Hawthorn berries are small, bright red berries that appear on the hawthorn shrub, which is also known as Crataegus oxyacantha. They are perennials. The flowers, leaves and berries have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. They are popular herbal supplements for health uses, including assisting with weight loss and managing chronic health problems.
Other common names for the hawthorn include may bush, quick-set, may tree, thorn-apple, black haw, haw, English hawthorn, Shan-cha, May blossom and whitethorn.
Medical conditions that are commonly treated with the use of hawthorn berries include hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, angina (chest pain) and atherosclerosis.
A tincture of hawthorn berries is used to treat high cholesterol levels. It is reported to function as an agent to remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the "bad" type of cholesterol.
Angina is a condition that is characterized by not enough blood flow to the heart. Extracts of the leaves, berries and flowers of the hawthorn shrub are used to enhance the blood flow to the heart and to reduce the sharp chest pains of angina.
Hawthorn berries are generally considered to be safe herbal supplements. However, as with any herbal remedy or medication, some side effects possible. Hawthorn berries can cause fast heartbeat, headache and nausea. Nursing and pregnant females should avoid Hawthorn berries, as should individuals with ulcers or colitis.
Hawthorn berries originate in Europe, North America and in Asia's temperate regions. In Europe, hawthorns have been used as hedge plants. Ancient and contemporary Chinese cultures have used hawthorn berries as medicinal aids.
Hawthorn berries can be cultivated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) plant hardiness zones 4a to 7b. They thrive on soil that is slightly acidic and well drained. It can handle soil that is slightly alkaline.