Hawthorn berries are tiny fruits that grow on trees and shrubs belonging to the Crataegus genus.
The genus includes hundreds of species commonly found in Europe, North America, and Asia.
Their berries are packed with nutrition and have a tart, tangy taste and mild sweetness, ranging in color from yellow to deep red to black (1).
For centuries, hawthorn berry has been used as an herbal remedy for digestive problems, heart failure, and high blood pressure. In fact, it’s a key part of traditional Chinese medicine.
Here are 9 impressive health benefits of hawthorn berry.
Hawthorn berry is a rich source of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidant compounds found in plants (2).
Antioxidants help neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals that can harm your body when they are present at high levels. These molecules can come from poor diet, as well as environmental toxins like air pollution and cigarette smoke (3).
Though initial research is promising, more studies are needed to assess hawthorn berries’ effects on disease risk.
Summary Hawthorn berry contains plant polyphenols that have been linked to numerous health benefits due to their antioxidant properties.
Hawthorn berry may have anti-inflammatory properties that could improve your health.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (8).
In a study in mice with liver disease, hawthorn berry extract significantly reduced levels of inflammatory compounds (9).
What’s more, research in mice with asthma showed that supplementing with hawthorn berry extract decreased inflammation enough to significantly reduce asthma symptoms (10).
Due to these promising results from animal and test-tube studies, scientists believe the supplement may offer anti-inflammatory benefits in humans. However, more research is needed.
Summary In test-tube and animal studies, hawthorn berry extract has shown anti-inflammatory potential. Still, more research in humans is needed.
In traditional Chinese medicine, hawthorn berry is one of the most commonly recommended foods to help treat high blood pressure (11).
In a 10-week study in 36 people with mildly elevated blood pressure, those taking 500 mg of hawthorn extract daily experienced no significant decreases in blood pressure, although they showed a trend toward reduced diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of a reading) (16).
Another 16-week study in 79 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure observed that those who took 1,200 mg of hawthorn extract daily had greater improvements in blood pressure, compared with those in the placebo group (17).
Nonetheless, a similar study in 21 people with mildly elevated blood pressure noted no differences between the hawthorn-extract and placebo groups (18).
Summary Some evidence suggests that hawthorn berry may reduce blood pressure by helping dilate blood vessels. However, not all studies agree.
Some studies indicate that hawthorn extract may improve blood fat levels.
Cholesterol and triglycerides are two types of fats always present in your blood.
At normal levels, they’re perfectly healthy and play very important roles in hormone production and nutrient transport throughout your body.
However, imbalanced blood fat levels, particularly high triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol, play a role in atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in your blood vessels (19).
If plaque continues to accumulate, it could completely block a blood vessel, leading to heart attack or stroke.
In one study, mice given two different doses of hawthorn extract had lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as 28–47% lower liver triglyceride levels, compared with mice that did not receive the extract (20).
Similarly, in a study in mice on a high-cholesterol diet, both hawthorn extract and the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin reduced total cholesterol and triglycerides about equally, but the extract also decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol (21).
Though this research is promising, more human studies are needed to assess the effect of hawthorn extract on blood fats.
Summary Hawthorn extract has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in animal studies. More research is needed to determine whether it has similar effects in humans.
Hawthorn berries and hawthorn extract have been used for centuries to treat digestive issues, particularly indigestion and stomach pain.
The berries contain fiber, which has been proven to aid digestion by reducing constipation and acting as a prebiotic.
Prebiotics feed your healthy gut bacteria and are vital to maintaining healthy digestion (22).
One observational study in people with slow digestion found that each additional gram of dietary fiber consumed decreased the time between bowel movements by approximately 30 minutes (23).
Additionally, a rat study observed that hawthorn extract dramatically reduced the transit time of food in the digestive system (24).
This means that food moves more quickly through your digestive system, which may alleviate indigestion.
Furthermore, in a study in rats with stomach ulcers, hawthorn extract exhibited the same protective effect on the stomach as an anti-ulcer medication (7).
Summary Hawthorn berry has been used as a digestive aid for centuries. It can decrease the transit time of food in your digestive system. What’s more, its fiber content is a prebiotic and may help relieve constipation.
Hawthorn berry may even prevent hair loss and is a common ingredient in commercial hair growth products.
One study in rats found that mountain hawthorn extract stimulated hair growth and increased the number and size of hair follicles, promoting healthier hair (25).
It’s believed that the polyphenol content in hawthorn berry causes this beneficial effect. Nevertheless, research in this area is limited, and human studies are needed.
Summary Hawthorn berry is an ingredient in some hair growth products. Its polyphenol content may promote healthy hair growth, but more research is needed.
Hawthorn has a very mild sedative effect, which may help decrease anxiety symptoms (26).
In a study on hawthorn’s effect on blood pressure, while people taking hawthorn extract didn’t report significantly lower levels of anxiety, there was a trend towards reduced anxiety (16).
In another study in 264 people with anxiety, a combination of hawthorn, magnesium, and California poppy flower significantly reduced anxiety levels, compared to a placebo. Still, it’s unclear what role hawthorn played, specifically (27).
Given that it has few side effects compared to traditional anti-anxiety medications, hawthorn continues to be researched as a potential treatment for disorders of the central nervous system, such as anxiety and depression (1).
However, more research is needed. If you want to try a hawthorn supplement to manage your anxiety, don’t discontinue any of your current medications and be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Summary No strong evidence indicates that hawthorn supplements may reduce anxiety. More research is needed before recommendations can be made.
Hawthorn berry is best known for its use alongside traditional medications in the treatment of heart failure.
A review of 14 randomized studies in more than 850 people concluded that those who took hawthorn extract along with their heart failure medications experienced improved heart function and exercise tolerance.
They also experienced less shortness of breath and fatigue (28).
What’s more, a 2-year observational study in 952 people with heart failure found that those supplementing with hawthorn berry extract had less fatigue, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations than people who did not supplement with it.
The group taking hawthorn berry also required fewer medications to manage their heart failure (29).
Finally, another large study in over 2,600 people with heart failure suggested that supplementing with hawthorn berry may reduce the risk of sudden heart-related death (30).
People with heart failure are often encouraged to take hawthorn berry in addition to their current medications, as the supplement is considered safe with few side effects (28).
Summary Hawthorn berry is beneficial for people with heart failure, as it has been shown to improve heart function and decrease symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue.
Hawthorn berry may be difficult to find at your local grocery store. However, you should be able to find it at farmers’ markets, specialty health food stores, and online.
You can add hawthorn to your diet in many ways:
Hawthorn berry supplements usually contain the berry along with the leaves and flowers. Although, some include only the leaves and flowers, as they’re a more concentrated source of antioxidants than the berry itself.
Different brands and forms of hawthorn supplements have varying dosage recommendations.
According to one report, the minimum effective dose of hawthorn extract for heart failure is 300 mg daily (31).
Typical doses are 250–500 mg, taken three times daily.
Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other governing body.
Therefore, it’s nearly impossible to know the true effectiveness or safety of a supplement. Always purchase them from reputable sources.
Look for products that have received a seal of approval from independent organizations that assess supplement effectiveness and quality, such as United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.
Summary Hawthorn berries can be eaten in many ways or taken as a supplement. Supplements are not regulated, so it’s important to buy them from sources you trust.
Very few side effects have been reported from taking hawthorn berry.
However, some people have complained of mild nausea or dizziness (28).
Due to its potent effect on the heart, it can affect certain medications. If you’re taking drugs for your heart, blood pressure, or cholesterol, speak with your healthcare provider before using hawthorn berry supplements.
Summary Hawthorn berry is safe with few side effects. Speak with your healthcare professional before starting this supplement if you’re on any heart medications.
Primarily due to its antioxidant content, hawthorn berry has numerous health effects, especially for your heart.
Studies indicate that it may improve blood pressure and blood fat levels, as well as treat heart failure when combined with standard medications.
In addition, it may reduce inflammation, promote hair growth, and aid digestion.
If you want to give this powerful berry a try, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking it as a supplement.
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