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This fact sheet provides basic information about hawthorn—common names, what the science says, potential side effects and cautions, and resources for more information.
Hawthorn is a spiny, flowering shrub or small tree of the rose family. The species of hawthorn discussed here are native to northern European regions and grow throughout the world.
Historically, hawthorn fruit has been used for heart disease since the first century. It has also been used for digestive and kidney problems. More recently, hawthorn leaf and flower have been used as folk or traditional remedies for heart failure, a weakness of the heart muscle that prevents the heart from pumping enough blood to the rest of the body, which can lead to fatigue and limit physical activities. Hawthorn is also used for other heart conditions, including symptoms of coronary artery disease (such as angina).
The hawthorn leaf and flower are used to make liquid extracts, usually with water and alcohol. Dry extracts can be put into capsules and tablets.
What the Science Says
- There is scientific evidence that hawthorn leaf and flower may be safe and effective for milder forms of heart failure, but study results are conflicting.
- There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether hawthorn works for other heart problems.
- NCCIH-supported research to date includes a study of the mechanism by which hawthorn may affect heart failure.
Side Effects and Cautions
- Hawthorn is considered safe for most adults when used for short periods of time. Side effects are rare and can include upset stomach, headache, and dizziness.
- Although drug interactions with hawthorn have not been thoroughly studied, there is evidence to suggest that hawthorn may interact with a number of different drugs, including certain heart medications.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches, see NCCIH's Time to Talk campaign.
For More Information
The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals.
Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)
ODS seeks to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, supporting research, sharing research results, and educating the public. Its resources include publications (such as Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know), fact sheets on a variety of specific supplement ingredients and products (such as vitamin D and multivitamin/mineral supplements), and the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset.
- Busse WR, Juretzek W, Koch E. Hawthorn (Crataegus). In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:337–347.
- Hawthorn. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:182–191.
- Hawthorn. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed at www.naturaldatabase.com on July 23, 2009.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata, C. oxyacantha, C. monogyna, C. penagyna). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed at www.naturalstandard.com on July 23, 2009.
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