The botanical genus Crataegus or hawthorn is well represented in the temperate zones of Eurasia and North America.
Hawthorns are bushy shrubs or small trees usually thorny, their foliage is usually cut, flowers (pentamers, fragrant) grouped in corymbs are white, sometimes tinged with pink or red, with many stamens like often in ROSACEAE; the fruits are red drupes, of small size, edible.
Hawthorns are common in hedgerows, along roadsides and at the edges of woods, in all temperate regions of Europe, West Asia, North Africa and North America. They are commonly planted to make hedges.
Botanists have great difficulty in agreeing on the number of species (between 200 and 1000) because there are many varieties and maybe hybrids.
The two species Crataegus monogyna and Crataegus laevigata (= Crataegus oxyacantha) are part of the French pharmacopoeia: the dried flowering tops are medicinal, in other countries the fruits are also medicinal.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
The pharmacological action of hawthorn is probably due:
- to flavonoids (2%): mainly hyperoside (galactoside quercetol), as well as rutoside and spireoside; in the flowers the characteristic flavonoid is a derivative of vitexin.
- to proanthocyanidols (2 to 3%): epicatechol and epicatechol derivatives (dimers, trimers, tetramers and oligomers)
There are also phenol acids (caffeic and chlorogenic), a little essential oil, triterpenic acids and sterols.
The Crataegus extracts are:
- active on the heart muscle (myocardium): increased contraction (positive inotropic effect) and slight slowdown in heart rate (negative chronotropic effect).
- active on the blood circulation: vasodilatation of blood vessels (including coronary) with consequent slight decrease in blood pressure.
- active on the central nervous system: slight sedative effect.
All these effects are moderate or mild, and noticeable only after several days or weeks of treatment.
The action on the myocardium is perhaps only secondary to a better blood supply, therefore a better "nutrition" of the cardiac muscle;
Some evoke an enzymatic action that would "accelerate" the potassium pump of the myocardial cells
- Commission E (Germany) and ESCOP (European authorities in herbal medicine) recognize the effectiveness of hawthorn extract (leaves and flowers) to treat mild or moderate congestive heart failure (senile or "tired" heart): dyspnea with effort, some peripheral edema.
- Heart rhythm abnormalities related to cardiac erethism (that is, which are not secondary to a more serious deterioration of heart function) are also a classic indication of Crataegus: temporary extrasystoles, palpitations, transient tachycardias.
- As well as anxiety states with impaired sleep, emotion, nervousness
Flowering or flowering twigs (with a minimum of wood) are harvested before full blossoming and can be dried or stored as an alcoholic tincture ( the normal tincture is 1/10 but for family use hawthorn extract can be done at 1/5).
Other forms of administration of hawthorn are:
infusion, dry extract , fluid extract, total powder, aqueous extract, fresh plant suspension.
Infusion (herbal tea): 5g of dry hawthorn flowers top in 1/2 liter of very hot water, 10 minutes of infusion, 1 to 2 times a day warm or cold
Alcoholic tincture (1/10 tincture): 50 to 100 drops 3 times a day
Total powder: 2 to 4 g per day
Extracts: capsules and tablets: 100 mg to 400 mg, three times a day, standardized extract (there are several standardizations: compared to flavonoids (2.25 to 3%) or to the content of proanthocyanidins (18 to 20%).
The use of hawthorn flowers or Crataegus extracts is without significant undesirable side effects (sometimes some small digestive disorders), the toxicity of the plant is considered by the specialists as negligible.
The treatment must be continued for several weeks, or even several months
Traditional French herbal medicine uses hawthorn flowers but our English and German neighbors as well as North Americans also use hawthorn fruits for the same indications to which they add dyspepsia due to insufficient digestive secretion.
In China, Crataegus pinnatifida, one of the local hawthorns, is well known for its fleshy fruits that are candied in sugar (sold in large quantities in winter), turned into beverage or fruit paste.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses the fruit of Crataegus pinnatifida in case of minor digestive disorders (difficulty to digest meat or fats, dyspepsia), alone or associated with other medicinal plants and recently also offers this plant as a treatment for the same indications (cardiovascular) proposed in France.
A PLANT TO CALM EXTRASYSTOLES AND NERVOUSNESS
Hawthorns are very common shrubs in the European countryside.
Their flowers and fruits contain substances that work synergistically to calm cardiac "erethism", palpitations, and that are useful for strengthening the heart muscle.
They are also recommended in case of mild sleep disorders, transient anxiety, nervousness.
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel