Hawthorn Protects the Heart
For centuries, hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) has traditionally been used to treat angina, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disorders. By the turn of the 19th century, European and American physicians frequently prescribed hawthorn for heart-related conditions. For the last several decades, studies have repeatedly shown that certain compounds in this herb are cardioprotective due to their antioxidant effects and may be useful in treating mild-to-moderate heart failure.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, hawthorn contains a class of flavonoids known as oligomeric procyandins, which are capable of inhibiting localized inflammatory responses and promoting healthy enzyme activity. Hawthorn also contains quercetin, another flavonoid with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Collectively, these compounds stop free radicals from causing damage to cells and tissue due to oxidative stress.
For instance, in a paper published in the Aug. 17, 2010 issue of Phytomedicine, researchers at Ohio State University noted that resonance studies have shown that hawthorn extracts neutralize superoxide, hydroxyl, and peroxyl radicals in cultured cell samples. The researchers also reported that the administration of a hawthorn extract provided a protective effect in heart models induced with ischemia-reperfusion injury, meaning that there was a recovery after a period of reduced blood flow (ischemia) and tissue damage (reperfusion) did not occur when blood supply was restored. The scientists speculate that blocking certain oxidation pathways led to these results, most notably the suppression of creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase and xanthine oxidase.
The University of Maryland Medical Center gives the standard dosage for treating heart failure as 160 to 900 mg daily, standardized to contain 18 to 20 percent oligomeric procyanidins. Alternatively, many herbalists recommend drinking tea made from hawthorn leaves, flowers or berries to promote heart health. However, check with your health care provider before using hawthorn if you have high blood pressure or are taking any medications.
University of Maryland Medical Center: Hawthorn
Phytomedicine; Cardioprotective properties of Crataegus oxycantha extract against ischemia-reperfusion injury; Swaminathan JK et al.; 2010 Aug;17(10):744-52.