Hawthorn for Heart Health!

IMGHawthorn is one of my favorite medicinal plants. It is a beautiful tree with uniquely shaped leaves that belongs to the rose family. In the spring, Hawthorne trees come to life with delicate white or pink flowers and in the fall, the trees produce abundant bright red berries. Besides having tremendous aesthetic value, Hawthorn also contains powerful medicinal properties. The leaves, flowers, and berries are strongly nourishing to the heart and the berries has long been used as a food and medicine in Europe and Asia.

Hawthorn is traditionally used as part of an adjunctive treatment for many heart conditions, from high blood pressure, to angina, to congestive heart failure (CHF). Although Hawthorn is not a replacement for medications, the herb may help to strengthen the heart muscle, improve blood flow to the heart, and reduce symptoms related to heart disease.

The Cochrane Heart Group conducted a meta-analysis of studies looking at the use of Hawthorn for individuals with CHF and concluded that there was significant improvement in symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue. They also found that Hawthorn increased cardiac output and exercise tolerance, and decreased the oxygen demands of heart muscle cells. These are all important clinical markers in CHF.

Hawthorn contains large amounts of potent antioxidant flavanoids, helping to protect the heart and cardiovascular system from oxidative stress and inflammation — two of the major components in the development of atherosclerotic plaques (i.e. “hardened arteries”) and myocardial ischemia (a decrease in blood flow to the heart). Hawthorn has also been shown to lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that is most contributory to heart disease.

Hawthorn also increases levels of nitric oxide (NO) and endothelium derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF), both of which have an effect in the body of dilating blood vessels. This is likely how Hawthorn is able to help improve blood flow to the heart and reduce systemic blood pressure.

In addition to Hawthorn’s physiologic effects on the heart, it is also said to benefit the emotions of the heart. Many herbalists use Hawthorn to soothe a broken heart and to help people move through stages of grief. Hawthorn may also be useful in episodes of mild, situational depression.

Hawthorn is usually dried and processed into an alcohol extract (tincture), solid extract, or tea. It has a mild, sweet, and slightly astringent flavor.

hawthorne hands


Guo, R., Pittler, M., & Ernst, E. (2008). Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Reviews.

Disclaimer: This article is purely informational and is not meant to represent a treatment, prevention, or cure for a specific disease or health condition and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Interval Training for Health and Wellness

runningWhether you are looking to loose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, or build aerobic endurance, interval training may be a good place for you to start.

Note: If you have never exercised before, or if you have heart disease, asthma, COPD, or another medical condition, you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

What is Interval Training?

Interval training is simply alternating quick bursts of high intensity activity with intervals of light activity or rest. Interval training is an easy way to get in an effective work out in a short amount of time and there are many ways to individualize and modify a regimen depending on your fitness level. If you are already very fit, this might look like incorporating sprints into your jogging routine. Or you might incorporate a slow jog into a walk. Or if you are less fit, you can start by incorporating intervals of fast walking into a slow walk.

What are the potential benefits?

  • Increased weight loss
  • Improved aerobic capacity and endurance
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved function of the heart

Exercising intensely for even short periods of time encourages your body to burn more calories. Studies also show that short bursts of high intensity exercise are more effective at promoting endurance than prolonged periods of medium intensity exercise.

Tips for a successful work out

  • Know your target heart rate – For most people the target heart rate is 50-85% of their calculated maximal heart rate. The maximal heart rate is calculated from the formula: (220-Your Age). It is helpful to use a heart rate monitor during exercise to see if you are in your optimal and safe target heart rate range.
  • Warm up first – Before beginning an interval work out, warm up your joints and muscle with circular movements, jumping jacks, or a slow jog.
  • Start slow – Exercise intensely for 20 seconds and then slow down for 40-60 seconds to recover. You will know that you have hit your peak exercise intensity when your breathing becomes faster and it is challenging to speak in complete sentences. As you become more fit you can increase your intervals of high intensity activity but keep them short, ideally 20-60 seconds per interval. If you feel you need a harder work out, you can also add light weights but make sure that you do so safely.
  • Increase your repetitions to build endurance – Start your exercise program doing as many repetitions as you comfortably can and then try to beat this the next time. Increasing your number of repetitions will help increase your aerobic endurance.
  • Take time to rest – Interval training is best done 2 to 3 times per week, but not on consecutive days. Giving your body breaks will give it time to adequately recover so you’ll be ready for the next work out.