There are a number of different species of Hawthorn growing in the United States. The one shown here is English Hawthorn. This species is most often listed as a medicinal plant in herbals of Hawthorn Flower
European and American tradition, though many species are used interchangeably for medicinal purposes. The hawthorn grows as either a shrub or tree. Its trunk or stem has hard wood, smooth and ash-gray bark, and thorny branches. The small shiny leaves are dark green on top, light bluish green underneath, and have three to five irregularly toothed lobes. The white flowers have five round petals and grow in terminal corymbs during May and June. The fruit or haw is 2 to 3 seeded, scarlet on the outside, yellowish and pulpy on the inside.
Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Other Names: Haw, May Bush, May Tree, May Blossom, Mayflower,
Quickset, Thorn-Apple Tree, Whitethorn, Hawthorne, English Hawthorn
Flowers: Spring through early summer.
Parts Used: Berries & Flowers
Habitat: Any type soil. Abundant in eastern and central United States. Originated in Europe.
Constituents: Flavonoid glycosides, saponins, procyanidines, trimethylamine, condensed tannins.
History: A number of Hawthorns were used as medicine by American Indians. The Potawatomi used Hawthorn to treat stomachache. The Ojibwa used a root decoction of one Hawthorn to treat diarrhea and dysentery. The Chippewa used a root decoction as a tonic and strengthener for female ailments. The Meskwaki also used Hawthorn fruits for bladder ailments. They used it as a general tonic, astringent, and a cardiac strengthener. The Omaha-Ponco and Winnebagos ate the mealy Hawthorn fruits as food during times of famine. The Cherokee ate the somewhat bitter fruits as an appetite stimulant, as well as to improve circulation and relieve cramps. The Kwakiutl chewed the leaves and used them as a poultice for wounds and sores.
Properties: Antispasmodic, Astringent, Cardiac, Diuretic, Sedative, Tonic, Vasodilator.
Main Uses: Angina, irregular heartbeat, blood pressure disorders, congestive heart failure, hypertension, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, nervous disorders, insomnia, Reynaud’s syndrome (hardening of the arteries), and sore throat.
Studies have shown that Hawthorn extracts are effective at reducing angina and of lowering blood pressure and serum cholesterol. Hawthorn improves the blood and oxygen supply to the heart by dilating the coronary vessels while improving the metabolic process of the heart. Flavonoids within the Hawthorn inhibit constriction of the vessels in a manner similar to the calcium-channel blockers. Hawthorn also increases energy production within the heart by utilizing the oxygen produced by the presence of the flavonoids. In the case of cholesterol reduction, Hawthorn contains procyanidins which have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and size of cholesterol containing plaques in the arteries. The lowered blood pressure effects dilates the larger blood vessels and also inhibits angiotensen-converting enzyme. This process is mildly diuretic in nature and increases the functional capacity of the heart. The effects generally are not seen until after two weeks of treatment. There are no known side effects and the body tolerates Hawthorn well.
Hawthorn has also been used in treating arthritis and rheumatism and for emotional stress and nervous conditions.
Safety: Safe for long term use. There are no known interactions with prescription cardiac medications or other drugs. There are no known contraindications to its use during pregnancy or lactation. Large amounts of Hawthorn may cause sedation and/or a significant drop in blood pressure, possibly resulting in faintness. If this happens, reduce the dosage.
Preparation And Dosages: Harvest the red berries in the fall.
Tincture: [Fresh berries, 1:2; Dry berries, 1:5; 60% alcohol] 10 to 30 drops, up to 3 times a day.
Infusion: Use 2 teaspoons of crushed berries per cup of boiling water. Steep 20 minutes. Drink up to 2 cups per day.