The hawthorn is a common sight in the US and Europe. It is the source of the term “go a-maying,” because that is what medieval knights and ladies said when they would gather branches of blossoms to decorate their homes. May was the time to think of love and fertility, and the herb became a part of that. The tree not only has lovely blossoms, but it forms red berries, or pomes later in the season. The branches are also covered with prickly thorns. It can remain a small shrub or grow to a height of 30 feet.
Medicinal Uses – Hawthorn has been documented as being used for heart conditions since the first century. Today, the leaf and flower have both been used for congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. It is sometimes used for hypertension and cardiac arrhythmia. It has also been used for digestive and kidney issues. Flowers and berries are astringent, and are useful for sore throats.
How it helps High Blood Pressure – Hawthorn seems to work its magic by relaxing and opening up blood vessels that feed the heart, and by enhancing the overall workings of the heart muscle. This combination goes a long way toward stabilizing blood pressure because the heart no longer has to work as hard to pump blood around the body. A potent antioxidant, this herb may also help to relieve chest pain and reinforce a normal heartbeat.
What to look for – Be patient. You may have to take hawthorn for four to eight weeks or more before seeing any improvement in your blood pressure.
Parts Used – Leaves, flowers, berries – The leaves, flowers and berries are used to make tinctures, extracts, capsules and tablets.
Precautions – Hawthorn is generally recognized as safe, although such side effects as nausea, sweating, fatigue, and rashes do develop on occasion. The herb can also drastically lower blood pressure and cause such symptoms as dizziness and fainting, even in people who have normal blood pressure and do not suffer from heart disease. Stop taking hawthorn and consult your doctor if any of these reactions occur.
Because of hawthorn’s strength and its effects on such a vital organ as the heart, consult your doctor before taking this herb. It’s best not to take it if you already have low blood pressure. And don’t expect hawthorn to help stop an acute attack of angina; it isn’t capable of doing this.
If you take prescription heart medications, consult your doctor before taking this herb. Dosages of prescription medications may need to be lowered or altered in some other way when taken along with hawthorn. Never stop taking a prescription heart medication (or alter the dosage) without consulting your doctor.
The effect of the following classes of drugs may be dangerously increased by hawthorn: antihypertensives; calcium channel blockers (including amlodipine, diltiazem, verapamil); beta blockers (including atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol); ACE inhibitors (including benazepril, enalapril, fosinopril); digitalis drugs and cardiac glycosides (including digitoxin, digoxin); and nitrates (including amyl nitrate, nitroglycerin, sildenafil citrate, isosorbide mononitrate, and dinitrate).