Hawthorn, a flowering shrub of the rose family, has an extensive history of use in cardiovascular disease, dating back to the 1st Century. Flavonoids and other compounds found in hawthorn may synergistically improve performance of the damaged heart muscles, and further, may prevent or reduce symptoms of coronary artery disease.
Hawthorn is widely used in Europe for treating New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class I-II heart failure, with standardization of its leaves and flowers. Overall, hawthorn appears to be effective, safe and well tolerated, and in accordance with its indication, best used under the supervision of a medical professional.
The therapeutic equivalence of hawthorn extracts to drugs considered standard-of-care for heart failure (such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, or beta-adrenergic receptor blockers) remains to be established, as does the effect of concomitant use of hawthorn with these drugs. Nonetheless, hawthorn is a potentially beneficial therapy for patients who cannot/will not take prescription drugs, and may offer additive benefits to prescription drug therapy.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Congestive heart failure
Extracts of the leaves and flowers of hawthorn have been reported as effective in the treatment of mild-to-moderate congestive heart failure (CHF), improving exercise capacity and reducing symptoms of cardiac insufficiency. However, whether hawthorn is as effective as drugs considered standard-of-care for heart failure (such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, or beta-adrenergic receptor blockers) is unclear, as is the effect of the combined use of hawthorn with these drugs. Nonetheless, hawthorn is a potentially beneficial treatment for patients who cannot/will not take prescription drugs and may offer additive benefits to established therapies. Further study of these issues is warranted.
Hawthorn in combination with other herbs may help to reduce anxiety and anxious mood. It is unknown if hawthorn specifically had beneficial effects.
Coronary artery disease (angina)
Hawthorn has not been tested in the setting of concomitant drugs such as beta-blockers or ACE-inhibitors, which are often considered to be standard-of-care. At this time, there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against hawthorn for coronary artery disease or angina.
Functional cardiovascular disorders
Herbal combinations containing hawthorn have been found effective in the treatment of functional cardiovascular symptoms. However, due to a lack of information on the use of hawthorn alone, there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against hawthorn for functional cardiovascular disorders.
High blood pressure
Studies in patients with type 2 diabetes support the historic use of hawthorn to lower blood pressure. More studies are needed before strong recommendations may be made.
Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure on standing up)
Fresh hawthorn berries may improve orthostatic hypotension (a lowering of blood pressure that occurs when a person goes from a lying down position to a standing position). Additional study is needed in this area.