Hawthorn (Crataegus) is a widely used Chinese herb for the improvement of gastrointestinal and heart health and consumed as food. In Chinese, people used hawthorn for improving digestive health, circulation, shortness of breath, and cholesterol-lowering. Nowadays, it is gaining attention for its potential in enhancing heart function as well as improving cardiovascular health and protective properties. Going through here you will know the benefits of hawthorn berry for the heart as well as cardiovascular health along with safety measures.
Hawthorn berry for the heart and cardiovascular health: benefits and safety
Hawthorn has powerful antioxidant potential. It contains plant flavonoid quercetin and oligomeric procyanidins. Besides, the antioxidant, positive muscular contraction, anti-inflammatory, and anti cardiac remodeling effects and other cardioprotective effects of the hawthorn active ingredients were demonstrated in various in vivo and in vitro experiments.(1) Although mechanisms are not very clear, hawthorn had shown several benefits.
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Hawthorn improves heart function and exercises tolerance
Several high-quality clinical studies demonstrated the improvement of heart function with the consumption of hawthorn. A 2003 meta-analysis of clinical trials in more than 630 peoples found hawthorn extract had improved heart function with significant improvement with shortness of breath and fatigue. (2) A review of fourteen randomized clinical studies, in more than 850 people found hawthorn extract along with conventional medication improved heart function. Researchers found hawthorn extract significantly improved exercise tolerance as well as symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. Reported adverse events were infrequent, mild, and transient; they included nausea, dizziness, and cardiac and gastrointestinal complaints. (3)
Another large randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study included 2681 people, received 900 mg/day of hawthorn extract for 24 months. Researchers concluded that hawthorn can potentially reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac death. (4)
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Decrease blood cholesterol and may prevent oxidative damage to lipid
Oxidation of lipid or cholesterol is one reason for development or atherosclerosis or fatty deposits in blood vessels and narrowing artery. Proper functioning of mitochondria in the heart plays an important role in prevention of the development of cardiovascular disease. Hawthorn maintained the antioxidant status of mitochondria and prevented oxidative damage to mitochondrial lipid in animal study. Apart from that numbers of clinical studies observed flower and leaf preparation of hawthorn had improved lipid profile by reducing triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (1)
In a study of eighty patients aged between 45 and 65 years with chest pain found twelve weeks effects of aerobic exercise and consumption of hawthorn extract significantly reduced the risk of atherosclerosis and heart problems. And importantly researchers did not find the same effects with exercise alone. (5) Apart from that another clinical study also reported a reduction of neutrophil elastase which is secreted during inflammation. (6)
High blood pressure
Hawthorn extract has shown the vasodilating effect which relaxes blood vessel. Numbers of small clinical trials have demonstrated modest blood pressure reduction with hawthorn. A randomized controlled trial in 79 people with type 2 diabetes, observed daily 1200 mg hawthorn extract for 16 weeks showed greater reductions in diastolic blood pressure than the placebo group. (1) Another 10-week study with 500 mg hawthorn extract daily in 36 people with mildly elevated blood pressure, observed a promising reduction in the resting diastolic blood pressure. Furthermore, researchers also observed a trend towards a reduction in anxiety. (7)
However, in contradiction as a similar study in 21 people with mildly elevated blood pressure found no differences in hypertension between the hawthorn-extract and placebo groups. (8) We have to wait for more large research.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme or ACE is a central component of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which controls blood pressure by regulating the volume of fluids in the body. It converts the hormone angiotensin I to the active angiotensin II that constrict the blood vessel. (9) Plant chemical procyanidins involve in inhibition of ACE naturally. (10) And hawthorn contains procyanidins.
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Hawthorn is also used for improving gastrointestinal function including in the case like diarrhea. The dried fruits are traditionally used as a digestive aid. (1) Hawthorn showed moderate bactericidal activity against some gram-positive bacteria pathogenic appearing bacteria. It produced gastroprotective activity depending upon dose. (11) In animal studies it exerts effects like reducing the transit time of food in the digestive system, protecting stomach lining in condition like ulcer. (11, 12)
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Different ways to have Hawthorn
You can have different ways to add hawthorn as leaves, fruits, and also flowers. For example, people used the dried fruits traditionally as a digestive aid and often made into jam, jelly. You can make wine or vinegar by fermenting the fruits. You can also have hawthorn tea or infusion with dried berries, flowers, and leaves of the plant. Or you can also have as a supplement. For most cases of heart health dry extract from hawthorn leaves with flowers had been used.
The daily dosage of Hawthorn
According to one report published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, the minimum effective daily dose of hawthorn extract is 300 mg for improving conditions like heart failure. (13) Clinical trials have used dosages with a range from 160 to 1,800 mg/day hawthorn standardized extracts in divided doses over 3 to 24 weeks. (14) Usually, typical doses are 750–1500 mg daily in three divided dosages.
Side effects and safety
Studies reported no serious safety problems with hawthorn use. However, some people might experience symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and digestive upset. (15) Clinical trials conducted in patients with class II and III congestive heart failure found hawthorn extract 900 mg daily to be safe, but not superior to placebo. (14) However, if you are taking drug then should consult with your physician as it may interact with drug.
Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for educational purpose only, not intended to provide one to one health consultation or replace practice of a qualified practitioner. Different people may have different health condition and may have different reaction to the same food. Hence it has been advised to consult with health care provider before application of any of above information Source and references: 1. Jie Wang, Xingjiang Xiong, and Bo Feng, Effect of Crataegus Usage in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: An Evidence-Based Approach, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 149363 2. Pittler MH, Schmidt K, Ernst E., Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure: meta-analysis of randomized trials, Am J Med. 2003 Jun 1;114(8):665-74 3.Pittler MH, Guo R, Ernst E.,Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure, Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD005312. 4. Holubarsch CJ, Colucci WS, Meinertz T, Gaus W, Tendera M; Survival and Prognosis: Investigation of Crataegus Extract WS 1442 in CHF (SPICE) trial study group.,The efficacy and safety of Crataegus extract WS 1442 in patients with heart failure: the SPICE trial, Eur J Heart Fail. 2008 Dec;10(12):1255-63 5. Leila Jalaly, Gholamreza Sharifi, Mohammad Faramarzi, Alireza Nematollahi, Mahmoud Rafieian-kopaei, Masoud Amiri, and Fariborz Moattar, Comparison of the effects of Crataegus oxyacantha extract, aerobic exercise and their combination on the serum levels of ICAM-1 and E- Selectin in patients with stable angina pectoris, Daru. 2015; 23: 54. 6.Dalli E, Colomer E, Tormos MC, Cosín-Sales J, Milara J, Esteban E, Sáez G., Crataegus laevigata decreases neutrophil elastase and has hypolipidemic effect: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Phytomedicine. 2011 Jun 15;18(8-9):769-75 7.Walker AF, Marakis G, Morris AP, Robinson PA., Promising hypotensive effect of hawthorn extract: a randomized double-blind pilot study of mild, essential hypertension, Phytother Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):48-54 8. Asher GN, Viera AJ, Weaver MA, Dominik R, Caughey M, Hinderliter AL., Effect of hawthorn standardized extract on flow mediated dilation in prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults: a randomized, controlled cross-over trial, BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Mar 29;12:26 9.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angiotensin-converting_enzyme 10. Ottaviani JI, Actis-Goretta L, Villordo JJ, Fraga CG., Procyanidin structure defines the extent and specificity of angiotensin I converting enzyme inhibition, Biochimie. 2006 Mar-Apr;88(3-4):359-65. Epub 2005 Oct 26. 11. Tadić VM, Dobrić S, Marković GM, Dordević SM, Arsić IA, Menković NR, Stević T., Anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, free-radical-scavenging, and antimicrobial activities of hawthorn berries ethanol extract, J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 10;56(17):7700-9 12. Wang X, Zhang C, Peng Y, Zhang H, Wang Z, Gao Y, Liu Y, Zhang H., Chemical constituents, antioxidant and gastrointestinal transit accelerating activities of dried fruit of Crataegus dahurica, Food Chem. 2018 Apr 25;246:41-47 13. Vogel JH et al., Integrating complementary medicine into cardiovascular medicine. A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation Task Force on Clinical Expert Consensus Documents (Writing Committee to Develop an Expert Consensus Document on Complementary and Integrative Medicine), J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005 Jul 5;46(1):184-221. 14.https://www.drugs.com/npp/hawthorn.html 15.https://nccih.nih.gov/health/hawthorn
Very detail post.
Happy to know you find as helpful
Very informative and useful post. Are these berries easily available in the market in India?
Hi, you will find it on amazon. thanks for feedback
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