The healing power of hawthorn.
The leaves, flowers and buds of the hawthorn bush can be eaten and, in Dutch, were known as 'sandwiches with cheese'. During World War II, hawthorn berries were ground to make flour. You can make tea from the young leaves
Archaeological remains tell us that hawthorn fruits have been on the human menu for at least 12,000 years. Hawthorn comes from hagathorn – a thorny hedge - as it was used to fence off land. This hardy shrub is native to Europe and Siberia and was brought to North America where it thrives. West Asia and Northwest Africa have their own varieties, all of which have similar medicinal properties according to herbal medicine research.
Hawthorn’s red berries are healthy supplements for diseases related to the blood and heart.
🌱Hawthorn health benefits:
- Hawthorn helps prevent or slow cardiovascular disease
- Hawthorn is good for the coronary arteries
- Hawthorn is good for all blood vessels
- Hawthorn is good for heart disorders
- Hawthorn counteracts the damage caused by stress and sleep disorders
Hawthorn’s Latin name is Crataegus monogyna, a name given by Dioscorides of ancient Greece; a Greek botanist and physician who worked for the Romans. The name is derived from the Greek word kratos which means 'strength' - hawthorn wood is very hard.Mono refers to the number one and gyna means 'seed'. Plant catalogues might call it single-seeded hawthorn.
In Dutch it is called meidoorn because it is thorny (doorn) and it flowers in the month of May (mei). Other popular names for this shrub are quickthorn, thornapple, May-tree, mayblossom, whitethorn, albaspine or hawberry.
🌱History of the hawthorn
Dioscorides wrote that eating hawthorn berries is good for those suffering from diarrhoea and that it limits menstruation. He also mentioned that it was good for the heart.
In the Middle Ages, hawthorn was used as a remedy for insomnia, dizzy spells, pleurisy, gout, diarrhoea and bleeding.Rembert Dodoens, the pioneer of herbal science in the 16th century, attributed hawthorn's prevention of excessive menstruation to the tannins contained in the plant.
Culpeper wrote in the 17th century that the fruits are good for the heart and help prevent arteriosclerosis. It was not until the 19th century that hawthorn was regularly prescribed for its heart-strengthening properties.
Modern scientific studies confirm this common shrub’s positive effect on the cardiovascular system; it helps treat high blood pressure and is improves coronary artery health.
The flowering tips contain the most nutrients. Hawthorn is packed with dozens of flavonoids, flavonols and flavones as well as aromatic amines, triterpenic acids, phenolic acids, vitamin C, polysaccharides, pectin, amygdalin and beta-sitosterol.
🌱Hawthorn fights cardiovascular disease
Hawthorn is a cardiotonic that supports heart function. It increases the contractile force of the heart muscle and so increases the output of the heart – in medical terminology the ventricular ejection fraction. Flavonoids are mainly responsible for this effect. Hawthorn also supports the regenerative capacity of the heart muscle.
In this capacity, hawthorn is prescribed for:
- Mild heart failure
- Weak heart due to heart muscle damage
- Heart valve injuries
- Heart function in elderly populations
- Recovery of the heart muscle after a heart attack
- Heart weakness after infection
- Endurance sports – hawthorn improves oxygen uptake and so stamina in athletes
🌱Hawthorn for coronary artery health
The coronary arteries exit from the aorta and supply the heart muscle with blood.
This gives the heart muscle the nutrients and oxygen it needs to pump blood around the body.
Hawthorn dilates the coronary arteries which improves blood flow and oxygenation. This lowers the risk of ischemia (oxygen starvation)
In addition, hawthorn prevents acidification of the heart muscle by regulating lactic acid levels. Not only that, this plant also acts as an antioxidant that protects blood vessel walls against lipid peroxidation and free radicals.Oligomeric proanthocyanides help build and stabilize the components of connective tissue around the blood vessels.
These medicinal qualities explain why hawthorn is often prescribed for:
- Reduced circulation in the coronary arteries
- Mild to moderate angor pectoris
- Rehabilitation after myocardial infarction
- Prevention of a second myocardial infarctionHawthorn for efficient blood vessels
Not only the coronary arteries but all blood vessels, even the tiny capillaries, benefit from hawthorn supplements. This herb protects against free radicals and its connective tissue-stabilizing effects around the blood vessels make it extremely useful for the following blood vessel-related diseases:
- Peripheral circulatory disorders
- Blood vessel spasms
- Intermittent claudication
- Raynaud's disease
- Cold hands and feet
- Vascular inflammation
- Cerebral (brain) circulatory disorders
- Ringing in the ears, dizzy spells
- Impaired memory, concentration problems, confusion
- Stroke prevention
🌱Hawthorn for low and high blood pressure
Hawthorn improves high blood pressure and low blood pressure by improving the elasticity and function of the veins and arteries.
🌱Hawthorn for arrhythmias
This medicinal herb has an anti-arrhythmic effect, stabilising the heart rate. It improves stimulus conduction of the nerves that control the heart rate and the heart muscle cells that cause the muscle to contract and relax, reduces oversensitivity and slows a too-rapid heart rate. Flavones that stimulate the vagus nerve are responsible for this action.
Hawthorn is sometimes called 'valerian for the heart' because it has a calming effect on the heart.
These healing properties explain why hawthorn is prescribed for:
- Chest tightness without an underlying pathology
- Arrhythmias or benign cardiac arrhythmias
- Premature heart contractions
- Palpitations and rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
- Mild forms of slow heart rate (when serious heart conditions are excluded)
🌱Stress and sleep disorders
Hawthorns calming and sleep-promoting effects make it a proven therapy for:
- Tension, anxiety, fear, stress, burnout
- Menopausal symptoms
- Excessive sweating due to circulatory disorders
- Moderate insomnia or sleep disorders caused by stress, tension or menopause
- Frequent waking through the nightFurther medicinal uses for hawthorn
The primary healing power of hawthorn focuses on cardiovascular health; however, several other indications also make this plant a powerful healer.
All of the following have been shown to benefit from hawthorn therapy in scientific studies:
- Prevention of atherosclerosis as an antioxidant
- Prevention of petechiae and spider veins through stronger capillary walls
- Treatment of haemorrhoids and varicose veins
- The tannins in the berry help to prevent or stop diarrhoea, as noted by Dodoens in the 16th century
- Purines and essential oils in hawthorn have a weak diuretic effect and can be used to treat oedema
- As an antispasmodic and digestive herb, hawthorn is sometimes prescribed for indigestion, bloating and colicIn two cases, hawthorn does not need to be ingested.
- Gargle a berry tincture to relieve a sore throat or use it as a wash to treat vaginitis.