Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn Berry

Hawthorn berries are the fruit of the Hawthorn tree (Crataegus oxyacantha), which belongs to the Crataegus genus. These small, red berries grow on deciduous shrubs or small trees native to temperate regions in Europe, Asia and North America. Hawthorn berries have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and culinary applications.

Active Ingredients in Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn berries contain a variety of bioactive compounds which contribute to their health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids and proanthocyanidins.

Biochemical breakdown of Hawthorn Berries:

Anthocyanin-type pigments, choline, citric acid, cratagolic acid, rich in bioflavonoids, antioxodants, flavonoid glycosides, tannins, glavone, glycosides, inositol, PABA, purines, saponins, sugar, tartaric acid, minerals and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, and vitamin C.

Some of the key active ingredients found in hawthorn berries include:

Flavonoids: Flavonoids are a class of polyphenolic compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Examples of flavonoids found in hawthorn berries include quercetin, rutin, and hyperoside. These compounds help protect cells from oxidative damage, reduce inflammation, and support cardiovascular health.

Proanthocyanidins: Proanthocyanidins, also known as condensed tannins, are polyphenolic compounds with antioxidant properties. They help scavenge free radicals, reduce oxidative stress, and support vascular health by promoting the relaxation of blood vessels.

Triterpenoids: Triterpenoids are a group of compounds known for their anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects. One of the most studied triterpenoids in hawthorn berries is ursolic acid, which has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and lipid-lowering properties.

Phenolic Acids: Phenolic acids, such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, are antioxidants found in hawthorn berries. These compounds help neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation, and support overall health.

Vitamins and Minerals: Hawthorn berries are also rich in vitamins (e.g., vitamin C) and minerals (e.g., potassium, calcium, magnesium) that contribute to their nutritional value and health benefits. These nutrients play various roles in supporting cardiovascular health, immune function, and overall well-being.

Oligomeric Procyanidins: Hawthorn berries contain oligomeric procyanidins, which are antioxidant compounds that help protect cells from oxidative damage and support cardiovascular health.

These active ingredients work synergistically to exert a range of therapeutic effects, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and vasodilatory effects. They contribute to the overall health-promoting properties of hawthorn berries and their traditional use in herbal medicine.

Health Benefits of Hawthorn Berries

In traditional medicine, hawthorn berries are often used to support cardiovascular health, improve circulation and regulate blood pressure.

Hawthorn berries are widely regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment for the early stages of heart disease and is endorsed by Commission E, which is the branch of the German government that studies and approves herbal treatments.

Hawthorn berries are used to promote the health of the circulatory system and have been found useful in treating; angina, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, acute myocardial infarction and liver disease. They have been found to strengthen the heart and stabilise it against arrhythmia. This may be due to the antioxidant activity.

Antioxidant Properties of Hawthorn Berries

Animal and laboratory studies have found that hawthorn berries contains active compounds with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals; damaging compounds in the body that alter cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death.

Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking, and air pollution) can also increase their number.

Free radicals are believed to contribute to the ageing process as well as the development of a number of health problems including heart disease. Antioxidants found in hawthorn can neutralise free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Anti-inflammatory Properties of Hawthorn Berries

Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to heart and liver damage, as well as causing damage and disease throughout the body. Hawthorn berries contain compounds that possess anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation in the heart and liver and protecting against inflammatory conditions.

Hawthorn berries exhibit anti-inflammatory properties primarily due to their rich content of bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and triterpenoids.

Here’s how hawthorn berries exert their anti-inflammatory effects:

Inhibition of Pro-Inflammatory Mediators: Hawthorn berries contain compounds that inhibit the production and activity of pro-inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines (e.g., tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukins) and prostaglandins. By reducing the levels of these inflammatory molecules, hawthorn berries help dampen the inflammatory response in the body.

Antioxidant Activity: Oxidative stress is closely linked to inflammation, as it triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and mediators. Hawthorn berries are potent antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells and tissues. By reducing oxidative stress, hawthorn berries mitigate inflammation and its associated harmful effects.

Modulation of Immune Responses: Hawthorn berries may modulate immune responses by regulating the activity of immune cells involved in the inflammatory process, such as macrophages and T lymphocytes. By balancing immune function, hawthorn berries help prevent excessive inflammation and promote tissue repair and regeneration.

Inhibition of Inflammatory Signaling Pathways: Certain compounds found in hawthorn berries can interfere with inflammatory signaling pathways, such as the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) pathway. NF-kB is a key regulator of inflammation and plays a central role in activating genes involved in the inflammatory response. By inhibiting NF-kB activation, hawthorn berries help suppress inflammation at the molecular level.

Protection Against Tissue Damage: Chronic inflammation can lead to tissue damage and contribute to the development of various diseases. Hawthorn berries’ anti-inflammatory effects help protect against tissue damage by reducing inflammation-induced oxidative stress, cell injury, and fibrosis.

Hawthorn Berries for Congestive Heart Failure – Research

Hawthorn berries have primarily been studied in people with congestive heart failure, a health condition in which the heart is unable to pump adequate amounts of blood to other organs in the body.

Of six well-designed trials, four studies concluded that hawthorn berries significantly improved heart function and three found that the herb improved patients’ ability to exercise. Patients in five of the six studies reported that hawthorn significantly improved symptoms of the disease (such as shortness of breath and fatigue).

One study found that hawthorn extract (900 mg/day) taken for 2 months was as effective as low doses of captropril (a leading heart medication) in improving symptoms of congestive heart failure.

A large-scale international study is currently under way to determine whether hawthorn extract reduces the risk of death in people with this disease.

Hawthorn Berries for Atherosclerosis

Animal and laboratory studies demonstrate that hawthorn berries have antioxidant properties that help protect against the formation of plaque, which leads to a health problem known as atherosclerosis. Plaque buildup in the vessels that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood may cause chest pain (angina) and heart attacks while plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the brain may result in stroke.

Hawthorn Berries for Angina Chest Pain – Research

Hawthorn berry preparations have been shown to combat chest pain (angina), a health problem caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart. In one early study, 60 angina patients were given either 180 mg/day of hawthorn berry-leaf-flower extract or placebo for 3 weeks.

Those who received the hawthorn berry preparation experienced improved blood flow to the heart and were also able to exercise for longer periods of time without suffering from chest pain.

Hawthorn Berries for High Cholesterol – Research

Studies using rats suggest that a hawthorn tincture (made from the berries) may be a powerful agent for the removal of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from the bloodstream. The tincture of hawthorn berries reduced the production of cholesterol in the liver of rats who were being fed a high-cholesterol diet. Studies to determine if hawthorn will confer the same effects in people are needed.

Hawthorn Berries for High Blood Pressure

Hawthorn berries may help lower high blood pressure through several mechanisms:

Vasodilation: Hawthorn berries contain compounds that promote the relaxation and widening of blood vessels, a process known as vasodilation. By increasing the diameter of blood vessels, hawthorn berries improve blood flow and reduce resistance to blood flow, which helps lower blood pressure.

Antioxidant Activity: Hawthorn berries are rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress contributes to endothelial dysfunction and inflammation, both of which are associated with high blood pressure. By reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, hawthorn berries support cardiovascular health and help regulate blood pressure.

Inhibition of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Activity: Some studies suggest that hawthorn berries may inhibit the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which plays a role in regulating blood pressure. ACE inhibitors are a class of medications commonly used to treat hypertension. Hawthorn berries may exert similar effects by blocking ACE activity and promoting vasodilation.

Improved Cardiac Function: Hawthorn berries have been shown to have positive effects on cardiac function, including strengthening the heart muscle, enhancing cardiac contractility, and improving coronary circulation. By supporting overall heart health and function, hawthorn berries help regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension-related complications.

Reduction of Fluid Retention: Hawthorn berries have mild diuretic properties, meaning they promote the elimination of excess fluids from the body through increased urine production. By reducing fluid retention, hawthorn berries may help lower blood volume and subsequently decrease blood pressure.

Overall, hawthorn berries offer a multifaceted approach to lowering high blood pressure by promoting vasodilation, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, inhibiting ACE activity, improving cardiac function, and reducing fluid retention.

However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying their anti-hypertensive effects and their optimal dosage and duration of use for blood pressure management.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using hawthorn berries or supplements for hypertension management, especially if you are already taking medications for high blood pressure.

Hawthorn Berries for Liver Disease

The use of Hawthorn berries in the treatment of hepatitis in modern Chinese medicine is supported by the demonstration of hepatoprotective activity in animal studies. Hawthorn berries are considered hepatoprotective, meaning they help protect the liver from damage and support its overall health. These berries are beneficial for maintaining liver health and preventing liver-related complications.

Several mechanisms contribute to their hepatoprotective effects:

Hawthorn berries are hepatoprotective due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and liver detoxification properties. They help protect the liver from damage, regulate liver enzymes, improve blood flow and reduce liver fat accumulation.

Hawthorn berries may support liver detoxification processes by enhancing the activity of detoxifying enzymes and promoting the elimination of harmful substances from the liver.

Chronic inflammation in the liver can lead to liver damage and disease. Hawthorn berries contain compounds that possess anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation in the liver and protect against inflammatory liver conditions.

Hawthorn berries have vasodilatory effects, meaning they help widen blood vessels and improve blood flow. Enhanced blood flow to the liver ensures adequate oxygen and nutrient supply, supporting its metabolic functions and overall health.

Hawthorn berries may help prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver, a condition known as hepatic steatosis or fatty liver disease. By promoting lipid metabolism and inhibiting fat deposition, hawthorn berries support liver health and reduce the risk of liver-related complications.

How to Take Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn berries can be consumed fresh, dried, or as extracts, teas or dietary supplements. Additionally, hawthorn berries are sometimes used in jams, jellies, wines and herbal preparations.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Hawthorn Berry Herb Notes / Side Effects

Though non-toxic, hawthorn berries can produce dizziness if taken in large doses.

Hawthorn berries contains heart-affecting compounds that may affect blood pressure and heart rate. Seek medical supervision if you suffer from a heart condition or are taking heart related medication.

Avoid if colitis or ulcers are present.

There are no known scientific reports on the paediatric use of hawthorn berries. Therefore, it is not currently recommended for children.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not take hawthorn berries.

Avoid hawthorn berries if you are using Digoxin or Phenylephrine.

Latin Name

Crataegus oxyacantha

Common Names

English hawthorn, hawthorn berries, Haw (Black Haw is Viburnum prunifolium L.), May, May blossom, May bush, May tree, Quick-set, Shan-cha, Thorn-apple tree, Whitethorn.

Properties of Hawthorn Berries

Antioxidant, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, cardioprotective, carminative, diuretic, sedative, stimulant, vasodilator.

Hawthorn Berries are Indicated for:

Valve prolapse, angina, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, myocarditis, arteriosclerosis. Hawthorn can normalise blood pressure by regulating heart action; extended use can lower blood pressure. Good for heart muscle weakened by age. Can help strengthen blood vessels, reduce palpitations, help prevent vascular insufficiency, blood clots (embolism, phlebitis). Dilates coronary vessels to restore the heart muscle wall. Lowers cholesterol. Good for nervous conditions like insomnia. Aids digestion. Relieves abdominal distention and diarrhoea, food stagnation, abdominal tumors and is good for dropsy.

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