Fructus Crataegi (Hawthorne)

Botany: The largest division of the plant kingdom is Magnoliophyta, formerly Angiospermae. There are over 250,000 species forming the predominant portion of the earth's vegetation. They are the flowering plants.

There are over 50 orders within this division belonging to one of two classes: Magnoliophyta (dicotyledon) or Liliopsida (monocotyledon) based on the generation of one or two seed leaves.[ 1]

The order Rosales (rose order) are a group of mostly perennial trees and shrubs that have 3 families with 115 genera and approximately 3200 species.[ 2] One of the families is Rosaceae and it has the largest genera Crataegus which contains several hundred species.

Cultivation: 18 month germination time from seed.

Where grown: Temperate areas throughout the New and Old Worlds.

Botanical name: In Asia Crataegus pinnatifida and cuneata; in the western hemisphere oxycantha and monogyna.[ 3]

Common names: Hawthorne, Hedgethorn, Berrythorn, Maybush, Whitethorn, Red Haw, Hogberry Wickens, Quickset, Bread and cheese, Aggles (English), Aubepine, Epine Blanche, Pain D'oiseau, Hague De cochon (French), Weissdorn, Hagendorn, Dornstauch, Huhnerbeere, Mehlbeerstaude, Vogelbeer (German).

Pharmaceutical name: Fructus Crataegi

Part used: Berries, leaves, and flowers.

When harvested: Flowers - early summer; berries - early autumn.[ 4]

Constituents: Flavinoid glycosides (hyperoside and vitexin-rhamnoside), oxycanthin, saponins, oligomeric procyanidins, trimehylamines, ursolic, crategolic and oleanolic acids (crataegus lactones), condensed tanins, flavinoids (including quercitrin, quercetin), striterpenoid amygdalin, B-sitosterin, purine, pectin, aluminum, calcium, phosphoric acid, citric/tartaric/crataegus acids, and vitamin C.[ 5] It should be noted that it is not a cardiac glycoside

Medicinal uses of the order: Vulnararies, condylomalytic, snakebite, astringents, ink. Other notables in this group include agrimony, loquat, and coco plum. They are generally food plants.

Meridians entered: Pericardium, Heart, Kidney, Large Intestine/ Stomach, Spleen, Liver.[ 6]

Nature and taste: Sour, sweet, slightly warm/sweet, sour, astringent, cool, dry.[ 7]

Pharmacology: "The flavinoid fraction of this plant is vasodilatory, as is the condensed tannin (phlobaphene) fraction; these not only dilate the peripheral circulation significantly, but they have a specific action on the coronary circulation (phlobaphene) potentiating the action of caffeine and adrenaline in this, and also increasing the amplitude of the heartbeat; the cyanogenic glycosides are sedative and increase the parasympathetic (vagal) tone of the heart, so slowing it down (there is an additional anti-cholinesterase action exhibited by the whole plant that probably contributes to this latter action); in addition the trimethylamine stimulates the pulse rate slightly, and has a peripheral vasoconstrictor effect. The combination of these properties helps to account for the paradoxical and valuable effect of exerting a sympathetic action on the coronary circulation and a parasympathetic action on the myocardial muscle."[ 8]

Functions Western: The Hawthorn Monograph of the German Federal Ministry of Health demonstrated that hawthorn was positively inotropic (increases contractile strength), positively chronotropic (increases rate and rhythm) and dromotropic (accelerates conduction), negatively bathmotropic (decreases nervous and muscular irritability), and increased coronary and myocardial circulation. It has much more of a role in chronic and subacute disease than acute disease. It was found to be particularly useful in New York Heart Association stages 1 and 2 cardiac disease.[ 9] It causes systemic vasodilation and has a mild diuretic effect.

It has been found to be useful in rhythm disturbances. It has an effect on calcium metabolism. It is lipolytic/anti-atherogenic; antibiotic action has been noted, particularly in the GI tract. It has minimal side effects for long-term use.

Functions Eastern: Increases heart qi, regulates circulation, restores coronary circulation, relieves chest oppression, and restores the heart. It tonifies the yin, clears deficiency heat, relaxes the heart and nerves, regulates the heartbeat and calms the spirit.

It stimulates the heart, promotes urination and removes fluid congestion, dissolves deposits and promotes weight loss. Promotes digestion and relieves food stagnation, removes accumulations and relieves distension, promotes astriction and stopsdischarge Transforms blood stasis.

Indications: Congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy,[ 10] valvular heart disease,[ 11] pericarditis, endocarditis, brady and tachyarrythmias,[ 12] and it lowers blood cholesterol. It is useful postmyocardial infarction for rehabilitation. It is used for diarrhea and dysentery. Hawthorn is noted as being used for hernia and as an emmenagogue and as an antihypertensive.

Dosage: Infuse flowers/decoct berries for approximately 30 minutes. The fresh haw is high in pectin so it is preferable to use dry. .25 to 1.0 g ( 1-2teaspoons) of flowers, fruits or leaves in 8 oz. of water t.i.d. Extract is made 1:5 with 40% ETOH or 10% vegetable glycerine taking 20-40 gtts day. May also use 9-30 gms raw. Smaller doses tend to augment cardiac affect. Larger doses are more often used for food stagnation.

Summary: The emphasis on the use of this herb varies from East to West. It is worthy of note that even the meridians entered, nature, and taste are noted as being different.

In the Orient the drug is noted particularly for its ability to reduce and guide out food stagnation.

In the Occident it is considered to be a premiere cardiac tonic spanning intrinsic cardiac disease, valvular heart disease, rhythm disturbances, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and degenerative conditions such as atherosclerosis - all within the scope of a single plant.



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1. The ovary contains ovules. Ovules when fertilized become seeds. Seeds are capable of germination into an embryo. An embryo may have one seed leaf-monocotyledon or two seed leaves-dicotyledon

2. There are three families within the rose order: Chrysobalancea, Neuradacea, and Rosacea. There are also 3 subfamilies: Spiracodiae, Rosoideae, Maloideae, Prunoideae.

3. Oxycantha means sharp thorn. Monogyna means one pistil (the stigma is the part of the plant apparatus that receives the pollen. The pistil is the portion that contains the ovary).

4. June and September usually.

5. Flavinoids block receptor sites for certain hormones that cause cancer. Tannins are astringing. Saponins dissolve fat.

6. The first group of meridians is in The Energetics of Western Herbs, the second is in Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica.

7. Same as above only the references are reversed.

8. Herbal Medicine

9. NYHA class i has no symptoms with activity. Class 2 has symptoms with heavy activity. Class 3 has symptoms with normal activity. Class 4 has symptoms at rest.

10. Coxsackie B, Alcohol

11. In particular, rheumatic valvular disease (usually involves the mitral valve, sometimes the aortic).

12. Ventricular as well as supraventricular tachycardias (VPC's, PAT, etc.)


Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica; Bensky & Gamble; Eastland Press.

Herbal Medicine; Rudolf Weiss; Beaconsfield Publishers/Bath Press.

Therapeutic Herbalism; David Hoffman; Personally printed and distributed.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations; RC Wren; CW Daniel Ltd.

The Energetics of Western Herbs; Peter Holmes; NatTrop Publishing.

Out of the Earth; Simon Mills; Penguin Books.

American Materia Medica; Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy; Finley Ellingwood, MD; Ecclectic Medical Publications.

The Ecclectic Materia Medica Pharmacology and Therapeutics; HW Felter, MD; Ecclectic Medical Publications.

Unpublished Experience; Herbalist Alchemist; David Winston.


By S.W. Flowers

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