A Herb For Your Heart

Hawthorn is a large, thorny deciduous shrub with small, white scented flowers. It develops bright scarlet red berries in the Fall, and is related to plants in the Rosaceae family, such as roses and apples.

Native to the northern hemisphere, Hawthorn is traditionally found in the old hedgerows of Europe and the United Kingdom. It was once associated with fertility and the ancient Greek goddess, Maia, and is used in holistic medicine to heal the heart.

Hawthorn hedgeCredit: User:businessplans / morgueFile

Herbal Medicine

Hawthorn has many names . . . Haw, Hedgethorn, May, May Bush, May Flower, Mayblossom, May Day Flower, Ban-sangli (Hindi), Maythorn, Quickthorn and Whitethorn . . . and just as many uses when it comes to healing the heart.

In terms of its medicinal value, Hawthorn berries "constitute one of the most valuable remedies for the cardiovascular system, strengthening the force of the contraction of the heart muscle while also acting to dilate the vessels of the coronary circulation." (Hoffmann, p. 27) 

Other parts of the plant utilized in herbal medicine include its flowers and its leaves – both of which are used to successfully treat heart-related complaints. "Most modern preparations use the leaves and flowers, which are believed to contain more of the flavonoids than the berries." (Ehrlich, NMD, 2011)

Heart conditions that Hawthorn can help to alleviate include:

•  chilblains

•  heart weakness

•  angina pectoris

•  heart disturbance

•  high blood pressure (hypertension)

•  arteriosclerosis 

•  thrombosis

•  phlebitis

•  varicose veins, and

•  palpitations.

(Hoffmann, 1993) 

Chemical Composition

All medicinal herbs are made up of a number of active chemicals, that interact with the tissues and fluids in the body, to promote better health. The following list of chemical constituents have been researched and scientifically proven to be present in Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha).

"1.  Vitamin C;

2.  Flavonoids: Quercetin, Hyperoside, Rutin, Flavonoglycosyls, Vitexin-4'-rhamnoside;

3.  Glycosides;

4.  Oligomeric procyanidins (OPC) – epicatechol.

5.  Anthocyanidins and Proanthocyanidins (biflavans).

6.  Saponins and Tannins.

7.  Cratetegin (most prevalent in flowers > leaves > berries).

8.  Other chemical constituents:
     a) Cardiotonic amines: Phenylethylamine, Tyramine, Isobutylamine, 
         Omethoxy phenylethylamine ;
     b) Choline and acetylcholine;
     c) Purine derivatives: Adenosine, Adenine, Guanine, Caffeic acid;
     d) Amygdalin;
     e) Pectins;
     f) Triterpene."

(Verma, Jain, Verma & Khamesra, p. 64)

Hawthorn berriesCredit: Karpati Gabor / morgueFile

Herbal Actions

Hawthorn has a positive effect on the heart. It improves peripheral circulation, stabilizes heart function and slows down contractility of the heart muscle. It has been proven to reduce high blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. (Alternative Medicine Review, 2010) 

Toning and strengthening the cardiovascular system, Hawthorn acts "in a normalizing way upon the heart by either stimulating or depressing its activity depending on the need . . . Hawthorn Berries move the heart to normal function in a gentle way." (Hoffmann, p. 206)

Being a diuretic, Hawthorn naturally increases urine elimination. This action is beneficial when circulatory problems occur and prevents water retention in the body. The herb also has an astringent action and is useful in treating diarrhoea. (McIntyre, 1996)

Herbal Dosage 

Hawthorn is usually taken as an infusion (with or without the addition of other herbs) and as a tincture. Extracts and tinctures are normally sourced from herbal practitioners and/or natural health stores. Dried Hawthorn is mostly commonly available to consumers, either prepackaged (ie tea), or as dietary supplements in capsule form.

'For the purpose of therapy, the most common dosage recommendations are: 

1.  Standardized extract – 250 mg three times a day.
2.  Berry – 300 mg three times a day.
3.  Tincture – 1 ml three times a day.
4.  Crude – 200 mg daily.
5.  Leaf and flower extract – 160 mg = 3.5 mg flavonoids daily."

(Verma, Jain, Verma & Khamesra, p. 66)

Hawthorn leavesCredit: User:sideshowmum / morgueFile

Clinical Therapy

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) has been clinically researched and analyzed in experimental work. Its main use has been suggested in these cardiovascular conditions:

•  Hypertension
•  Arrhythmia
•  Angina
•  Peripheral vascular disorders
•  Antioxidant and lipid regulating agent
•  Congestive Heart Failure (NYHA class I & II)

(Verma, Jain, Verma & Khamesra, 2007)


Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) is abbreviated as Crat. in homeopathic medicine. As a remedy to support heart function and circulation, it is given as a "fluid extract or tincture, one to fifteen drops. Must be used for some time in order to obtain good results." (Boericke, p. 210) 

Applicable to cases of chronic heart disease, Crat. may be a suitable choice where there is "heart failure that threatens from the slightest exertion, pain in the heart area, high blood pressures and arteriosclerosis for the elderly." (McIntyre, p. 95)

From a homeopathic perspective, a person with a Hawthorn constitution ('symptom picture') appears weak, despondent and apprehensive. They are very nervous and irritable, and prone to excessive perspiration and skin eruptions. They much prefer quiet, restful surroundings and fresh air. Aggravated by warm rooms, they may have difficulty sleeping, and experience irregular pulse and coldness of skin, with blue discoloration of toes and fingers. (Boericke, 2009)

Hawthorn flowersCredit: User:Jusben / morgueFile

Flower Therapy

Hawthorn is a flower essence for healing the heart chakra. Allowing the heart to open and give love, "it is a remedy recommended to heal broken hearts, disappointment, anger or bitterness after a failed love affair. It eases emotional extremes which would contribute to physical illness such as heart disease." (McIntyre, p. 95) 

By clearing toxic emotions from the heart, Hawthorn offers the possibility to receive the love that circulates in, around and towards us. Hawthorn heals from the inside out, returning us to a place of wholeness so we may live, love and fully accept ourselves.

Hawthorn guides us back to our spiritual center where inner strength and love reside. "As with many heart-acting energy remedies, hawthorn helps us to develop courage. The very etymology of the word courage draws our attention to the heart: cor is latin for heart. And courage is truly an open-hearted state." (Freed, ND, 2012)


Hawthorn is a tonic for the cardiovascular system and a protective herb for the heart. Having explored its uses in various areas of alternative medicine, it is easy to see why Hawthorn is so highly esteemed in the world of natural medicine. 

It is a time-honored herb with the power to heal problems of the heart in a safe and non-toxic way. On physical and energetic levels, it restores heart vitality so we may live healthier and happier lives.

Recognized as the flower of the heart, Hawthorn truly is – just that.


  • All serious health problems, heart or otherwise, must be properly diagnosed and monitored by your doctor and/or natural health professional. 
  • If prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, check first with your health professional prior to taking Hawthorn (or other herb). Adverse reactions between medication and herbs are rare but can occur.
  • The facts presented here are for information purposes only.  

 Next article: Facts About Marigold