Hawthorn is a thorny shrub with small white flowers and stinky red berries, often used in hedging. It grows in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.
Hawthorn is also known as whitethorn and mayflower – the famed ship Mayfower was named after the hawthorn blossom. It's said that Christ wore a crown made from hawthorn at his Crucifixion; which is why the plant has been traditionally associated with bad luck and death. This is unwarranted, however, as hawthorn is actually quite a potent tonic for promoting heart health. In fact, this herb is one of the most widely prescribed heart remedies in Europe.
Hawthorn can dilate blood vessels, increase the heart's energy and enhance its pumping action. The herb is rich in flavonoids - such as procyanidolic oligomers and glycosides such as vitexin, which have powerful cardiac effects. Hawthorn has also been given heart-healthy credit for expanding arteries, improving blood flow, reducing blood pressure and blocking enzymes that weaken the heart muscle. Hawthorn is also an antioxidant that may protect against plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. If you suffer from mild angina, hypertension, congestive heart failure or cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), ask your health practitioner about hawthorn supplements.
Some studies have shown hawthorn to be beneficial for insomnia and arthritis as well.