Hawthorn is a dietary supplement that has shown promise in helping people who suffer from a variety of heart-related ailments, such as irregular heartbeat, angina, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and both low/high blood pressure; however, it has never been shown to be more effective than conventional medicines and can, in fact, interact with these medicines in dangerous ways.
For those who are not familiar with this supplement, hawthorn is a plant with leaves, berries and flowers that have long been used to make medicines. As stated above, it is commonly used as a supplement for people suffering from heart problems, but it’s also used to help with digestive complaints such as indigestion and diarrhea and even tapeworm infections. It’s also used as a sedative to reduce anxiety and for menstrual problems. Some use it to treat boils, sores and ulcers, and for relief of itchy skin.
Hawthorn is one of the ingredients commonly found in candied fruit slices, jam, jelly and wine.
As WebMD reports, hawthorn has been found “to improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during, widen the blood vessels, and increase the transmission of nerve signals. Hawthorn also seems to have blood pressure-lowering activity, according to early research. It seems to cause relaxing of the blood vessels farther from the heart. It seems that this effect is due to a component in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin.” Research has also found that it can lower cholesterol.
As wonderful as it sounds, however, there is a down side, which is why consumers are warned to never self-treat heart conditions with this or any other herbal product because of the potential of dangerous side-affects triggered by interaction with other drugs, herbs or supplements.
This site, posted by the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), contains a list of all drugs that can interact adversely with hawthorn.
Hawthorne can be taken safely under a doctor’s supervision and in the right doses. As the UMMC reports, one review of 29 clinical studies involving more than 5,500 people found that this herb can be used safely in recommended dosages which range from 160 to 1,800 mg daily from three to 24 weeks duration. It could take anywhere from six to 12 weeks to notice any improvement.
As with all supplements, consumers need to be mindful of the fact that these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are self-policing which means the consumer never knows what’s really in the product.
This is a pervasive problem and one that came to light once again in the state of New York earlier this year when the attorney general’s office completed an investigation into the problem that resulted in some of the most shocking findings yet about what’s really in the bottles we buy. Almost none of the products drawn from the shelves of major retailers such as Target and Walmart contained the ingredients listed on the label and were instead filled with cheap filler such as powdered rice and houseplants. Some even had dangerous ingredients such as peanut, soy and wheat products despite the fact that in some cases, the labels specifically said the product was free of these ingredients.
Being a supplement user myself, I always keep my medical records up-to-date as far as what supplements I’m using, and never start taking anything without first asking my doctor. Better safe than sorry!