Hawthorn extract is made from the flowers and leaves of the bushy hawthorn shrub, which is a member of the rose family. The extract is known as a natural remedy to support heart health, and scientific evidence is proving the herb's benefits.
According to the Reader's Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs (page 228), herbalists believe hawthorn is the most important cardiovascular remedy available. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) states on its website that hawthorn contains antioxidants including oligomeric procyandins and flavonoids that may reduce or help prevent cardiovascular and other damage done by free radicals in the body.
UMM lists the following hawthorn extract uses:
- Heart failure: Studies show hawthorn improves heart function and may improve a person's exercise tolerance after heart failure. One study showed that taking 900mg a day of hawthorn was as effective in treating heart failure as the prescription drug captopril. Note that hawthorn is not FDA approved for this purpose.
- Angina: Some evidence indicates hawthorn may help relieve angina. Sixty people with angina received either 180 mg of hawthorn berry leaf flower extract daily or a placebo for 3 weeks. Those who took hawthorn experienced improved blood flow and increased exercise endurance.
- High blood pressure: One study showed hawthorn extract helped relieve hypertension in people with type 2 diabetes taking prescription drugs. However, more studies are needed to determine if hawthorn helps high blood pressure.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCAM) mentions that hawthorn is also used for digestive and kidney problems but states that scientific evidence only supports its use for milder forms of heart failure.
Side Effects and Precautions
UMM says studies show hawthorn is safe when taken by adults in dosages of 160 to 1,800 mg daily for up to 24 weeks. Possible side effects include:
- Stomach upset and nausea
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Allergic reaction (hives, swelling, difficulty breathing)
The following drugs may interact with hawthorn:
- Beta-blockers including Metroprololol, Propranolol and Atenolol
- Calcium channel blockers including Procardia, Cardizem and Norvasc
- Male sexual dysfunction drugs
How to Take
Hawthorn extract is available in capsule, liquid or tincture form. Children and women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not take hawthorn, says Drugs.com. Adults should follow manufacturer's packaging directions.
According to WebMD, for heart failure, a dose of 160 mg to 1800 mg has been used in some hawthorn products including HeartCare by Nature's Way, Faros 300 by Lichtwer Pharma and Crataegutt forgte by Wilmer Schwabe Pharmaceuticals. This dose has improved symptoms of heart failure for some people, but also may increase the risk of death or hospitalization due to heart failure. As a result, it's imperative you discuss hawthorn extract dosages with your physician.
Where to Find
Hawthorn extract is available in natural health stores, pharmacies and on the Internet. You may also find it in the health section of some grocery stores.
Because herbal remedies aren't regulated, be sure to purchase hawthorn from a manufacturer you trust. Hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries have beneficial compounds but berries are believed to have the least. As a result, look for products that contain leaf and flower extracts and berries.
Here are some options to consider:
- Nature's Way HeartCare Hawthorn Extract contains 18.75% oligomeric procyanidins. A bottle of 120 tablets costs $8.49 on Amazon.
- Nature's Answer Hawthorn Extract is a liquid extract made from hawthorn leaf, flowers and berries. A two ounce bottle costs $12.99.
- Gaia Herbs Hawthorn Supreme is made from organic hawthorn leaf, flower and berry extracts. 60 vegetarian liquid capsules costs $19.19 on Amazon.
Natural Heart Health
For people with heart failure, hawthorn extract may help them lead more active and less symptomatic lives. Though more study is needed, hawthorn is also positioning itself to be a powerful hypertension remedy. If you're interested in taking hawthorn extract, consult your physician or natural health practitioner to determine if it can help you.