Heart disease is America’s number one killer. There are several on-going campaigns to raise awareness of this disease and how it can be avoided or prevented. One of the promising foods for treating heart disease that experts are now looking into is hawthorn. Hawthorn, also called crataegus, is native to Europe, North Asia, and North America. Hawthorn can help the heart in many ways. It can make the blood flow easier and widen the arteries to avoid heart attacks, and overall it makes a great addition to any heart-healthy diet.

Heart Disease: How Hawthorn Can Help

Active ingredientThe active ingredients in hawthorn are various bioflavonoids.  The bioflavonoids which can be derived from hawthorn are vitexin, quercetin, oligomeric procyanidins, and hyperoxide. These bioflavonoids are said to give the cardiovascular system better health.

Hawthorn also contains numerous antioxidants. Unlike other cardiovascular stimulants, these antioxidants slowly act on circulatory and cardiovascular disorders via causing dilation of the blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries, and cause some reduction in blood pressure. Thus, hawthorn is active in preventing heart-related diseases.

Health benefits

  • Hawthorn can improve oxygenation: Studies have shown that hawthorn improved oxygenation which, in turn, helps the cells absorb more oxygen from the blood, making them healthier. By providing adequate amounts of oxygen to the cells, hawthorn helps the cells function more efficiently. This will increase the body’s energy, ability to exercise and performance.
  • Hawthorn improves the flow of blood: By improving the flow of blood throughout the body, hawthorn ensures that every part of the body receives nutrients and improves oxygenation. Dilation of the blood vessels may also reduce the chest pain of angina.
  • Hawthorn can fight free radicals: Free radicals harm the body by altering the cell membranes, altering the DNA, and causing the cell to die. Free radicals also cause the body to age more quickly. Hawthorn contains antioxidants which can help fight these free radicals, preventing the cell damage that leads to cancer and other conditions.
  • Hawthorn can prevent plaque build-up in the arteries: Plaque build-up happens when there is too much cholesterol in the blood. When plaque is deposited in the arteries and blood vessels, this may cause heart problems and other cardiovascular disorders. Hawthorn can prevent this build-up of plaque by lowering overall cholesterol from the bloodstream.
  • Hawthorn may help restore normal blood pressure: High blood pressure is a symptom of cardiovascular health problems. By improving the blood circulation in the body, preventing plaque build-up in the arteries, and making the arteries wider, hawthorn may help eliminate high blood pressure. However, while the preliminary results have been promising, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes that more research is needed to conclude that hawthorn is good for high blood pressure.

Health problems that hawthorn can remedy

  • Angina: Angina is usually caused when there is not enough blood flowing through the heart. Studies have found that hawthorn can significantly lessen or stop chest pains called angina. In a study involving patients with angina, it was shown that those who had taken hawthorn extract experienced an improved circulation of the blood to the heart. However, more research is needed on this aspect of the hawthorn berry.
  • Cholesterol: There is evidence that hawthorn tincture can effectively remove LDL or bad cholesterol in the blood vessels. In a study where rats that were fed with high-cholesterol foods,  hawthorn reduced the rate of the liver’s release of cholesterol into the blood.
  • Atherosclerosis: Plaque buildup in the arteries can lead to atherosclerosis. When plaque is formed in the arteries, it hinders the flow of blood and deprives the body of oxygen. Plaque build-up in arteries near the heart may lead to angina and heart attack. If the plaque builds up near the brain, it may cause a stroke. A study has found that the antioxidant property of hawthorn reduced the plaque build-up in the arteries.
  • Heart failure: Studies have shown that hawthorn has great capabilities to improve the functioning of the heart. Through regular consumption of hawthorn supplements, congestive heart failure symptoms were lessened. One study found that hawthorn extract (900 mg/day) taken for 2 months was as effective as low doses of captopril (a prescription heart medication) in improving symptoms of heart failure. Several studies also show that people with congestive heart failure who take hawthorn extract supplements daily have reduced chances of dying from the disease. Old age can also cause weakening of the heart, and for this reason, there are studies that show that elderly people, even those that have no previous history congestive heart disease, can benefit from taking a daily supplement of hawthorn.

Known side effects

  • Dizziness: Some patients have reported experiencing dizziness after consuming large amounts of hawthorn. Hawthorn should be taken as prescribed by the physician, naturopathic doctor, or as indicated on the label.
  • Drug interactions: Hawthorn may have a negative impact on people already taking anti-arrhythmia drugs, such as beta-blockers.  Hawthorn should also not be taken by people taking cardio-active glycoside drugs like digoxin as it will enhance the medication. Hawthorn can counteract any medications like nasal decongestants with phenylephrine. Hawthorn can counteract phenylephrine’s blood vessel constricting property making the drug useless or less effective. People who are already taking blood pressure lowering medications should not use hawthorn because it will also lower the blood pressure, to below desirable level.
  • Digestive problems: There have been reports that consuming large amounts of hawthorn can result in digestive problems like stomachaches, a burning sensation, or bowel problems. Other digestion problems may include nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.
  • Severe allergic reactions: Some people are allergic to Hawthorn. They may develop rashes, feel nauseated and dizzy, have trouble breathing, experience swelling of the face, tongue, and skin, weakness, or irregular heartbeat. If you feel any of these symptoms, do not continue using hawthorn.

Hawthorn has been proven to be effective in preventing cardiovascular problems like a heart attack. It has properties that can improve the cardiovascular health, improve oxygenation and lower cholesterol.  Preliminary studies suggest that hawthorn may also help high blood pressure, although more research is needed. However, there are possible drug interactions, especially for people who are taking regular doses of prescription medicine. If not careful, hawthorn can tamper with the effects of these drugs either enhancing their effect or making them less effective. Check with your doctor or naturopathic doctor regarding the safe use of hawthorn.

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