Principal Proposed Uses
The name "hawthorn" is derived from "hedgethorn," reflecting this spiny tree's use as a living fence in much of Europe. Besides protecting estates from trespassers, hawthorn has also been used medicinally since ancient times. Roman physicians used hawthorn as a heart drug in the first century AD, but most of the literature from that period focuses on its symbolic use for religious rites and political ceremonies.
During the Middle Ages, hawthorn was used for the treatment of dropsy, a condition we now call congestive heart failure. It was also used for treating other heart ailments as well as for sore throat.
What Is Hawthorn Used for Today?
Meaningful evidence indicates that hawthorn is a safe and effective treatment for congestive heart failure (CHF) . Like other treatments used for CHF, hawthorn improves the heart's pumping ability. However, it may offer some important advantages over certain conventional drugs used for this condition.
It is thought to do so by lengthening what is called the refractory period. This term refers to the short period following a heartbeat during which the heart cannot beat again. Many irregularities of heart rhythm begin with an early beat. Digoxin shortens the refractory period, making such a premature beat more likely, while hawthorn protects against such potentially dangerous breaks in the heart's even rhythm.
Finally, CHF is simply too dangerous a condition to rely solely on self-treatment.
The bottom line : If you have CHF, do not use hawthorn except under close physician supervision.
The bottom line: If you have CHF, do not use hawthorn except under close physician supervision.
In addition to CHF, hawthorn is sometimes used as a treatment for annoying heart palpitations that have been thoroughly evaluated and found to be harmless. Common symptoms include occasional thumping as well as episodes of racing heartbeat. These may occur without any identifiable cause and may not require any medical treatment, except for purposes of comfort. However, there is no evidence that hawthorn is effective for this purpose. Furthermore, because there are many dangerous kinds of heart palpitations, it is absolutely necessary to get a thorough checkup first. It is only worth considering hawthorn as a treatment for palpitations if a doctor tells you that you have no medically significant heart problems.
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The usual dosage of hawthorn is 300 to 600 mg 3 times daily of an extract standardized to contain about 2% to 3% flavonoids or 18% to 20% procyanidins. Studies indicate that full effects may take up to 6 months to develop, although some improvement should be apparent much sooner.
Perhaps the biggest risk with hawthorn is that using it instead of conventional treatment might increase risk of death or other complications of CHF. In addition, it is not known whether hawthorn can be safely combined with other drugs that affect the heart. Therefore (to reiterate), do not self-treat CHF with hawthorn. A physician's supervision is essential.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver, heart, or kidney disease has not been established.
Interactions You Should Know About
- If you are taking any medications that affect the heart: It is possible that taking hawthorn could cause problems.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -