Hawthorn is an herb that's been used for centuries for a variety of health issues, probably the most common of which was heart problems. Other, more scientific names for hawthorn include Crataegus laevigata and Crataegus oxyacantha.
Previously I had written reviews on the Chinese weight loss supplement Zi Xiu Tang. Because ZXT contains hawthorn, people taking this supplement asked if I would review hawthorn.
Hawthorn contains a variety of ingredients including quercetin, rutin and OPCs (oligomeric proanthocyanidins). Many of these ingredients are found in other foods. Hawthorn also appears to have some antioxidant activity due to some of these compounds. This is not surprising given that many herbs (as well as fruits and vegetables) are antioxidants.
There is research that hawthorn can effect how the heart pumps. The problem is that heart disease is a very serious medical disorder.
At least one study showed that hawthorn INCREASED the rate of death from heart disease.
Not all hawthorn supplements are the same. Some hawthorn supplements may have too much (or too little of the herb). Some may use hawthorn from the wrong parts of the plant. Some may use the wrong species of hawthorn (there are over 100 species). Some supplements may not contain any hawthorn at all.
Do NOT use hawthorn to treat yourself for heart disease. Please see your doctor!
Does hawthorn help weight loss?
I could not find any clinical evidence that hawthorn helps weight loss.
Hawthorn side effects
Because hawthorn can effect the way the heart pumps, dizziness can be a side effect of using hawthorn supplements. This effect may be magnified if people are also using medications to treat heart disease or high blood pressure. Other hawthorn side effects range from upset stomach, decreases in blood pressure, to headache and skin reactions.
Hawthorn drug interactions
There is little evidence one way or the other about how hawthorn interacts with medications. That said, in theory, hawthorn may interact with the following classes of drugs:
- Heart drugs
- Blood pressure drugs
- Sex drugs (e.g. Viagra etc.)
- Any supplement (herb etc.) that effects blood pressure or heart rate
It is beyond the scope of this review to cover all hawthorn-drug interactions and the list above may be far from complete so it's strongly suggested that people discuss hawthorn with a doctor or pharmacist to get the most up to date information.
Because of how hawthorn effects the heart I feel that it should not be in supplements (like zi xiu tang) that are marketed to people who have health problems or who are trying to lose weight. Even healthy people may feel side effects from hawthorn supplements. Side effects are are probably more likely in those who may not be healthy. I was at Vitamin Shoppe recently and found hawthorn supplements sitting on a shelf where anyone could buy it. Just as cigarettes are often placed behind the counter, out of reach of most people, I feel certain supplements – like hawthorn – should likewise be behind the counter as well.
What do you think?