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Plant Family: 



Habitat & Cultivation: 

Hawthorn is native to northern temperate zones, including those of North America, East Asia, Central Asia, and Europe. There is a discrepancy in how many species grow in North America. Somewhere between 20-1000 different species.


In the Pacific Northwest Crataegus douglasii and Crataegus columbiana grow natively.


The leaves and berries of Crataegus oxycantha are used medicinally.  It is native to the northern temperate zones of North America, East Asia, Central Asia, and Europe. Hawthorns grow as large shrubs or small deciduous trees and usually contain thorns, they produce bright green leaves and contain dense clusters of white fragrant flowers. They contain berries that range in color; yellow to bright red to black.  Hawthorn leaves and flowers are usually ready to harvest in May and the berries turn red in September and by late October they are sweet.


Parts Used/Collection:

Leaves and berries


Herbal Actions: 

  • Leaf

    • Cardiotonic

    • cardioprotective

    • hypotensive

    • diuretic

    • antiarrhythmic

    • vasodilatory

    • antioxidant

    • sedative

    • hypocholesterolemic (Upton, 1999).

    • “Increases contractility of the cardiac muscle (positively inotropic), increases cardiac nerve conductivity (positively dromotropic), decreases contraction rate of heart (negatively chronotropic), decreases reactiveness of cardiac tissue to external stimuli (negatively bathmotropic)” (Upton, 1999).

  • Berries

    • cardiotonic

    • diuretic

    • astringent

    • hypotensive



"Heart medicine," meaning cardiovascular tonic. Other conditions included asthma, diabetes, and as a general nerve tonic (Upton, 1999).



Indications = Cardiac failure or early myocardial insufficiency, mild hypertension, arteriosclerosis, mild tachycardia or bradycardia, cardiac palpitations/arrhythmias, shortness of breath with heavy exertion, digestive complaints, and anxiety. Hawthorne is also commonly used for its’ antioxidative properties. (AHP, 1999; Mills & Bone, 2005)



Use with caution in severe hypotension. Use in pregnancy = as a vascular/cardiovascular/capillary tonic (for varicosities, hemorrhoids, mild edema, and trending or borderline hypertension; or h/o any of these conditions in previous pregnancy or strong family h/o any of these conditions). Also, if anxiety, any digestive issues, or if client presents often with a red face/hands and/or dry skin (sign of heat and excitation). (From a variety of sources this week)


Contraindications = No contraindications known for leaf, flower, or berry (Mills & Bone, 2005). Care should be taken if being used with other blood pressure/heart medications (Mills & Bone, 2005). If taking a dose of hawthorne berry many times greater than the recommended therapeutic dose, heart function should be monitored due to potential toxic effect (AHP, 1999).


Plant Constituents: 

  • Flavoniods (vitexin, quercetin, hyperoside, rutin)

  • Procyanadins

  • Triterpene acids

  • Phenolic acids


System Affinities:

  • Cardiovascular system

  • Nervous system

  • Immune system

  • Digestive system






People who are taking cardioactive drugs should take caution if using Hawthorn due to the enhancing effects it can trigger.  It’s also notable that the berries of the plant have no reports of side effects, however the flowers and leaves have been known to cause nausea/vomiting, heart palpitations, insomnia, agitation, headaches, and circulatory disturbances.


Personal Experience:





ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. New York, NY: American Botanical Council. Accessed online at


American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. (1999). Hawthorn berry. Scotts Valley, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia.


Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press: Vermont.


Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2005). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Philadelphia: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.


Upton, R. (1999). Hawthorn leaf with flower. Scotts Valley, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia.




Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha)

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