Hawthorn, also known as thornapple, mayflower, mayblossom, and botanically referred to as cratageus mongyna, is a thorny, flowering shrub in the rose family. It is native to the Nothern Hemisphere, especially Europe but is now naturalized in most regions of the world. It flowers in May and June, bringing forth white, delicate flowers with five petals and pink stamens.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
Hawthorn flowers, berries and leaves are full of nutrients, micronutrients and medicinal compounds. This explains why the shrub has been used as food for years, however, it is the medicinal qualities that hawthorn is famous for.
The shrub has a long medicinal history in China, North America, and Europe. Dioscorides, the first-century Greek physician was among the first people to appreciate the herbal capabilities of the hawthorn in treating cardiovascular problems. Years later, medical science validated his claims as it was discovered that the shrub is highly effective in reducing bad cholesterol, enhancing heart contractions and regulating blood pressure. This might explain why in Celtic mythology, the shrub symbolizes love and protection.
Ancient Egyptians used various parts of the plant to treat digestive tract problems. There are also records indicating that the plant was used to treat respiratory and mental problems. Studies show that hawthorn flowers, leaves, and berries contain flavonoids and procyanidins. These two are the most active components with medicinal qualities in the plant. Apart from procyanidins and flavonoids, hawthorn is also known to contain phenolic and triperne acids.
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Why is hawthorn heart-friendly
The main secret behind hawthorn’s heart friendliness is its high levels of antioxidant compounds which are known to be potent vasodilators. Basically, vasodilators are compounds that help to keep the veins and arteries open. They regulate blood pressure and prevent clogging as well as narrowing of blood vessels. These three are the main factors responsible for a healthy heart.
A study conducted in 2002 on patients diagnosed with hypertension showed that test subjects who were given 500mg of hawthorn and 600mg of magnesium experienced a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure compared to the subjects receiving placebos. The study also indicated that the subjects taking real hawthorn extracts had improved moods and reported a decrease in anxiety.
In another study published in Pharmacognosy Review, researchers noticed that hawthorn extracts significantly improved symptoms of cardiac functions. In addition, the study showed that hawthorn had minimal side effects compared to conventional drugs used to treat cardiovascular conditions.
This small shrub has never failed to deliver its medicinal and culinary benefits to humankind.