Hawthorn has been part of medicine since first century A.D. Fast forward to the 13th century, and you’ll find it was used to treat digestive problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. The Chinese used it to treat indigestion, high cholesterol, and shortness of breath. In the 18th century, it was used as a diuretic and for the treatment of kidney stones. It wasn’t until the late 1800s when the big link materialized: hawthorn could be good for the heart. In 1896, the U.S. finally recognized its medical use, and now hawthorn is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world.
Inside the plant’s leaves, fruit and flowers, scientists have found a number of natural chemicals that are very healthy for humans. Ingredients like flavonoids exert beneficial effects on the heart, blood vessels, and cholesterol levels.
— Increase the force of heart muscle contractions
— Increase in blood flow to the coronary arteries
— Reduce oxygen consumption in the heart
— Dilate blood vessels such as the coronary arteries
— Block irregular heart rhythms
— Lower blood pressure
— Lower cholesterol levels
— Lower blood sugar in diabetes
First, a word on dosage and safety. Before ever starting supplementation with hawthorn, speak to your doctor. For congestive heart failure, the standardized dose of hawthorn leaf with flower extract (LI 132 or WE 1442) used in clinical studies was 169 mg to 1,800 mg. This was taken orally in two to three doses rather than all at once. Note that it may take up to two months to notice improvements.
For safety, hawthorn is well-tolerated. Some dizziness is the most common side effect. Less commonly, you might get nausea, stomachache, rash, sweating, fatigue, palpitations, headache, agitation, insomnia, nosebleeds, and shortness of breath. Anybody taking the following drugs should talk to a doctor before using hawthorn: “Viagra,” “Cialis,” or “Levitra;” nitrates; digoxin; calcium channel blockers; or beta-blockers.