Hawthorn = Happy Hearts!

Chances are, you have heard of the magical herb. It is a familiar plant, especially to those in Colorado. (In fact I grew up just off of Hawthorn Avenue in Boulder.) Teas, tinctures, syrups, candies and capsules are appearing on the shelves of major health food stores across the nation. So let’s take a peak into the incredible powers of this pretty little berry:

Hawthorn, also know as crataegus oxycantha is native to Europe, but a few wild species can be found around the United States. The plant (more like a small tree) has very sharp thorns and fragrant flowers (commonly known as “Mayflowers”).

Both European and Oriental herbalism recognizes the strong influence hawthorn has on the cardiac system, namely the heart itself. It has been effectively used to treat congestive heart failure, angina, arrhythmia, enlarged heart, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arterial sclerosis for centuries. Hawthorn has also been found effective in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, nephritis, and bacterial enteritis.

One of the active compounds found in hawthorn berries is proanthocyanidins, which relaxes the smooth muscles of the arterial wall, acting as a vasodilator to increase blood flow. Flavonoids are also found in hawthorn berries, which have been shown to strengthen the blood vessels themselves, warding off plaque accumulation.

From a Chinese medical perspective, hawthorn (known as Shan Zha) activates blood circulation, disperses blood stagnation and promotes digestion. One clinical trial used Shan Zha to treat patients with angina related to coronary artery disease three times per days for four weeks. Out of the 219 participants, an overall effective rate of 92.2% was found based on ECG screenings. (Chen & Chen). Another trial revealed that out of 127 patients, 92% experienced a reduction in blood cholesterol levels after taking a powdered extract of hawthorn berry and barley sprouts twice daily for two weeks. (Chen & Chen)

Although this herb is widely available over the counter, it is important to work with your primary physician as well as a board-certified herbalist to ensure the safety and efficacy of a hawthorn regime.


Eastern Traditions Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine 1643 Boulder Street, Suite 104. Denver, CO 80211. (720) 551-8408