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THE HERBAL CORNER

3. THE HERBAL CORNER - * Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)

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Every American schoolchild learns that the first Pilgrims arrived in the "New World" on a ship called the "Mayflower." But few, if any, know that the name actually refers to "hawthorn," an herb known for centuries as a heart tonic and today widely used as a treatment for heart disease. Herbalists use the flowers, fruit, and leaves of the Hawthorn, which is a small deciduous tree that has white bark, extremely hard wood, sharp thorns, and clusters of white, aromatic flowers. In Great Britain, the blossoms of this tree appear in May, hence its other names - may, mayblossom, and mayflower.

Hawthorn is prescribed as a mild tonic for the heart and circulatory system because of its vasodilator effects. The active ingredients present in the herb are thought to dilate the blood vessels, thereby facilitating the flow of blood through the arteries and lowering blood pressure. Hawthorn is also believed to increase the pumping force of the heart muscle and to eliminate arrhythmias. Some practitioners think Hawthorn may be effective for preventing kidney stones. Others believe it to have a calming effect on the nervous system which is why they sometimes recommend it as a remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Those who suffer from stress, anxiety, and other nerve-related conditions may also benefit from drinking Hawthorn herbal tea.

Hawthorn is readily available as liquid extract, capsules, tea, and in tablet form herbal formulations. Ailments which may be improved through using Hawthorn include: arteriosclerosis, myocarditis, hypertension, hypotension, heart palpitations and murmurs, angina, and arrhythmias. The herb may also prove effective against sore throats (when used as a gargle) and some nervous system disorders. Hawthorn possesses the following properties: antispasmodic, vasodilator, and sedative/calmative. Although relatively safe in small doses, taking very large amounts of Hawthorn may result in a dramatic drop in blood pressure, which in turn may cause faintness and even loss of consciousness.

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Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.

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