The herb hawthorn has a remarkable history in religion and traditional medicine and, according to today’s medical researchers, a remarkable future in helping us stay healthier.
The ancient Celts saw hawthorn as a plant that was part of a gateway to magic, hidden worlds. The Greeks and Romans inserted the herb into ceremonies of marriage and birth. It was linked to the goddess Cardea, a deity who presided over doorways.
But along with its religious connotations, traditional healers used hawthorn as a heart tonic and to treat digestive and kidney problems. And now modern medical researchers are producing solid evidence that supports its historic uses. So, let me show you how this herb could become one of your botanical mainstays.
Heart failure is one of today’s most serious health problems, with sufferers dramatically increasing in number every year. Experts estimate there are more than 6.5 million Americans with heart failure today and that there are about a million new diagnoses every year.1 That represents a new case of heart failure diagnosed every 30 seconds!
What Happens When the Heart Fails
Heart failure often occurs when narrowed arteries stress the heart muscle by forcing it to exert more energy as it pumps blood to overcome the resistance of clogged vessels. As this happens, the heart enlarges, and it fails to efficiently keep blood moving through the body. The result: Fluid collects in the lungs and legs, and you can suffer shortness of breath and other serious issues.
Conventional treatment for heart failure includes diuretic drugs to help with fluid build-up, blood pressure-lowering ACE inhibiting drugs or beta-blockers, as well as a low salt diet. Eventually you may need surgery to open blocked arteries or to place a device into your heart to help it work better.
However, hawthorn can also help. Researchers studying hawthorn have turned up results showing that this herb “significantly” improves the symptoms of the condition.
A review of published research at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England analyzed ten studies that included more than 800 people with heart failure. It revealed that a hawthorn extract can boost the amount of blood being pumped through the heart.2
They also found that the herb could decrease the “pressure-heart rate product” – the measurement of the amount of oxygen the heart is using. Plus, it boosted exercise tolerance while reducing shortness of breath and fatigue.
“If I had chronic heart failure, I certainly would consider using it,” says researcher Max Pittler, MD, PhD, who, at the time of the study, was deputy director of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School. (But he cautions that if you suffer heart failure, you need to be under the care of a knowledgeable health practitioner.)
Keeping the Body and Organs Functioning Smoothly
Research on hawthorn has also shown that its wealth of natural chemicals can produce other benefits that improve your health by:
- Lowering harmful inflammation on artery walls: This is particularly true after heart surgery. A study in Asia demonstrates that taking a hawthorn extract along with resveratrol can protect the endothelial cells along artery walls from damage after coronary bypass.3
- Supporting better liver health: Research shows that the polyphenols – botanical antioxidants – in hawthorn can reduce liver stress and liver dysfunction caused by the overly-processed standard western diet.4 A review of hawthorn’s effect on the liver concludes that it can also help treat hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease and liver disease. The scientists conclude that it “can be developed as a major source of therapeutic agents for liver diseases.”5
- Defending against high blood pressure: A lab study demonstrates that a combination of vitamin C and hawthorn extract can have a synergistic effect in lowering hypertension. The researchers believe that hawthorn’s ability to protect the endothelial wall of blood vessels is part of the reason it helps so much with blood pressure.6
- Protecting the brain against pesticide exposure: Laboratory tests in the Middle East indicate that hawthorn extracts can limit neuron dysfunction and damage from exposure to common pesticides. These studies also show that it can prevent DNA damage linked to these toxins.7
It’s pretty evident that when the ancients considered hawthorn a magic herb that was medicinally powerful, they knew what they were talking about!
And along with all of the benefits I’ve discussed, researchers in Asia have found that smelling and consuming charred hawthorn, a traditional Chinese remedy for helping with a stomach-ache after you eat too much, does indeed calm your digestion. The researchers believe the effect has something to do with how the odor of the burnt hawthorn affects the “brain-gut axis” and the probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract.8
So, the next time a huge holiday dinner has you loosening your belt and your stomach aching, you could stir fry or char some hawthorn on the grill and see if that helps. Hawthorn is also available as a supplement.
- https://hfsa.org/patient-hub/heart-failure-facts-information#:~:text=Current estimates are that nearly,is also a major killer
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