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God's Good Herbs - Hawthorn Berry

My Friend Debbie     Hawthorn berry is a common thorny tree-like shrub with flowers, leaves and tiny red berries containing strong nutrients used to promote heart health. It is actually a member of the rose family with lovely, fragrant red, white or pink flowers that commonly bloom in May. Hawthorn originally grew in Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and throughout much of the Mediterranean region. It is believed that one European species of hawthorn, known as"mayflower," gave the pilgrim's ship, the Mayflower, its name. Another historical note of interest is that it is thought that Christ's"Crown of Thorns" was made from the hawthorn bush. Its curative properties for the heart were first reported by a Greek herbalist in the first century, though its use, particularly in Europe, did not become widespread until the end of the nineteenth century.

      Research and trial studies have shown hawthorn berry to have many beneficial effects on the heart. It is regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment for the early stages of heart disease and has historically been used in the prevention of arteriosclerosis and congestive heart failure as well in the treatment of various heart symptoms and irregularities. It has been extensively studied and used in Germany, having been endorsed by Commission E, the branch of the German government that studies and approves herbal treatments. A report, published in the New York Medical Journal in October of 1896, gave recognition to hawthorn's medicinal properties and effectiveness in improving cardiovascular function and coronary circulation.

     Studies have confirmed that the plant is a rich source of healthy chemical compounds, including antioxidant flavonoids called anthocyanins as well as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), which strengthen the walls of blood vessels and neutralize free radicals that contribute to the development of heart disease. These powerful phytonutrients aid in the dilation of coronary blood vessels, increasing the supply of vital oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle, thereby reducing the likelihood of angina or heart attack. Prolonged use of hawthorn has been shown to enhance the metabolism of enzymes within the heart muscle, improve coronary circulation and significantly reduce heart symptoms such as angina, palpitations, mild arrhythmia, shortness of breath and fatigue.

My Friend Debbie      Hawthorn's effect of dilating blood vessels and strengthening the contractual force of the heart muscle also helps to normalize blood pressure with extended use. Its antioxidant properties strengthen the connective tissue in the arterial walls and help to protect against the formation of plaque. Also, the choline present in the berries is a main component of lecithin, which helps lower cholesterol build-up by breaking down fat into tiny particles. Hawthorn also has a natural anti-inflammatory action without increasing blood pressure as occurs with many anti-inflammatory drugs. Hawthorn is an ideal preventative herbal supplement for persons who have a family history of heart disease when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and stress management.


My Friend Debbie      While the berries of hawthorn are most often used in traditional herbal preparations, the leaves and flowers, containing the highest concentration of flavonoid complexes, are primarily used in modern standardized extracts. Hawthorn supplements, sold as dried berries, capsules and tinctures, are considered safe for long-term use and actually should be taken on a regular basis for best results. They are not accumulative or habit-forming and have been given a Class 1 safety rating by the American Herbal Products Association.

     Obviously, something as serious as heart disease should not be self-treated and people with serious heart problems and those on heart or blood pressure medications should consult their physicians and have their heart function and blood pressure monitored if taking hawthorn or any herbal supplements. Caution should especially be exercised by those taking the heart medication, digitalis, since hawthorn enhances its effect, which could lead to unsafe side effects if the dosage of digitalis is not carefully adjusted.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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