HAWTHORN (Crataegus spp.)

Family: Rosaceae

Parts commonly used: Ripe berries (traditional), leaves and young (white or pink) blossoms harvested before full flowering.

Properties/energetics: Cardiovascular tonic, vasodilator, diuretic, astringent, hypotensive, sedative/Warm; sour, sweet.

Systems predominantly affected:  Cardiovascular, digestive.

Uses: Hawthorn is a particularly useful herb for strengthening the structure of the cardiovascular system (heart and arteries). Hawthorn’s flavonoids have been shown to increase the resilience of the endothelium (cardiovascular lining) to damage that can lead to plaque buildup, stroke, myocardial infarction, and so on. Besides its structural effect, it also seems to regulate cardiovascular function to some degree. It improves coronary circulation (blood supply to the heart itself), helping in angina and generally improving oxygen and nutrient supply to the heart. It also seems to increase the contractility of the heart muscle, slow the heart rate, and normalize heart rhythm, while minimizing the oxygen needs of the heart itself. Basically, Hawthorn gives the heart a healthy makeover, making it stronger and helping it work more efficiently and effectively on less oxygen and less glucose fuels. With persistent use of the herb, Hawthorn’s tonic effects are achieved gradually, but the results are enduring. The berries of Chinese Hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida) are a more tart variety of this plant. The Chinese commonly use it primarily to move food congestion, particularly when this digestive snarl-up is due to meats and greasy foods. These berries also stimulate appetite and digestion and ease gas and bloating, and diarrhea.

Affects on specific body types: Hawthorn is potentially an excellent tonic for each of the constitutions. It is a good preventive tonic, especially where there is a family history of heart disease, or as a general tonic for the aging heart. Specifically, however, the Warrior-dominant constitution benefits, because Hawthorn strengthens the structure of the cardiovascular system. Hawthorn is generally a good preventive for further damage from hypertension; it will support the heart while blood pressure is being decreased and is a good preventative for angina.

Combinations: Combines well with Yarrow, Lavender, and Motherwort for treating high blood pressure and with Motherwort and Night-blooming Cactus to specifically treat tachycardia (unduly rapid or arrhythmic heartbeat). Combines well with Ginkgo and Horse Chestnut as a vascular tonic.

Preparations/dosage: Research suggests that Hawthorn flowers contain more cardiac-influencing constituents than the berries, but the berries are still highly recommended for the heart. Infusion: 1 cup (hot or cold) three times a day. Tincture: 30 to 50 drops three times a day. Berries extract very well in alcohol and can be prepared as a deliciously intoxicating (albeit medicinal) wine extract particularly red wine. A wineglass full once (or maybe twice) a day.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition