Common Hawthorn: Uses, Benefits and Risks

White hawthorn is a medicinal plant with interesting health properties. What are its main uses? Does it cause side effects? Find out here.
Common Hawthorn: Uses, Benefits and Risks

Last update: 04 September, 2021

Common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), also known as one-seed hawthorn or single-seeded hawthorn, is a thorny shrub that belongs to the family Rosaceae. It’s native to temperate areas of Europe, North America and Asia. However, it also grows in some South American countries, such as Chile and Argentina.

The plant reaches up to 20 feet in height and has thorny branches, hairless and serrated leaves, white flowers and small sweet berries that can be used in various recipes, such as for jams, jellies, candies and wines. In addition, all of its parts have compounds with medicinal properties.

In particular, as stated in an article published in the magazine Nutrients, it contains a considerable amount of antioxidants, which are associated with a better quality diet and decreased cardiovascular risk. Similarly, it’s thought to have anxiolytic and anti-inflammatory effects. What are its main uses? Read on!

Uses and benefits of hawthorn

The leaves, flowers, and berries of common hawthorn contain phytonutrients (oligomeric proanthocyanidins and flavonoids), whose consumption is associated with significant health effects in the body. Let’s check out in detail what they’re used for in natural medicine.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Although evidence in humans is limited, some research has found that hawthorn extracts have anti-inflammatory potential. In a study published in Chemico-Biological Interactions, scientists observed a decrease in inflammation in mice with liver disease after they were given a supplement obtained from hawthorn berry.

Research published in the journal PLOS One found that the plant decreased allergic airway inflammation in mice with asthma. Given these results, scientists believe that this herbal remedy may have the same effects in humans. Still, further research is needed.

Blood pressure

One of the main applications of hawthorn is in lowering high blood pressure. Its berries, as well as its leaves and other parts, contain antioxidants that promote vasodilation. As a result, the blood vessels relax and pressure decreases.

In addition, research published in Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy reported that an extract of Crataegus leaves and flowers helped generate a vascular relaxation effect. Meanwhile, a study in the British Journal of General Practice found that 1200 milligrams of hawthorn extract helped lower high blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes.

A doctor takes a patient's blood pressure.
Blood pressure reduction using hawthorn would be particularly useful in diabetic patients.

Cholesterol and triglycerides

Cholesterol and triglycerides are lipids that play an important role in hormone production and the transport of nutrients. However, as explained in an article published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, their accumulation in the blood can lead to the formation of plaque in blood vessels.

This means that it’s essential to adopt habits that help stabilize its levels and reduce the risks involved. In this regard, hawthorn has positive effects, as it helps prevent the accumulation of fats.

Similarly, researchers have observed a reduction of between 28% and 47% in hepatic triglycerides. Research in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine supports these properties, but the authors recommend more studies in humans.

Digestion

Some people eat hawthorn fruits and their extracts as adjuvants to soothe digestive problems. Specifically, they help relieve indigestion and stomach pain. This is probably due to their fiber content, which acts as a prebiotic.

According to a study published in Hospital Nutrition, prebiotics nourish intestinal bacteria and promote a healthy balance. Among other things, hawthorn extract improves intestinal transit and helps relieve peptic ulcers.

Other possible benefits of common hawthorn

In natural medicine, hawthorn has many uses. Given its long history as a health booster, it’s also attributed with other effects.

Yet, as the U.S. website WebMD points out, the evidence is insufficient. Specifically, people believe it helps with the following:

  • Angina or chest pain
  • Heart failure
  • Blood circulation problems
  • Anxiety
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Muscle spasms
  • Slow heart rate
  • Memory and thinking abilities

Risks and possible side effects of common hawthorn

For most healthy adults, hawthorn and its extracts are safe. No serious side effects have been reported after consumption. However, as discussed in a Cochrane Library review, it may cause mild nausea and dizziness in some people.

Moreover, an overdose of the plant can cause arrhythmias and low blood pressure, as detailed in a review in American Family Physician. Other possible adverse reactions include the following:

  • Intestinal symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Palpitations
  • Sedation
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sweating


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