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Hawthorn Berries And Gum Health
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Hawthorn is the oldest European medicinal herb. Its flowers, leaves and berries are highly valued, especially as remedies for heart disease. This plant may offer additional benefits for people with high cholesterol, diabetes and anxiety. Read on to find out more about Hawthorn and how to use it safely.
Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.) are thorny trees or shrubs with white flowers and red berries. Although the name “Hawk” originally referred to the hawthorn (C. monogyna), it is now used for the entire genus and even for its relatives (Rhaphiolepis) [1+].
Hawthorn is native to Europe, North America, and Asia. They belong to the same family as roses and many edible fruits such as apples, pears, plums, and cherries (Rosaceae) .
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Hawthorn is the oldest medicinal plant in Europe and its use was first documented 2,000 years ago. In European and American folk medicine, it is used for [3+, 4+, 2]:
The German Commission E approved the use of hawthorn for mild heart failure in the 1980s. Hawthorn extracts are mainly derived from the common and English hawthorn (C. laevigata), its hybrids, and other European species [3+].
The extracts used in Europe and America are obtained from the berries, leaves and flowers. The berries must contain at least 1% procyanidins, and the leaves and flowers need a minimum flavonoid content of 1.5% [1+].
In China, only the berries and leaves are used. There are no requirements for the berries, but the leaves must have at least 7% flavonoids and 0.05% hyperoside [1+].
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The berries are also eaten fresh or used to make wine, jam, and candy in both China and Europe [1+].
Flavonoids are most concentrated in the flowers. Berries are also rich in them, but not as ripe berries. Leaves are higher in vitexin and oligomeric proanthocyanidins [10, 11+].
Although not FDA approved, hawthorn extract is commercially available as a supplement, especially for heart disease. Regulations set manufacturing standards for but do not guarantee that they are safe or effective. Talk to your doctor before using hawthorn to avoid unexpected interactions.
Although conventional therapies improve symptoms and reduce death rates, people with heart failure often have a reduced quality of life. Hawthorn can be combined with drugs and implantable devices to improve heart failure .
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Hawthorn extract (240-1, 800 mg per day), alone and as adjunctive therapy, improves mild heart failure according to two meta-analyses and 8 studies of more than 4k people. It increased pumping force and reduced fatigue and shortness of breath [12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21].
However, the extract did not improve heart failure symptoms in 2 studies of nearly 3k people also taking conventional medications; it only reduced the risk of sudden death. However, the dose may not have been sufficient, since most subjects had moderate to severe heart failure [22, 23].
Homeopathic hawthorn remedies are also used, although they may not contain active compounds. In one trial of over 200 people, homeopathic hawthorn (10-20 drops, 3x/day) was as effective as conventional drugs. However, the study suffered from numerous flaws (lack of randomization and blinding, evaluation of subjective parameters, and short follow-up) [24+].
Venous blood can stagnate in the legs in people with heart failure, causing swelling. In 2 studies of more than 1k people with heart failure, hawthorn extract (900 mg / day) reduced leg swelling [14, 15].
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In mice and cells, the extract reduced blood leakage from the vessels by strengthening their inner lining [25, 26].
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High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for heart disease. Hawthorn extract (500-1, 200 mg/day) reduced blood pressure in 4 clinical trials of nearly 300 people [27+, 28, 29, 30, 18].
The extract also lowered blood pressure in rats and relaxed arteries in tissue studies [31, 32, 33, 34, 35].
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Orthostatic hypotension (literally, “low blood pressure while standing”) is a condition that causes blood pressure to drop suddenly after standing up quickly.
In Germany, a combination of hawthorn berries and camphor is commonly used to raise blood pressure in people who often suffer from orthostatic hypotension. This medicine (5-80 drops per day) worked in 6 clinical trials on more than 500 people, but its rapid action suggests that camphor is responsible for the effect [36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41].
Hawthorn is a time-tested natural remedy for mild heart issues, including heart failure and high blood pressure. It can be safely added to conventional drugs and interventions. However, it is likely to be used short-term or independently in people with more severe heart conditions.
However, note that hawthorn is not approved by the FDA for heart disease. You can try this herb if you and your doctor decide that it may be suitable for improving your arthritis. Remember that hawthorn should never be taken in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.
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Clogged blood vessels that feed the heart (coronary arteries) can lead to poor heart blood and oxygen supply. It eventually causes chest pain or angina [42+].
Cholesterol buildup inside the arteries is the most common cause of chest pain. In a clinical trial on 80 people with chest pain, hawthorn extract (240 mg, 2x/day) combined with exercise prevented arterial clogging .
Hawthorn tablets relieved chest pain in a Chinese clinical trial of 46 people. However, we were unable to access the study data for analysis [44+].
In animals and cells, hawthorn extract caused high blood cholesterol, inflammation, LDL damage by free radicals, and artery wall thickening – which increases the risk of clogging [45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50].
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Blood clots can also clog coronary arteries. Although hawthorn extract inhibited platelet aggregation in animals and in test tubes, a high dose (2, 400 mg/day) was not effective in a trial of 16 people [51, 52, 53, 54, 55+].
The operation to unclog vessels may damage their inner walls, which causes vessel narrowing. In rats, hawthorn extract prevented this unwanted effect .
In a trial of 49 people, hawthorn extract (400 mg, 3x/day) reduced blood cholesterol, free and LDL bound. Similarly, a complex with 129 mg of hawthorn and other herbs (asian watercress, corn silk, Chinese clover, lingzhi mushroom, and mulberry) reduced LDL cholesterol in a trial of 42 people (4 capsules, 2x/day) [57 , 58].
Overall, the existing evidence is not sufficient to claim that hawthorn lowers blood cholesterol. Further clinical research is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.
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In a clinical trial of over 250 people with anxiety disorders, a formulation with hawthorn, California poppy, and magnesium (2 tablets, 2x/day) reduced anxiety. Likewise, a formulation with hawthorn and other herbs (purple passion flower, valerian, black horehound, guarana, and kola nut) was effective in a trial of nearly 200 people (2 tablets, 3x/day) [63, 64].
However, many of the natural compounds used in the aforementioned formulations have anti-anxiety properties. It is difficult to say whether the hawthorn contributed to the benefits.
There is a strong link between chronic stress and depression. Various extracts of Chinese hawthorn reduced but not common depression in stressed mice [67, 68, 69, 70].
Two clinical studies using hawthorn as part of herbal mixtures and a few animal studies cannot be considered as sufficient evidence. Additional clinical trials testing hawthorn should be conducted to determine if it has any anti-anxiety effects in humans.
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Traditional Chinese medicine with hawthorn, goji berry, fennel, kombu, and mulberry extracts (Menoprogren, 4x/day) reduced menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, and mood swings in a trial of 83 women. It also improved low levels of sex hormones (estradiol and progesterone) .
Menoprogren also prevented the fall of sex hormones in menopausal rats by protecting their ovarian follicles [72, 73, 74, 75].
In a clinical trial on 20 women, a combination of hawthorn and ginseng extracts on the eyelids reduced wrinkles and increased skin elasticity, moisture, and luminance .
UV radiation accelerates skin aging by reducing its collagen content. In UV-exposed mice and skin cells, hawthorn extract increased collagen