Hawthorn Berry Extract: Benefits and Side Effects
Hawthorn Berry Extract is made from the tiny red berries that grow on the hawthorn shrub (Crataegus oxyacantha). Hawthorn berries—as well as the leaves and flowers—have been used in traditional medical systems since ancient times.
Hawthorn berry extract is widely used as a heart tonic, particularly in Europe. Reseach suggests that hawthorn extract may be useful as an adjunct therapy for chronic heart failure. Beneficial effects on symptom control and exercise tolerance have been seen in several controlled studies, although one large scale clinical trial failed to find any significant impact on mortality or sudden cardiac death over 24 months of use.
Hawthorn berries contain a number of antioxidants, including flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins, which may be responsible for the extract’s effects on the heart and blood vessels. In addition, animal research suggests it could play a role in lowering serum cholesterol and protecting arteries from plaque.
There are more mundane uses as well… for example, people on weight loss diets often use hawthorn extracts to reduce water retention.
Hawthorn berry supplements are available in capsules and tinctures. Teas can also be made from dried hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries. Standardized extracts are the most reliable form of any herbal supplement, and in the case of hawthorn berry, extracts should be standardized to contain 10% procyanidins and/or 1.8% vitexin rhamnoside.
And what about Hawthorn Berry side effects?
Hawthorn berry is considered to be among the safest herbal supplements. Some rare side effects may include nausea, rapid heartbeat or headache. There are some drug interactions possible with hawthorn berry, so people using the herb should consult a physician if they are taking any prescription medications.
For example, hawthorn berry may enhance the activity of the heart medication Digoxin. It can also counteract the effects of products, such as nasal decongestants, that contain phenylephrine. Phenylephrine constricts blood vessels, so the ability of hawthrone berry to dilate blood vessels will decrease the effectiveness of medications that contain it.
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