Hawthorn berry benefits: A Greek shepherd once asked his neighbor how he managed to raise such robust, agile, and healthy goats. The shepherd wanted to know because summer in the Mediterranean ended, and food for livestock was scarce. The dry and rocky fields do not produce much food for mammals at that time of the year.
The neighbor told the shepherd about a plant with spiky shrubs and red berries and told him to feed them to his goats. A few days later, the shepherd noticed a significant difference. The goats became stronger than ever before. They never seemed to get tired while climbing the slopes during the heat of the Greek summer.
Perhaps this shepherd’s experience was known by Dioscorides, an acute observer, brilliant botanical, and outstanding physician, who recommended this plant to give strength to the body and heal several afflictions. Maybe its scientific name Crataegus arises from such an episode since, according to Greek, it means “strong goats.”
Hawthorn berry benefits have already been widely known. However, the experimental knowledge, which was based upon its effects on goats, could not be scientifically proven until the 19th century. Jennings and other American physicians of that time studied the cardiotonic properties of hawthorn.
Currently, hawthorn berry benefits are well recognized. It is considered to be a medicinal herb and is a part of many phytotherapeutic preparations.
How to Use Hawthorn
Thanks to hawthorn berry benefits, it is among the most effective vegetal remedies for treating tachycardia, high blood pressure, and other dysfunctions with a nervous cause.
- Infusion with 60 g of flowers (some four tablespoons) per liter of water. Fresh flowers are more effective than dried ones. Drink three or four cups daily.
- Fresh fruits: Though with a lower concentration of active components, they are also useful, and a handful could be eaten three times a day.
- Dry extract: The recommended dose varies from 0.5 to 1 g, three times a day.
Hawthorn Scientific Facts
- Synonyms: May bush, May tree, quickset, thorn-apple tree, whitethorn
- French: Aubepine, epiniere
- Spanish: Espino blanco, Espino albar
- Habitat: Common in all forests of Europe and naturalized in America
- Description: Spiky shrub of the Rosaceae family, growing from two to four meters high. Deciduous, three or five-lobulated leaves; white, aromatic flowers; red berries
- Parts used: The flowers and the fruits
Hawthorn Berry Benefits: Healing Properties and Uses
The many hawthorn benefits come from its flowers, but also its fruits. The plant contains diverse flavonic glycosides, chemically polyphenols, to which it owes its therapeutic action on the heart and the circulatory system. Other beneficial compounds include triterpenic derivatives and several biogenic amines (trimethylamine, choline, tyramine, etc.), enhancing its cardiotonic effect.
- Hawthorn berry benefits (1) Cardiotonic: This is a property attributed mainly to flavonoids, which prevent ATPase, an enzyme that catalyzes the splitting of ATP, the substance that serves as a source of energy for cells, including those of the heart muscle. When impeding ATP’s destruction, cells have more energy; thus, there is an increase in the heart rate’s contractile strength. Hawthorn also has the following uses:
– Coronary insufficiency (heart weakness), with or without dilation of its cavities, due to myocarditis or myocardiopathy )inflammation or degeneration of the heart muscle), valve lesions, or recent myocardial infarction.
– Arrhythmia (disorders of the heartbeat rate): extrasystole (palpitations), tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, or blocking.
– Angina pectoris: Hawthorn increases the amount of blood in the coronary arteries and fights their spasms, which causes angina pectoris. It is a good vasodilator of coronary arteries.
The cardiotonic and antiarrhythmic effect of hawthorn is similar to that obtained with the foxglove plant, which it can substitute with favorable results (except in acute cases). Hawthorn lacks the toxicity and the accumulative risk typical of foxglove.
- Hawthorn berry benefits (2) Balancing of blood pressure: Hawthorn has a balancing effect on blood pressure since it decreases it in hypertensive people and increases it in hypotensive people. Its balancing action of hypertension is evident and rapid, achieving more lasting effects than with other synthetic anti-hypertensives.
- Hawthorn berry benefits (3) Sedative: This herb has a soothing effect on the nervous system. It is helpful in those persons suffering from nervousness that shows itself through a sensation of heart oppression, tachycardia, breathing difficulty, anxiety, or insomnia. It is one of the most effective anxiolytic plants (which eliminate anxiety) known.
Other Hawthorn Species
The Crataegus oxyacantha L. is a hawthorn species that coexists with the Crataegus monogyna L., the components of both species being practically similar. The difference is that the berries of the oxyacantha have two or three seeds, while those of the monogyna only have one.
Warning: In high doses (12 to 15 times more than recommended) may produce bradycardia (slowing of the heartbeat rate) and respiratory depression. With the recommended doses, there are no undesirable side effects.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 219,220. Print. [hawthorn berry benefits]