found as capsules, dried leaves or flowers, infusion, liquid extract or tincture.
Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:
Taken in recommended doses, hawthorn is tolerated well by most people. However, herbalists strongly urge that hawthorn be taken only under the guidance of a doctor because hawthorn is a potent herb. Sedation and dangerously low blood pressure can develop if it is taken in doses substantially higher than recommended.
Children and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid using hawthorn.
German health authorities recommend that people should not take the herb for more than six weeks at a time.
Hawthorn will not stop an angina attack.
Do not take hawthorn with other heart medications such as digitalis. Do not take sedatives or sleeping medications while taking hawthorn.
Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.
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Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1997.
The US Department of Agriculture publications.
Peirce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association: Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York, NY: Stonesong Press; 1999.
Tyler V. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. New York, NY: Haworth Press, Inc.; 1993.
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