The heart healthy benefits of hawthorn berries

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Hawthorn Berries and Heart News(NaturalHealth365) Hawthorn berries are widely used as an approved treatment for early stages of heart failure in Europe. The berries are used in conjunction with the conventional medical treatment. Traditional literature refers to hawthorn berries as an effective way to care for hypertension and poor circulation.

According to University of Maryland, hawthorn berries are packed with heart-healthy compounds like, flavonoids, rutin, epicatechin, vitexin, catechin, proanthocyanidins, quercetin and hyperoside. These compounds help to dilate blood vessels, prevent the damage to blood vessels and improve blood flow.

How do hawthorn berries improve heart function?

Studies show that hawthorn exert a relaxing effect on the arteries, consequently enhancing blood circulation and blood pressure. A 2006 randomized controlled trial revealed that hawthorn supplementation decreased the diastolic blood pressure (the lower number of BP reading) in type-2 diabetes patients thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease significantly.

Flavonoid compounds in hawthorn were also found to regulate the effect of ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme). ACE influences the blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels – which narrows the pathway of blood increasing blood pressure. Hawthorn’s antioxidant flavonoids naturally regulate the ACE effect, thereby demonstrating better heart and kidney health in patients at risk.

Many animal studies that investigated the cholesterol-reducing effects of hawthorn showed a significant decrease in blood cholesterol, including the LDL (bad cholesterol). One study reported that hawthorn supplementation caused a 23% reduction in total cholesterol, 22% reduction in triglycerides and also activated cholesterol clearance through bile.

In fact, a recent scientific review of the double-blind controlled studies on hawthorn parallels the results of the aforementioned studies. The review found that they exert significant beneficial effect as an adjuvant treatment for patients with chronic heart failure. The review stated ”there is a significant benefit in symptom control and beneficial physiological outcomes from hawthorn extracts.”

How safe are hawthorn berries?

Hawthorn berries have a tart taste and can be consumed fresh but be sure to avoid the seeds. If you have dried hawthorn berries in hand, it is easy to prepare a simple tea. Just add a teaspoonful of the dried berry powder to a cup of boiling water in tea pot and allow to steep for ten minutes before consuming the tea. The tea however has a very bitter taste due to the presence of catechins and other antioxidant compounds. Most herbalist recommend consuming three tea cups per day to improve blood circulation and as a heart-healthy tonic.

If you are looking for a hawthorn berry supplements there are many varieties. Choose supplements containing Crataegus oxyacantha – which is a standardized (1.8% strength) to contain the flavonoid vitexin. The dosage used in most studies range from 600 – 900 mg per day. According to a peer-reviewed study, published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, the long term use and the safety of hawthorn berries is still under examination.

Although side effects of consuming hawthorn berries are rare, some people experience nausea, headache and palpitations. In addition, compounds in hawthorn berries may interact with other medications or supplements leading to adverse reactions. Keep in mind, to avoid wild hawthorn berries due to their cyanide content, this may form a poisonous gas hydrogen cyanide once inside the body.

Of course, always seek consultation from a licensed herbalist or a healthcare provider qualified in the field of herbal medicine before consuming hawthorn or any other herbs.

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References:
1. Chang WT, Dao J, Shao ZH. Hawthorn: potential roles in cardiovascular disease. Am J Chin Med. 2005;33(1):1-10.
2. Hawthorn Helps Heart Failure Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Pittler MH, Guo R, Ernst E.
3. Chen ZY, Zhang ZS, Kwan KY, Zhu M, Ho WK, Huang Y. Endothelium-dependent relaxation induced by hawthorn extract in rat mesenteric artery. Life Sci. 1998 November 63(22):1983-91.
4. Walker AF, Marakis G, Simpson E, Hope JL, Robinson PA, Hassanein M, Simpson HC. “Hypotensive effects of hawthorn for patients with diabetes taking prescription drugs: a randomised controlled trial.” Br J Gen Pract.56. 527 (2006): 437-443

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