Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is medicine for the heart on all levels. Indigenous to countries across the northern hemisphere, this small thorny tree has a long-recorded history of medicinal use in both Europe and China, as well as in North America. Poetically – and significantly – Hawthorn is a member of the Rose family.
Hawthorn’s place as heart medicine was noted by Greek physician, Dioscorides, in the first Century AD. Medical herbal research has validated this use, finding hawthorn to be effective for increasing the strength of heart contractions, increasing blood flow to the heart, decreasing blood lipids (ie decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides) and modulating blood pressure (AltMedReview, 2010). A Cochrane review of trials on hawthorn for chronic or congestive heart failure found that Crataegus extract decreased fatigue and shortness of breath and improved exercise tolerance relative to placebo. And while the traditional context is different, the Traditional Chinese Medicine use of Hawthorne for fat or rich meal digestion highlights the ability of Haw/berry antioxidants to prevent cholesterol deposits from oxidizing.
Additionally, hawthorn is used in the form of an energy medicine for the heart.
As a flower essence, Hawthorn helps open the heart to giving and receiving love, and can help in healing heartache. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance. As with many heart-acting energy remedies, hawthorn helps us to develop courage. The very etymology of the word courage draws our attention to the heart: cor is Latin for heart. And courage is truly an open-hearted state.
Hawthorne flower essence is further indicated for helping someone come into their strength and power (courage again?); and for calming a type A personality.
There is great lore surrounding hawthorn. Beltane and May Day rituals have long included hawthorn (or May) flowers and branches. For more about Hawthorn, magic and ritual, see http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/hawthorn.htm.
Parts Used: Berries (or haws) and flowers. Sometimes leaves. Most species flower in May. Spring leaves and flowers may be eaten.
Actions: cardiac tonic, hypotensive/blood pressure normalizing, antioxidant (rich in bioflavonoids and proanthocyanidins – protects myocardium against oxidative damage, prevents oxidized cholesterol from accumulating in vessel walls)
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive Heart Failure (NYHA II and below)
- Post-Heart Attacks
- Elevated blood lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides)
- Heat, inflammation
- Restlessness, anxiety, AD(H)D (per Matthew Wood)
Energetics: for protection and healing of the heart, opening the heart, expressing, giving and receiving love.
Interactions/Side Effects: Hawthorn is a gentle medicine that – when indicated – is safe and effective for long term use. It is also safe to use with common cardiovascular medications, although you should always check with your ND or medical herbalist before embarking on an herbal treatment plan.
Pittler MH, Guo R, Ernst E. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD005312. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18254076
Thorne Research. Crataegus oxycantha (Hawthorne) Monograph. Alt Med Review. 15(2). 2010.
Weed, S. Healing Wise. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing.
Wood, M. The Earthwise Herbal. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books. 2008.