Hawthorn: Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Ask any American herbalist or any European doctor, any pharmacist or staff member of a natural food store what single herb is most recommended to help make a healthy heart, and all will answer the same—Hawthorn!

Throughout the ages hawthorn has been considered a magical herb for protecting one against evil or pernicious influences, but in the last several hundred years it has taken its place as the most respected natural medicine for helping to heal an ailing heart and cardiovascular system. Considering that heart disease is the number one cause of death in industrialized countries, it is amazing that hawthorn is not more widely used or understood.

One thinks immediately of such superstar herbs as echinacea, ginkgo, and valerian—all from the same lineage of well-researched European herbal imports as hawthorn. So why is hawthorn not a hot topic of conversation in stores throughout the country? Perhaps it’s too common—the shrubby tree grows wild in many parts of the world. And it has not been as written about or understood in this country, perhaps cast aside in the past because it does not provide the dramatic results as digitoxin (a drug from foxglove). But it for whatever reason for its current obscurity among the populace, hawthorn is likely to take its place alongside of other famous European "phytomedicines"—as soon as the word about its effectiveness and safety gets out.

I have a special fondness for hawthorn because it greatly helped someone close to me over a difficult time—my dad. He had a heart attack years ago, which greatly weakened his heart. His heartbeat became irregular, and his strength was diminished. He began taking hawthorn liquid extract, with excellent results—his heartbeat soon became regular and stronger, and he has taken it off and on since then. My dad has always been an extremely positive person, and I’m happy to say that at 72 he is still working and delighting us with his humor.

Important therapeutic information:

Hawthorn works slowly, like all herbal tonics. It should be taken for at least 3 months, up to several years or longer, if needed. It is safe to use concurrently with allopathic drugs such as digitoxin and may even allow a person to reduce the dose of this commonly prescribed, but highly toxic medicine.

With long-term use, hawthorn can safely help to strengthen and nourish the heart. Here is a summary of the important clinical effects of hawthorn:

  1. It dilates the arteries that supply the heart muscle itself with blood, oxygen, and fuel, providing a better supply of these essential nutrients. This results, with continued use, in a stronger, more efficient heart beat.
  2. It acts as a powerful free-radical scavenger, protecting the heart against the harmful effects of lessened oxygen–a common result of vascular disease, such as atherosclerosis.
  3. It can help steady the heartbeat, if it is irregular.