Traditionally used to improve heart function in people with cardiovascular weakness or debility
Used for chronic heart failure, palpitations, high blood pressure and for atherosclerosis
Traditionally used to improve blood flow
Hawthorn has been used as a heart medicine and tonic for centuries in traditional Western herbalism. Hawthorn was a favourite of Eclectic physicians like Finley Ellingwood, MD, who quotes from a letter by a Dr. Jennings in the New York Medical Journal in which he states that hawthorn "is superior to any other of the well known and tried remedies at present in use in the treatment of heart disease."
A World Health Organization (WHO) monograph confirms the traditional uses. The authors state that chronic congestive heart failure stage II, as defined by the New York Heart Association (NYHA), is a clinical indication confirmed by clinical trials. Stage II heart failure is characterized by fatigue, shortness of breath, palpitations, or angina associated with normal physical activity.
Pharmacological studies confirm heart muscle strengthening properties, improved rhythm control, reversal of atherosclerosis, improved coronary blood flow, and blood pressure-lowering effects in animal and human studies.
Naturopathic physician Dr. William A. Mitchell Jr. describes his own experience with hawthorn: "I have found that Crataegus is a gentle and effective heart medicine. It is perhaps the most reliable heart medicine in the Materia Medica. Crataegus is a consistent and gentle strengthener of the heart, a protector of the arteries and veins, and an all-around great botanical citizen. Dr. Bastyr recommended prolonged use of Crataegus as a cardiotonic. It increases coronary circulation… I have seen hundreds of patients who have been able to function better, even with seriously compromised hearts, after just one week of treatment with Crataegus". Mitchell adds that hawthorn benefits individuals with high blood pressure, angina and atherosclerosis.
In a study titled Hawthorn Extract for Treating Chronic Heart Failure: Meta-analysis of Randomized Trials, researchers performed a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to determine if hawthorn works for chronic heart failure. Evaluating data only from clinical trials that were randomized, double blind, and placebo-controlled, the authors concluded that, "the best evidence that is available suggests that hawthorn extract has significant benefits, compared with placebo, as an adjunctive treatment for patients with chronic heart failure".