Can Hawthorn Berries Be Eaten – Written by Ariane Lang, BSc, MBA and Savannah Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD — clinically reviewed by Cathy W. Warwick, RD, CDE, Nutrition — Updated December 13, 2021
These nutrient-rich berries have a tart, tangy flavor and mild sweetness. They range in color from yellow to dark red (
Can Hawthorn Berries Be Eaten
For hundreds of years, people have used hawthorn berries as an herbal remedy for digestive problems, heart problems, and high blood pressure. In fact, the berry has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine since at least 659 AD (
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Antioxidants help neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can harm your body when they are present in high levels.
Free radicals can come from certain foods. Air pollution and cigarette smoke (
Polyphenols are associated with many health benefits due to their antioxidant activity, including reduced risk (
Although preliminary research in animals and cells is promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hawthorn berries on disease risk.
What Is Hawthorn Berry
Summary Hawthorn berries contain plant polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties associated with numerous health benefits.
Research has shown that chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, asthma and some cancers.
In a study on mice with liver disease, hawthorn berry extract significantly reduced levels of inflammatory compounds, thereby reducing liver inflammation and injury (
In one study, researchers gave vitexin — a compound found in hawthorn leaves — to rats with respiratory conditions. This treatment reduces the production of molecules that trigger inflammation and reduces the white blood cell response to inflammation (
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These promising results from animal and test-tube studies suggest that the supplement may offer anti-inflammatory benefits for humans. However, more research is needed.
Summary Hawthorn berry extract has shown anti-inflammatory potential in test-tube and animal studies. However, research on humans is needed.
In traditional Chinese medicine, hawthorn berries are one of the most recommended foods to help treat high blood pressure (
Animal studies show that hawthorn can act as a vasodilator, meaning it can relax constricted blood vessels, eventually lowering blood pressure (
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A 10-week study looked at the effects of taking hawthorn extract in 36 people with mild hypertension.
Researchers found that people who took 500 mg of the extract daily had a reduction in diastolic blood pressure—the lower number in blood pressure (
In a 2006 study, researchers gave 79 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure 1,200 milligrams of hawthorn extract daily for 16 weeks. Those who took the extract experienced a greater improvement in blood pressure than the placebo group (
Still, more research is needed to back up these findings. It’s also important to note that using an extract is not the same as eating the berries.
Hawthorn, May, Maythorn, Whitethorn, Crataegus Monogyna/laevigata
Summary Some research suggests that hawthorn berries can lower blood pressure by helping dilate blood vessels. However, more research is needed.
Some studies indicate that hawthorn extract may improve blood cholesterol levels thanks to its flavonoid and pectin content. Pectin is a type of fiber involved in cholesterol metabolism (
Imbalanced blood cholesterol levels — especially high triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol — play a role in atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels (
If plaque builds up, it can completely block a blood vessel, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
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In an animal study, rats that received two doses of hawthorn extract had lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as 28-47% lower liver triglyceride levels, compared to rats that did not receive the extract (
Similarly, a 6-week study in rats showed that when rats were fed a hawthorn berry supplement, they significantly reduced their fasting triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Finally, a 6-month study in 64 people with atherosclerosis showed that taking hawthorn extract at a dose of 2.3 mg per pound (5 mg per kg) of body weight significantly reduced the density of harmful plaque in the carotid arteries.
Although this research is promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hawthorn extract on blood cholesterol.
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Short studies in animals and humans suggest that taking hawthorn extract may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, more human studies are needed.
For centuries people have used hawthorn berries and extracts to treat digestive problems, especially indigestion and stomach pain (
Berries contain fiber, which has been shown to reduce constipation and aid digestion by acting as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are foods that nourish and promote healthy gut bacteria, which are essential for maintaining healthy digestion (
An observational study in people with slow digestion found that each additional gram of dietary fiber consumed was associated with a 30-minute reduction in time between bowel movements (
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Additionally, a rat study found that hawthorn extract dramatically reduced the intestinal transit time of food in the digestive tract (
In addition, studies in mice suggest that compounds in hawthorn berries can increase the production and activity of digestive enzymes—such as those needed for the digestion of fatty and protein-rich foods (
Summary People have used hawthorn berries as a digestive aid for hundreds of years. It can help relieve constipation and increase the production of enzymes needed to digest fatty and protein-rich foods.
Hawthorn berries can help prevent premature skin aging caused by collagen loss due to excessive sun or UV exposure.
The Berries Of Orange Hawthorn Lie On A Green Litter On A White Background. Stock Image
A test-tube study found that a combination of hawthorn and ginseng extracts may prevent signs of aging by inhibiting wrinkle formation and increasing skin moisture (
Research suggests that this effect may be due to the antioxidant content of hawthorn berries. Nevertheless, research in this area is limited, and human studies are needed.
Summary Some research suggests that hawthorn berries may help reduce the signs of aging due to their antioxidant content.
In an older study of 264 people with anxiety, a combination of hawthorn extract, magnesium, and California poppy flowers significantly reduced anxiety levels compared to a placebo. However, it is not clear what specific role Hawthorne played (
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Hawthorn appears to have fewer side effects than conventional anti-anxiety medications. This is one reason scientists continue to research it as a potential treatment for central nervous system disorders such as anxiety and depression (
However, these studies used a variety of hawthorn products, not necessarily specifically berries. More research is needed.
If you want to try a hawthorn supplement to manage your anxiety, don’t stop using your current medications and be sure to discuss it with a healthcare professional beforehand to make sure it’s safe for you.
Summary Scientists are investigating hawthorn supplements as a potential treatment for anxiety. However, there is not much research on them for this purpose now. The effects of hawthorn berries on anxiety need more research.
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Hawthorn berries are best known for their use in traditional contexts to treat heart failure alongside other traditional medicines. Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump blood properly.
Several studies have suggested that heart failure (
Studies mostly show improvements in heart function and symptoms of heart failure — such as shortness of breath and fatigue (
However, some evidence suggests that hawthorn may be harmful in some cases of heart failure. One study found that taking it alongside conventional treatment increased the risk of heart failure progression (
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Summary In some traditional medicine practices, people commonly take hawthorn berry along with other traditional medicines for heart failure. However, it can be harmful when combined with conventional drugs for heart failure.
Hawthorn berries can be hard to find in your local grocery store. However, you may be able to find it at farmers markets and specialty health food stores.
Hawthorn berry supplements usually contain the berries along with the leaves and flowers, although some include just the leaves and flowers.
Different brands and forms of hawthorn supplements have different dosage recommendations. The usual dose is 250-500 mg three times daily. However, research has yet to determine an optimal effective dose (
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Note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements like hawthorn under less stringent rules than over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
Products that have received a seal of approval from independent organizations that evaluate supplement efficacy and quality, such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.
Summary You can eat hawthorn berries in several ways or take them as a supplement. However, the appropriate dose is still undefined and requires further research.
Many side effects from taking hawthorn berries are not reported. Those that do appear to be mild to moderate.
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People most frequently report sweating, headache, drowsiness, palpitations, mild rash, agitation, and gastrointestinal effects (
Although these are not life-threatening events, be sure to talk to a healthcare professional if you experience any of these symptoms.
Summary Side effects of consuming hawthorn berries tend to be mild. These often include sweating, headache, drowsiness, palpitations, mild rash, agitation, and gastrointestinal effects.
The use of medicinal herbs as an alternative treatment for various diseases has become increasingly common