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Hawthorn Herbal Ally For Heart Health

    Posted before Dec-31-2007

Conventionally, people living in the temperate climatic zones normally spend most of their time in the open during the summer. This is also the period of the year, when people in temperate climates become more energetic and many even kick off some kind of physical work out programs. It is a well known fact that any effective exercise program is crucial for leading a hale and hearty life. Everyone who undertake physical work out schedules are well aware that they make an individual feel better and enables him or her to have clarity of thought as well as deal with the routine or day-to-day pressure and nervous tension in a better way. In addition, regular exercise is helpful in reducing the risks of any heart disorder in the later phase of one's life. It must be noted here that heart ailments are not only one of the major causes of death in our society today, but they also decrease the worth of our life considerably.

While physical exercise is definitely one of the best ways to keep us fit and perk up the performance of the cardio-vascular muscles, using herbs is another way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, there are many familiar herbs or aromatic plants that facilitate in nurturing as well as reinforcing or strengthening the heart and the blood vessels. And among these herbs, hawthorn is a familiar herb that is useful in this regard.

Belonging to the Rose family, hawthorns are a cluster of undersized trees or shrubs commonly found in the temperate climatic zones of North America and Europe. In fact, the hawthorns are among the first vegetations that come into view as the forests steadily retrieve the open areas that were cleaned up some time back, but left untouched for a substantial period. In fact, the hawthorn shrubs are mostly found to be growing along the boundaries of the cleared areas and the forest perimeter. While the herb itself is useful to humans in many ways, the undergrowth of hawthorn trees are useful and significant for many genus of wild animals. The fruits of the hawthorn form an important source of food for these animals, while the intertwined branches of the trees as well as their thorns protect the animals from the marauders. It is an interesting sight to witness during the winters when young and naïveté hawks fly low down to snoop on the rabbits, squirrels or small birds. However, these wild animals give the inexperienced hawks a dodge and get into the safe shelter of the thorny hawthorn trees. From their shelter and safe from the killer beaks of the hawks, these animals tease and taunt the big birds knowing well that they won't be able to get any closer to the thorny trees.

There are different species of hawthorn trees which blossom between late April and early June. And the trees bear petite fruits that look like crabapples, which also belong to the Rose family. The fruits of the hawthorn trees are known as berries although they do not possess any characteristic of the berries. These berries appear during July and are harvested between July end to early August. When raw these fruits are green and depending on the species, they progressively turn to somewhat reddish or orange color when mature. The flowers and leaves of the hawthorn tree are harvested in May from the beginning to the middle of the blossoming season.

Three different parts of the hawthorn tree - the flowers, the leaves and the berries - possess therapeutic properties. More or less, all these three parts of the hawthorn tree possess the same properties; herbalists are of the view that the flowers are more potent than the leaves of the tree. On the other hand, the leaves are said to be more effective than the ripened berries. It is important to note here that different from the reductionistic medical practitioners, herbalists do not for all time consider the more potent herb to be better. According to the herbal medicine practitioners, the milder herbs act better as tonics and have lesser adverse side effects. At the same time, the milder herbs have lesser possibility of being toxic. Hence, it is not surprising that most herbalists use the hawthorn berries more frequently. On the other hand, herbalists use the flowers and the leaves of the hawthorn tree together for therapeutic purposes. Most herbalists recommend using one part of the hawthorn flowers along with two parts of the leaves for best effect.

All said and done, some disagreement prevails regarding the correct time to harvest the hawthorn berries. Conventionally, the hawthorn tree berries have been plucked when they completely change their color from green to red or orange. Recently, some studies have recommended that the berries should be plucked while they are still raw and green in color. These researches suggest that the essential elements of the berries are present in the maximum concentration when they are raw and still green. However, many herbalists are of the view that the best time to pluck the hawthorn berries is when they have changed their color to red or orange depending on the species, but still retain some tint of green. Hence, they suggest early to mid August to be the best time to harvest these berries.

Hawthorn comprises as many as 43 indigenous and one foreign or alien species found in Ontario in Canada alone. The hawthorn group belongs to the complex genus known as Crataegus. The wide assortment of the hawthorn species has been made more complex owing to the fact that the different species of hawthorn hybridize or cross breed very easily. Hence, it requires an expert botanist to be able to absolutely identify the precise species of hawthorn.

According to available medical information regarding hawthorns, there is mention of two primary varieties of the shrub and both are native to Europe. While one is known as Crataegus laevigata also referred to by its obsolete name C.oxyacantha, the other type is known as Crataegus monogyna.

The fact that the medical records make mention only of the European species of hawthorn is enough to assert that the researchers and scientists have virtually ignored the numerous hawthorn species found in North America. Several chemical analyses of the elements present in hawthorn species native to North America have confirmed that they are analogous to the constituents of hawthorn found anywhere else. In other words, the chemical profile of the hawthorn species found all over the world are identical. There are some medical texts that emphasize on the use of either variety of the European hawthorn for effective therapeutic results; in general herbalists are of the opinion that any of the species of hawthorn may be used alternatively to treat different cardio-vascular disorders. This is primarily owing to the fact that hawthorn species around the world possess the same therapeutic properties. Although there is little or no difference between the properties of different species of hawthorn in treating cardio-vascular ailments, there are minor distinctions in the effectiveness of soothing features of the different hawthorn species.

As mentioned earlier, hawthorn is distinguished for its effectiveness in maintaining the well being of the cardio-vascular system. Hawthorn not only nurtures and strengthens or reinforces the heart and the blood vessels, but also plays a vital role in safeguarding them from the damaging influences of the toxins passing around in the blood. At the same time, hawthorns help in alleviating irritation and swelling of the blood vessels and are effective in reducing the intensity of bad fats and cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, it may be asserted that hawthorns are effective in preventing as well as curing all kinds of conditions of the heart and the blood vessels. Hawthorn is useful in treating bad circulation, varicose veins (a condition of swollen veins) as well as more grave conditions like atherosclerosis (an arterial disease), weakness of the heart and angina or chest pains. In addition, the shrub is also effective in increasing the low blood pressure and lowering high blood pressure. All said and done, generally it is much easier to treat high blood pressure than low blood pressure. Luckily, low blood pressure is a much less serious ailment and does not cause grave harm like high blood pressure, which may even turn fatal.

Researches as well as clinical practice have demonstrated that hawthorn also possesses a gentle soothing and comforting effect on the body and this assists in lessening the brunt of routine or day-to-day stress and tension in life. These ultimately are beneficial for the heart as well as the circulatory system. It is a well known fact that stress and anxiety often lead to cardio-vascular disorders, which may often turn serious and even lead to death.

Preparation of hawthorn medicine

Hawthorn may be taken in both as a tea and also as a tincture. While the tea prepared from hawthorn is quite helpful, tincture prepared from the fresh plant parts, particularly the berries, is said to be most effectual. To prepare a normal tincture of 1:5 strong, add one gram of freshly crushed hawthorn berries or delicately slashed flowers and leaves to each five milliliters of water or any other suitable liquid. If the tincture is being prepared with alcohol, it is best to use 30 to 35 percentage of alcohol. On the other hand, to prepare a tea with the dehydrated hawthorn, precipitate approximately one to two teaspoons of the herb's flowers and leaves or two to three teaspoons of firmed berries in a covered container for about 15 to 20 minutes.

It may be mentioned here that the use of hawthorn does not yield instant results, but the advantages of the herb takes place little by little. In fact, hawthorn has to be used for a substantial period of time to witness and experience the desired results. Physicians recommend that the tincture or the tea prepared from hawthorn needs to be taken on an empty stomach thrice daily. It is advisable to take the hawthorn tincture or tea approximately 15 to 20 minutes before any meal or nearly an hour before retiring to bed. The average dosage for 1:5 strong hawthorn tinctures is three to four milliliters or half to three-fourth teaspoonful. One may also take the tincture in lower or higher potencies by following the instructions on the label of the packaging.

By itself, hawthorn is a very effective medication for all kinds of cardio-vascular ailments. However, it has been found that the herb works best when it is blended with one or two additional herbal cardio-vascular stimulants or tonics. Two such herbal cardio-vascular tonics that improve the functioning of hawthorn are motherwort herb (botanically called Leonurus cardiaca) and maidenhair tree leaves (botanically named Ginkgo biloba). These two herbs may be used together or alternately with hawthorn. It may be noted here that blending a very small quantity of a more invigorating herbs that improves the circulatory system with hawthorn will make the herb more effective. Cayenne fruit (Capsicum spp.) and ginger rhizome (Zingiber officinale) are two such stimulating circulatory herbs that may be combined with hawthorn. Here is vital note. When hawthorn is blended with other tinctures it must be kept in mind that the combined dosage of all the herbs needs to be only slightly higher than the dosage recommended by the physicians for using hawthorn separately. In addition, it is important to note that the proportion of hawthorn in the combined tincture should be approximately 50 per cent.

Lifestyle tips for heart health

Simply taking a few herbs can do little to help in cardio-vascular treatment. It is a well known fact that the treatment of cardio-vascular disorder requires great dedication and care. Hence, it is important that along with the herbs, one needs to continue with the habitual exercises and consume healthy and nourishing foods for holistic and effectual treatment of the heart and blood vessels.

To ensure the well being of your heart and blood vessels, it is essential to consume plenty of fruits and green vegetables, preferably those that are grown organically, and also reduce the intake of animal food products, hydrogenated and rancid or bad fats, oils, sweets and caffeine. Here it may be mentioned that processed foods, fried foods, particularly those that are deep fried, roasted nuts, nut butter and the like contain high proportions of oil and hence they should be shunned. If you smoke, then it is high time that you quit the habit. At the same time, it is essential to reduce pressure and anxiety as much as possible.

While regular exercise may help a lot in reducing routine stress and tension, it is advisable to take up yoga, meditation, tai chi or other similar disciplines as they would facilitate the process of stress reduction. Taking up any of these disciplines are of utmost importance for people who find stress and tension to be a major aspect of their life. In addition to adopting these measures, one may also take antioxidant vitamins and other nourishing substances that help in counteracting the free radicals in the body. However, these should be done only after consulting a qualified physician.

In case an individual is already taking medications for heart ailments, he or she needs to adopt caution while taking hawthorn preparations. This is solely owing to the fact that the medications prepared from hawthorn will enhance the strength of the drugs and make them act more dynamically. Hence, it is advised that if one is already taking other heart drugs, he or she should not take hawthorn tonics without consulting a competent herbal medicine practitioner or any other natural health care expert. This holds true even for people suffering from acute heart disorders. It must be borne in mind that treating cardio-vascular disorders or ailments not only require care and dedication, but also loads of experience. At the same time, a close and regular monitoring of the patient's system is also essential.

Before we conclude, it is pertinent to mention that the best treatment for any cardio-vascular ailment is unqualified love - love without any attachment, possessiveness or demands. For, it has been found that unconditional love has the power to heal many serious disorders. The ‘hawthorn' shrub is a best example of this. For instance, if you take a walk in the meadows or woods, you will find the shrub growing in the periphery. These shrubs like to be loved from a distance and do not want anyone to come too closer to them. If you forget this and try to be intimate with hawthorn, you will soon discover the shrubs thorny nature!

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