Is Hawthorn Berries Good For Weight Loss?

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Is Hawthorn Berries Good For Weight Loss?

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Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc…]” means that the information is contained in the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

Hawthorn is the oldest European medicinal herb. The flowers, leaves and berries are highly valued, especially as a treatment 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 you can use it safely.

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) are thorny trees or shrubs with white flowers and red berries. Although the name “Hawthorn” originally referred to common 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) [2].

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Hawthorn is the oldest known 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 obtained from common and English (C. laevigata) hawthorn, their 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, while 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 leaves must contain 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 sweets in both China and Europe [1+].

Flavonoids are most concentrated in the flowers. Berries are also rich in them, but ripen less. The leaves are higher in vitexin and oligomeric proanthocyanidins [10, 11+].

Although not approved by the FDA, 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 reduced quality of life. Hawthorn can be combined with drugs and implantable devices to improve heart failure [2].

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Hawthorn extract (240-1,800 mg/day), both alone and as adjunctive therapy, improves mild heart failure according to two meta-analyses and 8 studies of over 4k people. It increased pumping power while reducing 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 who were also taking conventional medications; it only reduced the risk of sudden death. However, the dose may have been insufficient, since the majority of those included had moderate to severe heart failure [22, 23].

Homeopathic hawthorn remedies are also used, although these may not contain active compounds. In one trial of over 200 people, homeopathic hawthorn (10-20 drops, 3x/day) was as effective as conventional medicines. However, the study suffered from several flaws (lack of randomization and blinding, evaluation of subjective parameters, and short follow-up) [24+].

Venous blood can stagnate in the legs of people with heart failure, leading to swelling. In 2 studies of over 1,000 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 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) lowered 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 “upright low pressure”) is a condition that causes a sudden drop in blood pressure after standing up quickly.

In Germany, a combination of hawthorn berries and camphor is often used to raise blood pressure in people who often suffer from orthostatic hypotension. This remedy (5-80 drops/day) worked in 6 clinical trials of over 500 people, but its rapid onset of 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 problems, including heart failure and high blood pressure. It can be safely added to conventional medications and interventions. However, it is probably ineffective when used in the short term or on its own in people with more serious heart conditions.

However, be aware that hawthorn is not approved by the FDA for heart disease. You can try this herb if you and your doctor find that it may be appropriate for improving your arthritis. Remember that taking hawthorn should never be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.

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Poor heart blood and oxygen supply can be caused by blockage of blood vessels that supply the heart (coronary arteries). This eventually causes chest pain or angina [42+].

Cholesterol build-up inside the arteries is the most common cause of chest pain. In a clinical study of 80 subjects with chest pain, hawthorn extract (240 mg, 2x/day) combined with exercise prevented arterial clogging [43].

Hawthorn tablets relieved chest pain in a Chinese clinical study of 46 people. However, we did not get access to the study specifications to analyze it [44+].

In animals and cells, hawthorn extract prevented high blood cholesterol, inflammation, free radical LDL damage, and thickening of the artery wall—all of which increase the risk of clogging [45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50].

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The coronary arteries can also be blocked by blood clots. Although hawthorn extract prevented platelet aggregation in animals and test tubes, a high dose (2400 mg/day) was ineffective in a study of 16 subjects [51, 52, 53, 54, 55+].

The operation to unclog the vessels can damage their inner walls, triggering narrowing of the vessels. In rats, hawthorn extract prevented this adverse effect [56].

In a study of 49 people, hawthorn extract (400 mg, 3x/day) reduced blood cholesterol, both free and bound to LDL. Similarly, a complex of 129 mg of hawthorn and other herbs (Asian water plantain, corn silk, Chinese knotweed, lingzhi mushroom and mulberry) reduced LDL cholesterol in a trial of 42 people (4 capsules, 2x/day) [57, 58] .

All in all, the existing evidence is insufficient to claim that hawthorn lowers blood cholesterol. Further clinical research is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.

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In a clinical study of over 250 people with anxiety disorders, a formulation with hawthorn, California poppy and magnesium (2 tablets, 2x/day) reduced anxiety. Similarly, a formulation with hawthorn and other herbs (purple passion flower, valerian, black horehound, guarana and kola nuts) was effective in a trial of almost 200 people (2 tablets, 3x/day) [63, 64].

However, many of the natural compounds used in the formulations mentioned above have anxiolytic properties. It is difficult to say whether hawthorn contributed to the benefits.

Chronic stress and depression are closely related. Various extracts of Chinese but not common hawthorn reduced 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 sufficient evidence. Further clinical trials testing hawthorn alone should be conducted to determine if it has any anti-anxiety effects in humans.

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A traditional Chinese medicine with hawthorn, goji berries, safflower, 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) [71].

Menoprogren also prevented sex hormone decline in menopausal rats by protecting their ovarian follicles [72, 73, 74, 75].

In a clinical study of 20 women, a mixture of hawthorn and ginseng extracts on the eyelids reduced wrinkles while increasing skin elasticity, moisture and luminance [76].

UV radiation accelerates skin aging by reducing collagen content. In UV-exposed mice and skin cells, hawthorn extract increased collagen

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