Family Name: Rosaceae
Fact Sheet 1
Fact Sheet 2
Fact Sheet 1
Scientific Name: Crataegus oxyacanthoides
Part Used: Leaves, flowering tops, fruits
In a Word: Heart Health Plant
Uses: Prevents damage to the heart and heals a damaged heart
Statistically speaking, vascular disease, heart attack and stroke will claim the lives of many of the people we know. Despite this fact, heart attacks and strokes always come as a surprise. For those of us with vascular disease in the family or in the office, the prospect of going out of the game clutching our throats, gasping for air, is a frightening and realistic possibility. If you suspect vascular disease is in your future, the time is now to take action to prevent it from ever going from a fear to a bed in the cardio-care ward.
If you want to prevail over an adversary, it is important to understand the adversary in the first instance. Developing a strategy to outwit any enemy, whether vascular disease or a hostile nation, is much the same. When we talk about heart attack or stroke (vascular disease) what is really happening? Or more succinctly put, what has happened?
The heart attack or the stroke is really the end consequence of a long process that started many years before either actually occur. Over the years the blood vessels have become damaged to the point they are no longer able to deliver the blood to the heart or the brain. When heart or brain tissue fail to receive the blood they need, tissue dies. If a piece of muscle in the buttocks dies no one takes notice. When a part of the brain or heart dies, it is called a heart attack or stroke and it is a big deal.
When discussing vascular disease the important issue is not the heart attack or the stroke, it is the damage that occurred in the preceding decades that lead to the heart attack or stroke. Thus the strategy of the person trying to avoid vascular disease should be to avoid daily damage to the blood vessels.
Careful eating and regular exercise, are well known cardiovascular disease preventing activities and they represent a good start in a staying well regime. However, despite a thirty-year war on diet, vascular disease has not shifted from being a number one killer. Herbalists feel that these activities are not enough and that those likely to experience either heart attack or stroke need to do more.
Herbalists are aware of several plants that can be used as an added insurance policy against developing vascular disease. Hawthorn, Crataegus oxyacanthoides , is one of the plants heralded as a must for those that see vascular disease in their future.
Hawthorn is by no means a recent discovery. It is native to Europe and can be found growing in the hedgerows throughout central Europe. It has been a folk medicine used to treat heart disease and to prevent heart disease since the earliest day. There is a folk belief in Europe that gives us a good idea as to the disease preventing powers of hawthorn. The country folk will tell you that if there is cardiovascular disease in the family, eating hawthorn berries on a regular basis will prevent heart attacks. Hawthorn hails from folk tradition though doctors in the last century were well aware of its capacity to tone the vascular system.
In a book written by Dr. Harvey Wickes Felter, MD. in 1909, we find a physicians view of hawthorn. “Claims are made for this drug a curative remedy for organic and functional heart disorders, including cardiac hypertrophy, with mitral regurgitation from valvular insufficiency and angina pectoris. The drug should be studied with a view to its adaptability to cases characterized by pain, praecordial oppression, dyspnoea, rapid and feeble heart action, evidence of cardiac hypertrophy, valvular insufficiency, and marked anaemia.”
Dr. Felter was saying that Hawthorn corrected many of the symptoms associated with cardiac disease. Contemporary research has shown that hawthorn is of great use once cardiovascular disease has developed and is probably better used to prevent its development in the first place.
We now know that one of the conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease is hypertension, high blood pressure, as it is known. Chronic high pressure in the blood vessels damages the blood vessels. In time this damage spells both heart attacks and strokes. Hawthorn has been shown to reduce blood pressure thus eliminating one of the major contributing factors to vascular disease.
Free radicals, naturally occurring chemical agents produced by life processes, have been shown to damage the blood vessels and lead to vascular disease. Less than salubrious lifestyles, namely excessive drinking, smoking, and diets rich in animal fats result in more free radicals being produced. Hawthorn contains anti-oxidants, specifically rutin and hyperin, which mop up these damaging free radicals before they have a chance to damage the blood vessels.
Vascular disease often develops as a result of plaque formation on the interior of the blood vessels. These plaques build up in the blood vessel and eventually block blood flow. When the blood can’t make it to the heart and to the brain, heart attacks and strokes, respectively, occur.
These plaques are thought to develop in part due to long term hypertension and excessive free radical production. Rutin, a compound found in Hawthorn, reduces plaque formation. Researchers feel that this anti-plaque activity is due to rutin’s anti-clot formation and anti-oxidant activity.
Herbalists feel that there is more to hawthorn than is currently known. When used on a regular basis, existing vascular disease improves and in cases where it might be expected, it does not develop. There is much more research required for hawthorn, but while that work is being done, more people ought to take advantage of what the old herbalists knew, when vascular disease is a concern, hawthorn needs to be used.
You know, it pays to use what the herbalists use on themselves. Herbalists use hawthorn if they have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease in the family. More over, in Germany today, even the doctors have got into the act and hawthorn is one of the more popular cardiocare medications! Take the hint! Hawthorn must be used regularly and for long periods of time for it to improve existing vascular disease and prevent its development. Free radicals do not damage the blood vessel in one day, it is over thousands of days they do their damage. Hawthorn must be used daily to sweep up these free radicals and keep blood pressure down. Hawthorn is perfectly non-toxic and is safe to be used on a regular basis.
It must be said that it does reduce blood pressure. For this reason, if one is already taking high blood pressure medication, it would be important to discuss using hawthorn with a health practitioner. The combination of high blood pressure medication and hawthorn can result in blood pressure that is too low! Lowered blood pressure is a good thing, too low blood pressure is a not a good thing! The amount of blood pressure medication may need to be reduced and that needs to be done by the person prescribing the blood pressure medication!
History: European folk medicine for heart disease
Science: Research shows it improves heart health & function
Practitioners’ opinion: Must be used long term
Fact Sheet 2
Parts Used: Berries, flowers, and leaves
Remember This: Heart Health Insurance
Reasonable Uses: heart disease (angina, ankle swelling, shortness of breath, leg pain), heart disease in the family, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, memory loss due to poor circulation.
History and Traditional Uses
Popular as a quick-growing hedge and ornamental shrub in England, hawthorn has always been a source of heart healing. Used to treat the symptoms of heart failure including shortness of breath, leg swelling, leg and chest pain, hawthorn was picked from the hedgerow and brewed into a home remedy. A European classic, a trip to the doctor today in Germany might well result in the patient coming home with a prescription for hawthorn! In Europe, it was and still is seen as the herbal medicine for the person with heart troubles.
Scientific Back Up
A heart attack is a long time in the making! For years high blood pressure has been damaging the blood vessels that deliver blood to the heart muscle. Cholesterol has been clogging these damaged blood vessels. Platelets have been sticking to these wounded arteries causing more damage. When these blood vessels can no longer provide the heart muscle with the blood they need, the heart attack happens. It’ s a process not an event.
Hawthorn has been shown to prevent the daily damage that leads to a heart attack! It reduces blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and platelet stickiness. Even in people who have suffered a heart attack, over time, hawthorn has been shown to increase the health of the blood vessels serving the heart muscle.
Herbalists Use It To…
Help the apple fall far, far from the tree
The fact is, if your mother or father died of a heart attack, you are likely to go the same way. That is unless you make other plans! Herbalists suggest those concerned use hawthorn to reduce their risk of ending up in a cardiocare ward.
Everyone knows that high blood pressure is a bad thing. The problem is that many do not like the side effects of chemical high blood pressure medication. Herbalists find hawthorn reduces blood pressure without the unpleasant side effects of its chemical counterparts (fatigue, inability to achieve erection, etc.)
Herbalists feel that when hawthorn is used regularly, symptoms of heart failure improve. There is less angina, leg swelling, and less shortness of breath. Herbalists suggest that if used in combination with health living, people on their way to a bypass surgery might be able to avoid the pleasure.
Heal a heart
Heart attacks damage a damaged heart. They have all the damage that lead to the heart plus the damage caused by the heart attack. Herbalists feel that this heart tonic can actually help the heart heal itself. It should not be used immediately following a heart attack, but, rather once the patients’ condition has stabilised.
Hawthorn works in just about any form. The standardises extracts are popular, but the berries pulled from the tree have been doing the trick for thousands of years!
If you have heart disease, discuss using hawthorn with a health care provider. Have your provider monitor your heart health if you take hawthorn regularly. You may need lower doses of other medicines you take. Hawthorn can reduce blood pressure, use with caution if you suffer from low blood pressure.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Gingko (Gingko biloba)