Organic Hawthorn Berries What Are They Used For – Written by Ariane Lang, BSc, MBA and SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD — Medically reviewed by Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE, Nutrition — Updated December 13, 2021
These nutrient-rich berries have a tart, tangy flavor and a mild sweetness. The colors are from yellow to dark red (
Organic Hawthorn Berries What Are They Used For
For hundreds of years, people have used hawthorn berries as an herbal remedy for digestive problems, heart problems and high blood pressure. In fact, berries have been a key part 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 present in high levels.
Free radicals can come from certain foods. You may also have higher levels as a result of exposure to environmental toxins such as air pollution and cigarette smoke (
Polyphenols are associated with numerous health benefits due to their antioxidant activity, including a lower risk of (
Although initial animal and cell studies are promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effects of hawthorn berries on disease risk.
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Summary Hawthorn berries contain plant polyphenols that 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 certain cancers (
In a study in mice with liver disease, hawthorn berry extract significantly reduced levels of inflammatory compounds, leading to a reduction in inflammation and liver injury (
In one study, researchers gave vitexin — a compound found in hawthorn leaves — to mice with respiratory problems. This treatment reduced the production of molecules that trigger inflammation and reduced 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 have anti-inflammatory benefits for humans. However, additional research is needed.
Summary Hawthorn berry extract has shown anti-inflammatory potential in test-tube and animal studies. However, human studies are needed.
In traditional Chinese medicine, hawthorn berries are one of the most commonly recommended foods for the treatment of high blood pressure (
Animal studies show that hawthorn can act as a vasodilator, meaning it can relax constricted blood vessels, which ultimately lowers blood pressure (
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In a 10-week study, the effects of taking hawthorn extract were observed in 36 people with slightly elevated blood pressure.
Researchers found that those who took 500 mg of the extract per day had reduced diastolic blood pressure—the bottom number of blood pressure readings (
In a 2006 study, researchers gave 1,200 mg of hawthorn extract to 79 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure every day for 16 weeks. People who took the extract experienced greater improvements in blood pressure than those in the placebo group (
However, more studies are needed to confirm these findings. It is also important to note that using the extract is not the same as eating the berries.
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Summary Some research shows that hawthorn berries can lower blood pressure by helping blood vessels to dilate. However, further research is needed.
Some research shows that hawthorn extract can 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 continues to build up, it could completely block a blood vessel, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
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In one animal study, mice 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 mice that did not receive the extract (
Similarly, a 6-week study in rats showed that when rats were fed hawthorn berry supplements, they had significantly reduced levels of fasting triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol (
Finally, a 6-month study in 64 people with atherosclerosis found that taking hawthorn extract at a dose of 2.3 mg per pound (5 mg per kg) of body weight significantly reduced the thickness of harmful plaque deposits in the carotid artery (
Although this research is promising, more human studies are needed to evaluate the effect of hawthorn extract on blood cholesterol.
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Summary Animal and human studies show that taking hawthorn extract can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, more human research is needed.
For centuries, people have used hawthorn berries and extract to treat digestive problems, especially indigestion and stomach pain (
Berries contain fiber that has been shown to aid digestion by reducing constipation and acting as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are foods that feed and stimulate healthy intestinal bacteria, which are key to maintaining healthy digestion (
One observational study in people with slow digestion found that each additional gram of dietary fiber people consumed was associated with a 30-minute reduction in the time between bowel movements (
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In addition, research in rats has shown that hawthorn extract dramatically reduces the transit time of food through the gut through the digestive system (
Furthermore, research in rodents suggests that compounds in hawthorn berries can improve the production and activity of digestive enzymes — specifically those needed to digest fatty and protein foods (
Summary People have used hawthorn berries for centuries as a digestive aid. It can help relieve constipation and improve the production of enzymes needed to digest fatty and protein foods.
Hawthorn berries can prevent premature aging of the skin caused by the degradation of collagen due to excessive exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light.
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One test-tube study found that a mixture of hawthorn extract and ginseng can prevent signs of aging by inhibiting the formation of wrinkles and increasing skin moisture (
Research shows that this effect could be due to the antioxidant content of hawthorn berries. However, 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 as a result of their antioxidant content.
In an older study of 264 people with anxiety, a combination of hawthorn extract, magnesium, and California poppy flower significantly reduced anxiety levels compared to a placebo. However, it is unclear what specific role hawthorn had (
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Hawthorn appears to have few side effects compared to traditional anti-anxiety medications. This is one reason why scientists continue to investigate it as a potential treatment for central nervous system disorders such as anxiety and depression (
However, these studies used different types of hawthorn products, not necessarily the berry. More research is needed.
If you want to try a hawthorn supplement to help control your anxiety, don’t stop taking any medications you’re currently taking, and be sure to talk to your healthcare provider first to make sure it’s safe for you.
Summary Scientists are investigating hawthorn supplements as a potential treatment for anxiety. However, there is currently not much research on them for this purpose. More studies are needed on the effects of hawthorn berries on anxiety.
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Hawthorn berries are best known for their use in a traditional context in the treatment of heart failure, alongside other traditional remedies. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump blood properly.
A number of studies have suggested that hawthorn berries may have beneficial effects without serious adverse effects in people with 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 certain cases of heart failure. One study found that taking it alongside conventional treatments increased the risk of heart failure progression (
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Summary In some traditional medicine practices, people usually take hawthorn berries along with other traditional medicines for heart failure. However, it can be harmful when combined with conventional heart failure medications.
Hawthorn berries can be hard to find in your local grocery store. However, you may be able to find it in markets and specialty health food stores.
Hawthorn berry supplements usually contain the berries along with the leaves and flowers, although some contain just the leaves and flowers.
Different brands and forms of hawthorn supplements have different dosage recommendations. Usual doses are 250-500 mg three times a day. However, research has yet to determine the optimal effective dose (
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Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements such as hawthorn under a less stringent set of regulations than over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
Look for products that have received the seal of approval from independent organizations that evaluate the effectiveness and quality of supplements, such as the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.
Summary You can eat hawthorn berries in many ways or take them as a dietary supplement. However, appropriate doses have not yet been defined and further research is needed.
There are not many reported side effects of taking hawthorn berries. Those that do exist seem to range from mild to moderate.
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The most common ones reported by people are sweating, headaches, 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 are usually mild. They often include sweating, headaches, drowsiness, palpitations, mild rash, agitation, and gastrointestinal effects.
The use of medicinal plants as an alternative treatment for several diseases has become more and more common