Used for centuries, hawthorn berry extract is a medical concentrate taken from the fruits of the Crataegus oxycantha, or hawthorn, shrub. Rich in antioxidants, the extract can be used in treating heart disease, obesity, and many other ailments. It can also be enjoyed in hawthorn tea or in other culinary creations.
The most common use of hawthorn berry is for heart conditions. Its use in this capacity is most prominent in Europe, where hawthorn is a common treatment for diseases such as cardiac arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. Some studies have established a link between hawthorn berry extract and artery protection. Hawthorn extract may help prevent arterial plaque buildup. Taking hawthorn supplements may also help lower cholesterol.
Respiratory illnesses may also be treated with hawthorn berry extract. American physicians have used it for this purpose, as well as for improving circulation. The antioxidants present in hawthorn berry extract may also help prevent the development or spread of cancer. The plant also contains vitamins A, E, and C, giving it a nutritional impact on the body as well.
People suffering from chest pain or angina may find relief within hawthorn extract. In Chinese medicine, as well as in naturopathic remedies, hawthorn berry extract is often used to help the digestive process. People who have difficulties exercising due to heart conditions may be able to engage in physical fitness with the support of this extract.
A less common use of hawthorn berry extract is in weight loss remedies. It works by helping reduce water and salt retention in the body. It has also been used as a sedative, as well as a treatment for ulcerative colitis. Hawthorn extract may help prevent muscle spasms, too. Nervous conditions may be treated with the herbal extract as well.
These dietary supplements are largely considered to be safe. Some hawthorn side effects, however, do exist. In rare cases, patients may experience nausea, headache, low blood pressure, or an irregular heartbeat. Women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, and people taking prescription medications should consult with a physician prior to taking hawthorn supplements. Hawthorn berry extract may interact with other drugs.
In addition to the berries of the hawthorn shrub, other parts of the plant may be used for medicinal purposes. Hawthorn leaves and flowers, which contain more flavanoids than the plant's berries, are used more often to create herbal tonics. Hawthorn berries themselves are often used in cooking, particularly in Chinese snacks, jellies, jams, and beverages.