Botanical names: Crataegus laevigata, Crataegus
oxyacantha, Crataegus monogyna
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
Hawthorn is commonly found in Europe, western Asia, North America, and North Africa. Modern
medicinal extracts primarily use the leaves and flowers. Traditional preparations use the
Hawthorn has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Dioscorides, a Greek herbalist, reportedly used hawthorn in the first century A.D. Although
numerous passing mentions are made for a variety of conditions, support for the heart is the
main benefit of hawthorn.
The leaves, flowers, and berries of hawthorn contain a variety of bioflavonoids that appear
to be primarily responsible for the cardiac actions of the plant. Flavonoids found in hawthorn include oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs), vitexin, vitexin
4’-O-rhamnoside, quercetin, and
hyperoside. These compounds are often standardized in leaf and flower extracts, which are
widely used in Europe.
Hawthorn is thought to exert many beneficial effects on the heart and blood vessels. These
include improved coronary artery blood flow and strengthening of the contractions of the heart
muscle.1 Hawthorn may also improve circulation to the extremities by lowering the
resistance to blood flow in peripheral blood vessels.2 The bioflavonoids in
hawthorn are potent antioxidants.3
Hawthorn extracts may mildly lower blood pressure in some people with high blood pressure but should not be thought of as a
substitute for cardiac medications for this condition.
Clinical trials have confirmed that hawthorn leaf and flower extracts are beneficial for
people with stage II (early-stage) congestive
heart failure.4 5 6 7 8 People with
congestive heart failure taking 160–900 mg of hawthorn extract per day for eight weeks
showed improved quality of life including greater ability to exercise without shortness of
breath and exhaustion. Congestive heart failure is a serious medical condition that requires
expert management rather than self-treatment. One study has shown that hawthorn leaf and
flower extract may also help those with stable
How much is usually taken?
Extracts of the leaves and flowers are most commonly used in modern herbal medicine.
Hawthorn extracts standardized for total bioflavonoid content (usually 2.2%) or oligomeric procyanidins (usually 18.75%) are often
suggested. Many doctors recommend 80–300 mg of the herbal extract in capsules or tablets
two to three times per day.10 If traditional berry preparations are used, the
recommendation is at least 4–5 grams per day or a tincture of 4–5 ml three times
daily. However, this form has not been clinically studied. Hawthorn is slow acting and may
take one to two months for maximum effects to be seen. However, it appears to be safe and
should be considered a long-term therapy.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Hawthorn is safe for long-term use. People taking prescription cardiac medications should
consult with their doctor before using hawthorn-containing products. Reports of hawthorn
interacting with digitalis to augment its effects have not been confirmed in clinical trials.
There are no apparent restrictions to use of hawthorn during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with hawthorn. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. Weikl A, Noh HS. The influence of Crataegus on global cardiac
insufficiency. Herz Gefabe 1993;11:516–24.
2. Loew D. Pharmacological and clinical results with Crataegus
special extracts in cardiac insufficiency. ESCOP Phytotelegram 1994;6:20–6.
3. Bahorun T, Trotin F, Pommery J, et al. Antioxidant activities of
Crataegus monogyna extracts. Planta Med 1994;60:323–8.
4. Weihmayr T, Ernst E. Therapeutic effectiveness of Crataegus.
Fortschr Med 1996;114:27–9 [in German].
5. Schmidt U, Kuhn U, Ploch M, Hübner W-D. Efficacy of the Hawthorn
(Crataegus) preparation LI 132 in 78 patients with chronic congestive heart failure defined as
NYHA functional class II. Phytomed 1994;1:17–24.
6. Leuchtgens H. Crataegus special extract WS 1442 in heart failure, NYHA
II. A placebo-controlled randomized double-blind study. Fortschr Med
7. Weikl A, Assmus KD, Neukum-Schmidt A, et al. Crataegus special extract
WS 1442: Objective proof of efficacy in patients withy cardiac insufficiency (NYHA II).
Fortschr Med 1996;114:291–6.
8. Tauchert M, Ploch M, Hübner W-D. Effectiveness of hawthorn
extract LI 132 compared with the ACE inhibitor Captopril: Multicenter double-blind study with
132 patients NYHA stage II. Münch Med Wochenschr
9. Hanack T, Brückel M-H. The treatment of mild stable forms of
angina pectoris using Crataegutt (R) Novo. Therapiewoche 1983;33:4331–3 [in
10. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin,
CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 139–44.