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Crataegus oxyacantha – Crataegus laevigata
The prince of cardiovascular tonics, balances high or low blood pressure, supports consistent, regular heartbeat, improves peripheral circulation. Aids digestion and sound sleep. Hawthorn berry today is most associated with its widespread use as a tonic for the heart. Specifically, it protects arterial walls, has the ability to dilate (enlarge) coronary blood vessels (the vessels supplying the heart with vital oxygen, blood, and nutrients), and strengthen the heart’s pumping ability. Because of these powerful cardiac benefits, it is now one of the most prescribed heart remedies in Europe.
Those people who suffer from angina, therefore, would most likely benefit by hawthorn berry’s ability to increase blood flow through the arteries. Additionally, for the same reason, those afflicted with hypertension (high blood pressure) may alleviate their condition since narrowed arteries require the heart to work more strenuously in getting blood through them. People who suffer from tachycardia (rapid heart beating) and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beating) may also find relief. It also has antioxidant properties which may help offset arterial damage from plaque formation and accumulation.
In short, hawthorn berry is seen by some as an all-purpose heart medicine. Although hawthorn flowers and berries have been used primarily as tonics for the heart and circulatory system, they have also been used as mild diuretics and for their astringent quality in the relief of sore throats. The beneficial action of hawthorn leaves, berries and flowers is due to its chemical constituents, primarily flavonoid compounds. Hawthorn contains flavone glycosides, proanthocyanidins, catechins, saponins, amygdalin and vitamin C.
The many cardiovascular benefits are the result of the following actions:
- Improves blood supply to the heart by dilating the coronary blood vessels
- Inhibits the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), reducing the amount of stress placed on the heart.
- Improves metabolic processes in the heart
- Prevents atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Lowers blood pressure
Many studies have shown that hawthorn dilates coronary blood vessels, allowing the heart to be supplied with vital oxygen and nutrients. The various flavonoids present in hawthorn neutralize certain substances from constricting blood vessels. In both humans and animals, hawthorn extracts or syrups improve energy production within the heart.
This occurs not only because of the increased blood and oxygen supply to the heart, but also because of enhanced metabolism within the heart muscle itself. The result is an increase in the force of contraction. This is why using hawthorn has been shown to be beneficial in cases of congestive heart failure and various heart rhythm disturbances such as arrhythmia and heart palpitations.
The flavonoids in hawthorn also strengthen the connective tissue in the arterial walls. Hawthorn extracts have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the size of atherosclerotic plaques. This is why hawthorn extracts have a blood pressure-lowering effect. This usually takes about two weeks using the extract or syrup from hawthorn berries at lunch and dinner.
Hawthorn also has collagen-stabilizing antioxidant qualities. Collagen is a protein vital for healthy joints. Collagen is also the under girding structure, which holds all of the cells and organs into place, and gives skin its youthful firmness. Hawthorn’s collagen benefits come gradually but steadily, and become more obvious over the weeks, months and even years. In addition, hawthorn has mild sedative properties which may be another reason it is so beneficial to those who are anxious, nervous and stressed – personality traits commonly associated with heart problems. Flowers are the richest source, leaves and berries can also be used.
There are two main groups
- flavonoids – flavonoglycosyls, hyperoside, rutin
- oligomeric procyanidines, 1-epicatechol.
This invaluable heart remedies does not contain cardiac glycosides.
Actions: Cardio-tonic, diuretic, astringent, hypotensive.
Crataegus can be considered a specific remedy in most cardiovascular disease. A tonic in the true sense. The therapeutic benefits are only gained when a whole plant preparation is used. When the isolated constituents were tested separately in the laboratory, their individual effects were insignificant, whilst the whole plant has unique and valuable properties.
Herbal synergy again! A multicentre double blind clinical trial done in 1981 demonstrated marked improvement of heart function in patients with reduced cardiac output. Following a four year study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Health, Crataegus has gained full recognition as a heart remedy in Europe. The monograph concludes that the herb has these properties:
- It is positively inotropic, chronotropic & dromotropic
- Negatively bathmotropic
- Increases coronary & myocardial circulation.
And its applications are:
- loss of cardiac function
- subjective feelings of congestion and ‘oppression’ in the heart region
- the aging heart that does not warrant the use of Digitalis
- mild bradycardiac arrythmias
- no contra- indications or side effects were noted.
Mode of action:
Improvement in coronary circulation. It dilates the coronary arteries, relieving cardiac hypoxaemia, thus reducing the likelihood of anginal attacks and relieves symptoms. The herb thus directly effects the cells of the cardiac muscle, enhancing both activity and nutrition. It is quite different in activity to the cardiac glycoside containing remedies. They impact the contractile fibers, whilst Crataegus is involved in the availability and utilization of energy. This facilitates a gentle but long term, sustained effect on degenerative, age-related changes in the myocardium. It does not produce rapid results but they are persistent once achieved. No hypotensive action in the strict sense, but it facilitates stabilization of cardiac function and so BP will normalize. Normalization of cardiac arrhythmias. Mainly extrasystoles and tachycardia.
- Cardiovascular degenerative disease. Myocardial problems, coronary artery disease and associated conditions. Angina pectoris and similar symptoms will be eased and prevented.
- Where no disease state exists but a loss function is happening because of old age.
- No toxicity, accumulation or habituation occurs, thus it may be used long term, achieving result entirely safely, especially in the elderly.
- Post infarction recovery
- Essential hypertension. Used in conjunction with hypotensives, Crataegus will maintain the heart in a healthy condition, preventing the development of coronary disease.
- Heart weakness following infectious disease such as pneumonia or diphtheria
- Cardiac arrhythmias.
Combinations: With Tilia europaea, Viburnum opulus and Viscum album in the treatment of hypertension. With Aesculus hippocastanum for variscosity.
Dosage and preparations
- 2 teaspoonfuls of dried herb infused tds.
- 30-40 drops of tincture 3 times daily, then morning & evening as maintenance dose
- in acute/severe conditions use up to 5ml tds. In the elderly use over many months.