Hawthorn, also known as Mayblossom or Mayflower, is a medicine for the heart on all levels and one of the oldest known medicinal plants. Centuries ago tribes across the northern hemisphere, from North America to China, used this small thorny tree as a wonderful treatment. For instance its berries were the favourite of the Native American Indians as a heart tonic and used against gastrointestinal complaints.
But hawthorn’s effectiveness as an heart medicine was first described by AncientGreek physician, Dioscorides, in the first Century AD. Medical herbal research then has validated this use nowadays, and we can all benefit from it.
How does it look like?
All the parts of this amazing plant (leaves, berries, and flowers) except for the root, can be used to create an herbal medication. As a plant species, hawthorn was only native to the northern hemisphere, where there are a variety of different types, which produce slightly different fruits. The most common hawthorn fruit is quite small, has a berry shape and is tart, red to pink in color. If you noticed, I did not say that they are berries, but that they have a “berry shape”. This is because they contain a single seed stone inside, much like peaches or plums.
How does it work?
Physiologically hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, relax the the blood vessels further from the heart, and increase the transmission of nerve signals. It seems that all these effects are due to a component called proanthocyanidin.
Research also suggests that hawthorn can lower the accumulation of fats in the liver and the bloodstream levels of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). All these thanks to the increase of the excretion of bile, the reduction of the formation of cholesterol, and the enhance of the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.
In 2002 a 10 week study was conducted on 38 volunteers who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Half of the subjects were given 500mg of Hawthorn extract and 600mg of the mineral Magnesium daily, while the other half received a placebo.
After 10 weeks, the Hawthorn/Magnesium group showed a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure, whilst the placebo group did not improve. Additionally, the Hawthorn/Magnesium group reported an improvement in mood as well as lower anxiety levels.
- Improves heart health
- Stabilizes blood pressure
- Reduces chest pain
- Boost the immune system
In addition to the antioxidants eliminating dangerous toxins from the body, the vitamin C contained in hawthorn also helps in boosting the activity of your white blood cells to increase your overall health.
- Reduces anxiety
Very often, this herb was offered to people who had recently had a broken heart, a loss of a family member, etc. because it was said to improve mood and mend a broken heart. Enzymatically, it turns out that hawthorn may have an impact on our hormonal levels, which then would explain why in the past it was believed so.
- Increases energy
Hawthorn is known to expand the coronary blood vessels, which allows for more blood to be circulated through the body, which can result in a higher level of energy or alertness.
- Improves digestion
- Helps against skin conditions
The antioxidant content in hawthorn makes it useful for applying topically to the skin, particularly on burns, sores, or acne.
On an energetical level, this amazing herb can be used as an energy medicine for the heart. Infact as a flower essence, hawthorn helps open the heart to giving and receiving love, and can help in healing heartache. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance. As with many heart-acting energy remedies, hawthorn helps us to develop courage.
Interactions and side effects
Hawthorn is a gentle medicine that, when indicated, is safe and effective for long term use. It is also safe to use with common cardiovascular medications, but in some people, hawthorn can cause nausea, stomach upset, fatigue, sweating, headache, dizziness, palpitations, nosebleeds, insomnia, agitation, and other problems.
This herb is definetely not indicated if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or you recently had or are going to have surgery.
Hawthorn can also interact with prescription medications (such as digoxin or some beta-blockers), so you must always check with your doctor or medical herbalist before embarking on an herbal treatment plan!