The hawthorn plant is a member of the genus, Crataegus. The plants of this genus are mostly thorny shrubs and small trees, and they belong to the rose family or Rosaceae. The hawthorn plant can reach a height of about 5 to 15 meters. The plant produces small, red or black-colored berries, which are known as hawthorn berries or simply, hawberries.
The berries, as well as the leaves and flowers of the hawthorn plant have been used in traditional medicine. Today, they are mainly used to treat the diseases of the heart and the circulatory system. However, there are certain potential side effects that one may experience while using the berries for medicinal purposes. Some of these are discussed below, along with the benefits of these berries.
The berries produced by the hawthorn plant are mainly popular as a heart healthy food. In traditional medicine, they have been used for treating a wide range of diseases and disorders of the heart and the cardiovascular system. The berries are recognized for some important medicinal properties and health benefits. Some of the most well-known benefits of these berries are:
- The hawthorn plant and its berries have been studied primarily for their effectiveness in treating congestive heart failure. Several studies in this regard have shown that they can improve the functions of the heart.
- The berries contain several compounds which have been found to exhibit strong antioxidant properties. Such compounds can effectively neutralize the free radicals, and minimize their damaging effects on the cells and tissues of the body.
- Due to their antioxidant properties, hawthorn berries can prevent the formation of plaques inside the arteries, and thereby reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
- The berries can improve circulation by dissolving the lipid deposits inside the arteries, and also by dilating the blood vessels.
- In animal studies, the tincture prepared from the berries has been found to lower the level of cholesterol, especially the bad LDL cholesterol in the body.
- The berries can provide relief in chest pain and angina as well.
- The relationship between hawthorn berries and blood pressure has not been studied specifically. But traditionally, the berries were used to lower blood pressure.
So far, the berries have not been found to cause any serious side effects. Occasionally, some individuals can experience a few side effects like nausea, headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, excessive perspiration, fatigue, skin rash, and intestinal hemorrhage, especially when the berries are taken in excess.
Another rare side effect is palpitation. Some other potential side effects include chest pain, shortness of breath, agitation, dizziness, and exhaustion. People allergic to the berries can experience itching, skin rash or hives, unusual swelling, especially of the face, tongue, and the throat, and shortness of breath.
Apart from these, the berries and their herbal extracts can interact with certain drugs, such as Digoxin and Phenylephrine. Digoxin is used for treating irregular heartbeat, and the berries can increase the effectiveness of this medication. Phenylephrine is the medication used for constricting the blood vessels. The berries has vasodilatory effect, and so, they can counteract the effects of Phenylephrine. Therefore, individuals using these two drugs, as well as the drugs that lower blood pressure and treat heart problems, need to consult their physicians before using these berries for medicinal purposes.
Pregnant women are usually advised to avoid hawthorn berries, as the berries can cause uterine contractions, which may result in premature birth. Even nursing mothers are advised to avoid the berries and their herbal preparations. To sum up, the berries of the hawthorn plant are generally safe, though they can cause a few side effects occasionally. To avoid the side effects, it is imperative to consult a health care provider before using the berries for therapeutic purposes.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.