Hawthorn is the name of a large group of shrubs and small trees in the genus Crataegus, family Rosaceae, characterized by their small, apple-like fruits and thorny branches. The original name was applied to the species native to northern Europe, especially the Common Hawthorn, C. monogyna, but is now applied to the entire genus. Common names for hawthorns include may, mayblossom, quick, thorn, whitethorn, haw hazels, gazels, halves, hagthorn, and bread and cheese tree. Hawthorn is a deciduous, thorny, shrubby tree, growing to twenty-five feet in height and producing small, glossy, green leaves, white flowers that have an unpleasant smell and bitter red to blue berries. The leaves are alternated, stalked, divided into 3–5 lobes and grayish-green on the underside. Five-petaled white flowers are sometimes pink in bud and are carried in clusters between 12 and 50. Hawthorn's flowers, leaves, and fruit (berries) are used as medicine.
Active constituents of hawthorn
The constituents include flavonoids, oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs), chlorogenic acid, amines, tannins, cyanogenetic glycosides and saponins. The primary ingredients responsible for the pharmacologic effects of hawthorn include flavonoids and procyanidins. Flavonoids found in hawthorn include vitexin, vitexin 4'-O-rhamnoside, quercetin, and hyperoside. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants. They help increase the amount of vitamin C inside the cells and stabilize the nutrient by protecting it from oxidative damage. These flavonoids increase myocardial contraction by dilating coronary blood vessels, reducing peripheral resistance, and reducing oxygen consumption. They also lower blood pressure by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzymes. Oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) slow the heart rate, lengthening the refractory period, and also have mild CNS depressant effects. Trimethylamine, found in the flowering tops, stimulates the circulation and is widely used as a heart tonic. Quercetin are antiarrhythmic and antihepatotoxic. Luteolin is an effective smooth muscle relaxant and protects the heart lipids against doxorubicin-induced lipid peroxidation.
Medicinal uses and health benefits of hawthorn
Hawthorne is used to cure insomnia, prevent miscarriage, heart ailments, strengthening muscles, prevent arteriosclerosis, angina, poor heart action and for treating nervousness. Hawthorn is a cardio (heart) tonic and is used for its stimulating and sedating properties. Hawthorn increases blood flow to the heart by dilating the coronary arteries, lowers blood pressure and eases the heart's workload by dilating arteries in the arms and legs, and increases the force of the heart's contractions. It strengthens the force of each contraction of the heart and slows the heart rate down when necessary. Hawthorn in combination with other herbs may help to reduce anxiety and anxious mood. Hawthorn is effective for curing insomnia. Hawthorn is used to prevent miscarriage and for treating nervousness. Infusions from the flowers or leaves help improve poor circulation and restore blood pressure to normal levels. Hawthorn, combined with ginkgo biloba, is used to enhance poor memory by improving the blood circulation within the head, thereby increasing the amount of oxygen to the brain. Hawthorn has also been used as an active ingredient for revitalization and regeneration, regulation, and stimulation of the immune system and in the early metaphylaxis of treated cancer patients.
Dosage and administration of hawthorn
Recommended dosing for hawthorn varies depending on the condition being treated and the product being used. Standardized hawthorn should have 2.2% bioflavonoids or 18.75% oligomeric procyanidins. Recommended dosage of dried extract is to take 160 to 900 milligram every day divided into two to three doses for those with congestive heart failure. Hawthorn and its extracts can take up to two weeks to produce effects. For maximum benefit, they must be taken for at least 4–8 weeks.
Side effects, precautions, interactions
Excessive intake of hawthorn can produce sedation, dizziness, hypotension, cardiac arrhythmias, and tremors. Due to possible effects on the uterus, pregnant women should not take hawthorn. Patients who are sensitive to other types of Rosaceae plants should not take hawthorn. Hawthorn can potentiate cardiac glycoside action of digitalis. Hawthorn may enhance the activity of digoxin, a medication used for irregular heart rhythms.