Hawthorn plant

Crataegus rhipidophylla


Hawthorn is used historically as a diuretic, to treat circulatory disorders, respiratory problems and kidney and bladder stones. Today, hawthorn is prescribed widely in Europe as a natural remedy for heart disease ranging from irregular heartbeat and mild high blood pressure, to chest pain, hardening of the arteries, angina and heart failure.

Parts used

The berries, leaves and flowers of the hawthorn plant have all been used for medicinal purposes. Most modern preparations, however, make use of the leaves and flowers, which are believed to contain more healing flavonoids than the berries.


Hawthorn contains tannins and flavonoids, including oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), which are free-radical scavenging anti-oxidants that help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow and protect blood vessels from damage.

Medicinal uses

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there is research to support hawthorn as an effective treatment in cases of mild to moderate heart failure. Some studies show that hawthorn significantly improves heart function, others that it can enhance a person’s ability to exercise following heart failure and enable them to take less medication for their condition. Hawthorn is widely regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment for the early stages of heart disease and is endorsed by the German Commission E.
Hawthorn is prescribed to:

  • Promote the health of the circulatory system.
  • Lower cholesterol.
  • Reduce high blood pressure.
  • Normalise and gently strengthen the contractions of the cardiac muscle.
  • Treat angina.
  • Treat congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.
  • Reduce the build-up of plaque in the arteries that leads to atherosclerosis.
  • Relax the smooth muscles of the uterus, intestines and other areas where contractions are abnormal and where congestion is building up.
  • Reduce abnormal retention of water in the body, such as in premenstrual bloating.
  • Aid digestion and the assimilation of nutrients from food.
  • Act as a mild sedative.
  • Act as a powerful anti-oxidant.


Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Heart failure is a serious condition, and you should never try to self-treat with hawthorn. Consult your healthcare provider before taking this and other herbal preparations. If approved for use, hawthorn’s side-effects are rare, but you may experience headache, nausea and palpitations. The extract may interact with certain drugs such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. Do not give to children or pregnant women.

Flora Force Products containing Hawthorn

Domestic & culinary uses

Hawthorn berries are used in many countries to make jams, jellies and cordials. However, in South Africa, hawthorn is seldom used in the kitchen.


Hawthorn flowers

Hawthorn is a hardy, thorny shrub that grows in Europe, North Africa, western Asia, India, China and North America and Australia, where it was introduced by early British settlers. It prefers full sunlight in areas with high summer rainfall, but will tolerate most conditions. Hawthorn bears white, red, or pink clusters of blooms, which are followed by small berries, called haws. Plant it in a sunny position in deep, rich fertile soil and keep well watered until established.

Photo credits

  1. By Knud Ib Christensen (Donated for Wikipedia use by the photographer) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
  2. By Rolf Engstrand (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.