|Hawthorn Berries for a Healthy Heart|
Coronary heart disease and related circulatory
diseases account for over half of all deaths nationwide with over
1.2 million Americans experiencing heart attacks annually. The
Standard American Diet is clearly the reason for this ongoing
epidemic and is compounded by the proliferation of deadly toxins in
our environment. Since most of us have a family member who suffers
from some form of hypertension and/or heart disease, it is important
to know exactly what we can do to nourish our heart and circulatory
by Ingri Cassel
Heart disease can be in an advanced stage before
symptoms even arise. Cardiovascular problems occur when the heart's
blood vessels narrow and limit the amount of blood supply to the
heart. This oxygen limitation deprives the blood supply to the heart
and can cause chest pains known as angina pectoris.
Hardening of the arteries, or arteriosclerosis,
is an abnormal thickening and loss of elasticity of the arterial
walls. When the coronary arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients
to the heart muscle close up, the flow of blood is cut off
completely, and a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs,
causing damage to the heart muscle.
Pressure in the chest, which can extend to the
shoulders, arm, neck or jaw, can be a symptom of a heart attack.
Other symptoms are shortness of breath, dizziness, anxiety,
fainting, nausea, or loss of speech. Hypertension can lead to heart
A poor diet is the main cause of cardiovascular
disease. Eating too much meat, processed oils, fried foods, coffee,
tobacco, alcohol and not enough raw, fiber-rich foods are
A lack of exercise contributes to the problem by
depriving the heart of oxygen and enzymes causing fatty deposits in
the arteries. A poor diet causes putrefaction in the digestive tract
providing a perfect breeding ground for pathogenic bacteria,
viruses, and parasites. Many cardiovascular problems arise from
parasites invading the heart muscle itself.
Anxiety, nervousness and stress can also lead to
heart problems, especially when a healthy lifestyle is neglected.
Living in the fast lane without proper rest and relaxation can put
stress on the cardiovascular system.
Primary causes of congestive heart failure are
hypertension, thyroid problems, coronary, valvular or congenital
heart disease, diabetes and emphysema.
Understanding our emotional needs is vital in
resolving heart and circulatory problems. We have known for some
time that certain personalities are more prone to heart disease. If
you are a perfectionist, intolerant and impatient, you will have
more of a tendency to have arteriosclerosis and heart problems than
those with easier-going personalities.
Typically prescribed pharma drugs
Drugs used to treat heart failure are digitalis,
diuretics, vasodilators, calcium channel blocking drugs,
beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors. DigoxinTM is a stimulant used in
the treatment of congestive heart failure. Possible side effects are
headaches, drowsiness, lethargy, confusion, changes in vision, loss
of appetite, nausea, hallucinations, disorientation, and heart
rhythm disturbances. CaptoprilTM is often prescribed for high blood
pressure. Side effects include dizziness, fainting,
light-headedness, bone marrow depression, fatigue, weakness,
abnormal bleeding and bruising.
Diuretics can also increase the risk of heart
attack since they promote the excretion of calcium and magnesium.
These two minerals are absolutely vital in maintaining proper blood
pressure and a healthy heart.
Hawthorn berries to the rescue
Our heart requires better protection than most
Standard American Diets (SADs) provide. The living cells of the
heart must be continuously bathed in an assortment of nutrients
which happen to be present in herbs such as cayenne, garlic, ginkgo
biloba and, particularly, hawthorn berries.
Hawthorn berries have a long history of use as a
heart tonic. The Chinese used the berries for both digestion and
circulatory problems and the Greeks employed hawthorn berries
primarily for heart disorders.
During the Middle Ages many people had a
superstitious dread over hawthorn because it was believed that
Christ's crown of thorns was made from this tree. Much later in
France and England hawthorn branches were used during the May Day
festivals and acquired the name of May blossom since it was then
used as a symbol of love and betrothal.
Hawthorn is a thorny tree or shrub native to
Europe. It may reach a height of 30 feet but is often grown as a
hedge plant. Its botanical name -- Crataegus oxyacantha -- is from
the Greek kratos meaning hardness (of the wood), oxus meaning sharp,
and akantha meaning a thorn.
Although hawthorn flowers and berries have been
used primarily as tonics for the heart and circulatory system, they
have also been used as mild diuretics and for their astringent
quality in the relief of sore throats. The beneficial action of
hawthorn leaves, berries and flowers is due to its chemical
constituents, primarily flavonoid compounds. Hawthorn contains
flavone glycosides, proanthocyanidins, catechins, saponins,
amygdalin and vitamin C.
The many cardiovascular benefits are the result
of the following actions:
1. Improves blood supply to the heart by dilating
the coronary blood vessels
2. Inhibits the angiotensin converting enzyme
(ACE), reducing the amount of stress placed on the heart.
3. Improves metabolic processes in the heart
4. Prevents atherosclerosis (hardening of the
5. Lowers blood pressure
Many studies have shown that hawthorn dilates
coronary blood vessels, allowing the heart to be supplied with vital
oxygen and nutrients. The various flavonoids present in hawthorn
neutralize certain substances from constricting blood vessels. In
both humans and animals, hawthorn extracts or syrups improve energy
production within the heart.
This occurs not only because of the increased
blood and oxygen supply to the heart, but also because of enhanced
metabolism within the heart muscle itself. The result is an increase
in the force of contraction. This is why using hawthorn has been
shown to be beneficial in cases of congestive heart failure and
various heart rhythm disturbances such as arrhythmia and heart
The flavonoids in hawthorn also strengthen the
connective tissue in the arterial walls. Hawthorn extracts have been
shown to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the size of
atherosclerotic plaques. This is why hawthorn extracts have a blood
pressure-lowering effect. This usually takes about two weeks using
the extract or syrup from hawthorn berries at least three times a
day for adequate tissue concentrations of these flavonoids to take
In addition, hawthorn has mild sedative
properties which may be another reason it is so beneficial to those
who are anxious, nervous and stressed -- personality traits commonly
associated with heart problems.
When living in Arizona I met my great uncle for
the first time. After meeting him, I found out that he was scheduled
to have open heart surgery the following week. I shared with him the
power of herbs as Dr. John R. Christopher taught me. He was very
receptive so we immediately told him he had to stop eating refined
carbohydrates of all kinds, especially white sugar. We gave him
cayenne and garlic capsules to take with meals three times a day, a
natural source of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherols), and hawthorn
berry syrup which he also took three times a day. He was also
instructed to drink only purified water and do very mild exercise on
a rebounder (mini trampoline).
When he went to his doctor six days later and the
day before his surgery was scheduled, the doctor was amazed and
canceled the surgery.
“I had several major heart attacks before the
doctors told me that my next would be my last. I lived on one floor
of my house and never went to the basement or to the upstairs
bedrooms. I didn't dare exert myself.
“I went to Texas for a triple bypass operation,
but the doctors said I was so weak I wouldn't survive the operation.
They sent me home. I was waiting for my next and last heart attack
when I started taking the herb hawthorn.
“When I went to buy hawthorn, I wouldn't even get
out of the car because I didn't want to strain myself that much.
About two months later I began taking an herbal combination for
heart problems -- the combination also has hawthorn in it (hawthorn,
garlic and cayenne).
My skin color became a lot better, and soon I was
able to walk more. The doctor didn't understand why I was getting
stronger. My wife and I considered starting a business in a
neighboring town. I started working in my basement, leading a normal
~From the book, Herb Success Stories: Actual Case
Histories, pp. 46-47.
Hawthorn berry syrup
Dr. John R. Christopher provides us with a
hawthorn berry syrup he refers to as a heart tonic. This is made by
making a decoction from hawthorn berries and adding vegetable
glycerine and grape brandy. The following is quoted from Dr.
Christopher's newsletter titled, “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled”:
“This heart tonic is a very special food for the
heart and circulatory systems. In hundreds of cases we have had
wonderful results with this heart formula in people all the way from
small infants to youth and to adults of all ages.
“Let me recall an experience we had with my own
father-in-law who was in his sixties at the time and who had had
heart trouble since birth. He was born with a leakage of the heart
and was carried around on a pillow as an infant. He worked hard all
his life on the farm but never could he take a job where a physical
examination was required for he would always be turned down because
of his heart condition.
“During the years of the Second World War he had
been accepted at a large chemical depot. The firm had hired him
because of the war time manpower shortage. They had placed Mr. W in
their construction division without a physical examination when he
was sixty-two years of age, and he worked for them until he was
sixty-five years old.
“He had begun using this heart tonic when he was
sixty years old and had used it faithfully from then on because,
according to him, 'it tasted good.' Now he was sixty-five years old
and the war came to an end.
“He was called into the company's main office
where they complimented his work record and asked him if he could
remain there as an employee. First they would have to send him in
for a physical examination and, of course, this was what he feared
the most. Nonetheless, he agreed to take the examination.
“You may imagine his surprise when he found that
he had been given a clean bill of health. He then asked the doctor,
'What about my heart leakage?' The doctor replied, 'I wish I had a
heart as good as yours. You should never worry about dying from a
heart attack; in fact, if you don't get hit by a truck or
lightening, you will probably die quietly in your sleep from old age
and won't even muss up the covers.'
“Mr. W. worked for several more years at the
plant, retired and then lived on until he was in his eighties. On a
July evening in 1970, he went to the rodeo with his family and
enjoyed the evening like a kid as he watched his son ride and
perform with the rodeo group.
“The next morning one of his sons came to his
home and found his father lying peacefully in bed. He had passed
away with his hands folded over his chest and, just as the doctor
had predicted, the covers were 'not mussed up.' No heart attack --
just the final sleep of old age.”
Hawthorn syrup can be obtained from most health
food stores. The syrup can also be made quite easily. Send an SASE
amd $1 to The IO for a recipe -- or send an email.
Much of the information for the above article was
taken from Louise Tenney's excellent reference book, Today's Herbal
Health, 5th Edition New and Revised.