Botanical name(s):

Crataegus oxyacantha

Other name(s):

English hawthorn, haw, May, Mayblossom, Maybush, Mayflower, whitethorn

General description

The hawthorn is a woody shrub or small tree in the rose family. It has thorns and brightly colored fruit.

Hawthorn contains flavonoids. These may interact with key enzymes to enhance the heart muscle's ability to contract. They may also increase blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscles. Hawthorn may help treat angina pectoris and ischemia. It may also treat hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Medical uses

Hawthorn became a popular herbal remedy in Europe and North America toward the end of the 19th century. Findings from test-tube, animal, and a few human studies show that hawthorn may be safe and effective for mild heart failure. But there is contradictory information about the effects of hawthorn extract in people with heart failure. More studies are needed. People with heart failure shouldn’t take hawthorn.  

Unproven claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Hawthorn may act as a calmative. This affects the nervous system and nerve function. It may cause a mild sedative effect. It may also act as a circulatory stimulant. This means it improves circulation.

It’s also claimed to reduce the risk for atherosclerosis. It may also slow down the central nervous system. Hawthorn may also relieve chronic insomnia. It may also help circulation in swollen legs and feet.

Dosing format

Hawthorn comes as oral capsules, dried leaves or flowers, infusion, liquid extract, or tincture.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Hawthorn is tolerated well by most people at normal doses. But it’s a powerful herb. It can cause sedation and very low blood pressure at high doses. For this reason, you should only take hawthorn under the care of a healthcare provider.

Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use hawthorn.

Note that hawthorn won’t stop an angina attack.

You shouldn’t take hawthorn with other heart medicines. These include digitalis. Don’t take sedatives or sleeping medicines while taking hawthorn. You also shouldn’t take hawthorn if you’re taking phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors. These include sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023