Herbs & Botanicals
Hawthorn (shan zha)
What is hawthorn? Why do we need it?
Hawthorn belongs to the same botanical family as the rose. An extremely
common thorny shrub, it can reach a height of five feet and grows on hillsides
and sunny wooded areas across the world. Hawthorn shrubs contain shiny
leaves that grow in a variety of shapes and sizes. Its flowers (white,
red or pink) grow in small clusters, followed by small red or black berries
that usually appear in the spring.
The leaves, berries and flowers are used medicinally. These items contain
bioflavonoids, which have a variety of cardiovascular benefits, including
a reduction in hypertension, increased coronary artery blood flow and
improved contraction of the heart muscle. Large scale clinical trials
have confirmed that hawthorn is effective in treating patients with earl-stage
and mild congestive heart failure. Other smaller studies have shown that
it may help patients with angina and abnormal heart rhythms.
How much hawthorn should I take?
Many herbalists recommend taking 80-300mg of a hawthorn extract, either
in capsule or tablet form, two to three times a day. If traditional preparations
are used, patients are recommended to take 4-5 grams per day, or 4-5ml
of a hawthorn tincture three times daily.
When using hawthorn, make sure to take only standardized hawthorn products.
Look for a label that says the product contains between 4-20mg of flavonoids
and 30-160mg oligomeric procyanidins, or 1.8% vitexin rhamnoside/10% procyanidins.
What forms of hawthorn are available?
Hawthorn comes in a variety of forms, including capsules, tinctures,
and fluid or solid extracts. Patients can also make a hawthorn tea by
combining dried cut hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries in boiling water.
What can happen if I take too much hawthorn?
Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should
Hawthorn is extremely safe. The American Herbal Products Association
has given hawthorn a class I rating, meaning it is a safe herb with a
wide dosage range. Nevertheless, it is always wise to follow the recommended
dosage. In addition, patients who are pregnant or lactating should not
Some studies have suggested that hawthorn may enhance the effects of
digitalis, a heart medication. People taking cardiac medications should
consult with their health care provider before taking hawthorn or hawthorn-containing
- Bahourn T, Gressier B, Trotin F, et al. Oxygen species
scavenging activity of phenolic extracts from hawthorn fresh plant organs
and pharmaceutical preparations. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:1086-1089.
- Hoffmann D. Hawthorn: the heart helper. Alternative
& Complementary Therapies 1995;4:191-192.
- Kowalchik C, Hylton W (eds.) Rodales Illustrated
Encyclopedia of Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1998.
- Tauchert M, Ploch M, Hubner WD. Effectiveness of hawthorn
extract LI 132 compared with the ACE inhibitor captopril: multicenter
double-blind study with 132 NYHA stage II. Muench Med Wochenschr
- Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, England:
Beaconsfield Publishers, 1988, pp. 162-169.