Crataegus monogyna, Rosaceae
Hawthorn berries, or haws as they are also called, are the bright red, ripened fruits of a thorny shrub or small tree which is common to most temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Crataegus monogyna, Crataegus laevigata, and Crataegus oxycantha are members of the Rosaceae family and are used interchangeably as sources of plant medicines. The leaves are bright green with five to seven acute lobes. The flowers have five white petals, with five triangular sepals, and are grouped into branching corymbs. Hawthorn berries were used as far back as the first century A.D. as described by Dioscorides. The leaves and flowers can also be used, as well as the fruits.
Hawthorn is a valuable herb, widely used in Europe for the treatment of mild heart conditions, mild cardiac insufficiency, mild bradycardial arrhythmias, as well as other minor circulatory ailments. Hawthorn apparently causes direct dilation of the smooth muscles of the blood vessels, especially the coronary vessels, thereby lowering peripheral resistance, thus lowering blood pressure. It also increases blood flow and coronary output, thereby decreasing the tendency toward angina pectoris. However, hawthorn is not a suitable treatment for acute angina attacks, since its effects are slow acting and develop only after continued and persistant consumption. Scientific studies have shown positive ionotropic and negative chronotropic effects, as well as hypotensive action. The cardiotropic effects are thought to be caused by increased membrane permeability for calcium, as well as the inhibition of phosphodiesterase and resultant increase of intracellular cyclic AMP concentrations, thus accelerating the heart rate and increasing nerve conductivity and heart muscle irritability. Observations in humans taking hawthorn extracts orally as a long term treatment resulted in improvement in the echocardiogram (ECG) of patients with mild cardiac insufficiency and of their subjective symptoms, as well as improvement of systolic contraction and decrease in rhythm.
Hawthorn appears to have a favorable effect on the heart muscle, especially where heart damage is involved, such as in recovery from a heart attack. A meta-analysis of previous studies concluded that there is evidence of benefit for an extract in treating chronic heart failure. The active constituents of hawthorn berries include flavonoids such as rutin, spirein and hyperin, known for their antioxidant propeties; as well as oligomeric proanthocyanidins including procyanidin B-2, B-5, and C-1, and epicatechin. Flavone C-glycosides are also present including vitexin, orientin and their 2”-rhamnosylated derivatives. Hawthorn also contains aromatic amines, cholorogenic acid, and a trace of essential oil. Hawthorn has been shown to have no toxicity unless taken in exceedingly large doses and thus has been heralded as a safe, relatively harmless, mild heart and circulatory tonic which has shown favorable results for many mild conditions. Keep in mind that self-diagnosis of conditions pertaining to vital systems of the human body such as the heart can be very dangerous. Consult with a health care professional to obtain a proper diagnosis instead of self-treating any circulatory or heart conditions.
 “Crataegus L.”. Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-01-30. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/genus.pl?3040.
 Pittler MH, Guo R, Ernst E (2008). “Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev Jan 23 (1): CD005312. PMID 18254076.
 Tassell, M.; Kingston, R.; Gilroy, D.; Lehane, M.; Furey, A. (2010). Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Pharmacognosy Review. 4(7): 32-41.
 Sweet JMRBV (2002). Hawthorn: Pharmacology and therapeutic uses. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 59: 417-422.