Hawthorn is a common, thorny shrub that grows up to five feet tall on hillsides and in sunny wooded areas
of North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. The Hawthorn plant produces small berries, called haws, which sprout each May after the flowers of the hawthorn plant bloom. Hawthorn berries are usually red when ripe, but may be much darker. Hawthorn leaves, while usually shiny, may grow in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Bioflavonoid complexes (including oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs), vitexin, quercetin, and hyperoside) found in the leaves, flowers, and berries of hawthorn are believed to be responsible for the herbs positive health benefits. Hawthorn is well know for the cardiac benefits it provides, including improved coronary artery blood flow as well as improved blood flow in the extremeties. Hawthorn may also be helpful when used in connection with other conditions such as angina, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and some arrhythmias. It is believed by some professionals that chemicals in hawthorn may act directly on the heart muscle to increase the force of heartbeats and to relax the arteries around the heart. Hawthorn may also work indirectly by widening blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. As a result, it may assist in stabilizing blood pressure.
Based on evidence provided by clinical trials it has been confirmed that hawthorn extracts benefit individuals with early-state congestive heart failure.
In recent animal studies, results indicated that hawthorn herb may be able to lower cholesterol levels by reducing the production of cholesterol and by augmenting the body's ability to breakdown cholesterol. An additional human study also produced similar cholesterol-lowering results, but evidence is still lacking to verify the validity or applicability of these results.
Many of the active contituents found in hawthorn exhibit potent antioxidant properties.
Dosage and Administration
Hawthorn products standardized to contain either 4 to 20 mg flavonoids/30 to 160 mg oligomeric procyanidins, or 1.8 vitexin rhamnoside/10 procyanidins, are recommended. When supplementing with hawthorn make sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
Hawthorn for heart failure or angina may require at least six weeks of use, three times per day before an effect is noticed.
Precautions and Side Effects
Most researchers are in agreement that hawthorn is a relatively safe herb. Notwithstanding, it is always recommended to follow recommended dosages or consult with a doctor before taking any supplement.
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