Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is an edible plant that has been used in traditional medicines. Since synthetic drugs may have serious side effects, recent research has increasingly focused on medicines from natural plants. Some plants have been used as medicine since ancient times and are considered safe. Edible plants, such as hawthorn, are promising as they have few side effects.
C. monogyna grows in Asia, Africa, and Europe as a small tree or shrub. The small fruit is called a haw, which is used in jams, jellies, wine, and syrups. The fruits contain fatty acids, terpenoids, and polyphenols. (Plants grown in Chile are especially high in varieties of polyphenols.) Hawthorn has antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties due to epicatechin, hyperoside, quercetin, rutin, vitexin, procyanidins, and chlorogenic acid. These protect the nervous system, liver, heart, and kidneys. Hawthorn fruit reduces chronic congestive heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, hypertension, and high cholesterol. It is also used for various digestive problems.
A study by Long, SR, et al., shows that an extract of hawthorn may change an arrhythmia into a regular rhythm. C. monogyna triterpenes may give the plant anti-inflammatory activity. Flavonoids are the most common type of polyphenols found in hawthorn, and may increase coronary artery blood flow. Anthocyanins give flowers of the plant their color. An alcohol extract of C. monogyna may be used as a treatment for blood vessel thrombosis. Hawthorn protects the brain from ischemia-reperfusion injury*. As well, it has the ability to reduce oxidation and genotoxicity caused by drug toxicity of chemotherapeutic agents (such as cyclophosphamide).
“Up to now, clinical studies have shown that there are no significant adverse effects associated with hawthorn consumption.” It has been reported as showing mild to moderate sweating, headache, rash, palpitations, sleepiness, agitation, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Hawthorn may potentiate or inhibit drugs used for hypertension, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias. It may interact with beta-blocker drugs and digitalis. Repeatedly, studies have shown the benefit of hawthorn in chronic congestive heart failure with minimal side effects. Also, it is being studied for gastrointestinal complaints.
CONCLUSION: Hawthorn, an edible food with few side effects, is being actively studied and shows evidence for improving cardiovascular risk factors, especially chronic heart failure.
NOTE: *Ischemia-reperfusion injury refers to damage done to tissues when their circulation has been cut off and then suddenly returned.
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