Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha, Crataegus laevigata)

Hawthorn: Medical Uses

Hawthorn is used as a heart tonic and for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina.

Historical Uses

Hawthorn was the symbol of hope and happiness in ancient Greece and Rome.


This shrub grows in temperate zones in Europe and in the United States.

Parts Used

  • • Berries
  • • Flower heads
  • • Leaves

Major Chemical Compounds

  • • Flavonoids
  • • Oligomeric procyanidins
  • • Cardiotonic amines
  • • Anthocyanins

Hawthorn: Clinical Uses

Hawthorn is used as a heart tonic and for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina.

Mechanism of Action

Flavonoids prevent destruction of collagen, prevent plaque buildup, and strengthen blood vessels. Inotropic in nature, they help the heart muscle to contract. Anthocyanins inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation and platelet aggregation, which protects against heart disease. They help to treat vascular disorders and also capillary fragility. Flavonoids cause smooth muscles of coronary vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and decreasing angina. Proanthocyanidins in the flower heads inhibit biosynthesis of thromboxane A2.

Hawthorn: Dosage

Hawthorn extracts are standardized to 2.2 percent flavonoids or 18 percent oligomeric procyanidins.

Capsules: Starting dose is 80 mg twice daily, increased to 960 mg daily.

Tincture (1:5): 5 mL three times daily.

Tea: 1 to 2 teaspoons of hawthorn berries in 250 mL of water, steeped for 15 minutes.


• None are known.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Hawthorn may enhance the effects of cardiac glycosides and may interact with theophylline, caffeine, papaverine, sodium nitrate, adenosine, epinephrine, and barbiturates. It also may interfere with or intensify the effects of digoxin.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

No restrictions are known.. However, Ottariano (Natural Medicines (2000) do not recommend the use of hawthorn during pregnancy and lactation.

Summary of Studies

Hanak & Bruckel (1983). This double-blind, placebo-controlled study lasted 3 weeks and included 60 subjects with angina pectoris who took 180 mg/day of hawthorn extract, divided into three doses. Results: Pathological ECG changes caused by exertion improved significantly in treated versus control subjects and caused no side effects.

Schmidt et al. (1994). Seventy-eight patients with chronic heart disease were given 600 mg/day of hawthorn extract. Results: Subjects who took hawthorn had decreased blood pressure, decreased heart rate, and decreased shortness of breath while exercising compared to subjects who did not take hawthorn.


  • • No side effects or contraindications are known.
  • • Don’t use hawthorn if you take any of the following medications: heart medications (such as digoxin), theophylline, caffeine, papaverine, sodium nitrate, adenosine, epinephrine, or a barbiturate.
  • • Don’t use hawthorn if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Consult your health-care practitioner.