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Hawthorn berry: why it may be good for you

Hawthorn berry extract can be found in herbal tea, jam, and jelly products. While delicious, the hawthorn berry is also rich in antioxidants that defend us from cell deterioration or damage in the long run. Compared to other sources of antioxidants, hawthorn berry is special since it contains polyphenols associated with health properties involving anti-inflammation, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health management, and anti-premature aging.

Hawthorn is a small tree that is native to temperate regions across the world such as Asia. The plant bears nutritious berries that possess a sweet and tangy taste. Historically, hawthorn berry extract has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various health conditions. It is believed to be loaded with powerful antioxidants that benefit your heart. Today, you might find the extract infused in herbal tea, jam, and jelly products, among others.

Your cardiovascular system—which consists of five liters of blood, an extensive network of blood vessels, and your heart—is what keeps you alive, free from infection, and functional across organs. It circulates the essential substances to your cells and organs, such as oxygen, nutrients, and hormones, among others. Your body needs a constant supply of said substances—otherwise, it will be unable to tolerate stress and physical activity.

How can the hawthorn berry benefit my health? What’s in it?

The hawthorn berry is rich in antioxidants. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, these are molecules—either manufactured by man or naturally found in our bodies—that defend us from cell deterioration or damage in the long run.

Within our bodies, there are naturally-occurring molecules called free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can play a role in the onset or progression of different kinds of illnesses and diseases. These free radicals may form when we lack a proper diet or lifestyle and when we are exposed to harmful environmental factors such as air pollution. Antioxidants respond to these free radicals by destroying them.

Some of the most commonly consumed antioxidants include Vitamin C, Vitamin D, zinc, lycopene, and beta-carotene—all of which offer unique health benefits.

Hawthorn berry, in particular, is special because it is an abundant source of bioactive and potent compounds called polyphenols. These compounds, which are generally found in plants, are associated with health properties including anti-inflammation, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health management, and anti-premature aging, among other benefits. Flavonoids make up the most common polyphenols, which you may find in dark chocolate, onions, parsley, and citrus fruits, among other foods.

How is the hawthorn berry good for my heart health? Can it cure my cardiovascular issues?

Hawthorn berry is not medically proven to cure heart problems, but it may supplement your efforts to maintain good health.  Ask your healthcare professional before starting to take healthcare supplements containing hawthorne berries.

I am already taking supplements containing hawthorn berries, is there anything else I should be doing?

While taking or consuming hawthorn berry extract may be beneficial for a healthy gut, it is important to complement this practice with regular exercise and getting adequate sleep. The reported antioxidant activity of hawthorn berry may not be as effective if a healthy lifestyle is not practiced and maintained—in this case, if you are inactive and/or usually get less than 7 hours of sleep.

Adopting a regular exercise routine

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says that performing weight-bearing and strength-training exercises is effective in building bone strength and stamina. According to the AAOS, doing so in early adulthood may help reduce the risk of bone decline or loss.

Weight-bearing exercises, by definition, allow the human body to work against gravity in order to build strength. Examples of weight-bearing exercises are as follows:

  1. Jogging or running
  2. Jumping rope
  3. Sports such as tennis, basketball, and badminton

It is important to note, however, that the activities listed above are high-impact and thus place more weight on the bones. For the elderly or those who have pre-existing bone conditions, it is advised to seek the advice of a medical professional regarding the appropriate exercises to perform.

Meanwhile, strength-training exercises are performed with resistance or added weights (e.g. weight machines, free weights) in order to help build muscle mass and bone strength over time. Examples of strength-training exercises are as follows:

  1. Squats
  2. Planks
  3. Push-ups

RELATED: The benefits of regular exercise

Getting adequate sleep

Sleep is extremely vital to overall health. It allows our bodies to undergo the necessary repair processes that prepare us to face the mornings we wake up to. If we are constantly sleep deprived, we become more vulnerable to health risks such as heart problems, a weak immune system, and prolonged or worsened chronic illnesses. This may hinder the potential cardioprotective benefits of hawthorn berry from taking effect.

According to the Sleep Foundation, these are the common sleep deprivation symptoms to watch out for:

  1. Slowed thinking 
  2. Reduced energy, attention span, or ability to concentrate
  3. Excessive fatigue
  4. Mood changes such as irritability
  5. Poor memory or decision-making

Sleep deprived individuals manifest these sleep deficiency symptoms when doing work or even performing the simplest tasks. Sleep deprivation can be acute and occur over the span of just a few days. However, given that sleep is essential to our bodily functions, persistent sleep loss or chronic sleep deprivation entails serious and long-term consequences on overall health and well-being. 

The Institute of Medicine says that among chronic sleep deprivation’s health consequences is an increased risk for high blood pressure and heart attack—conditions that affect individuals even at a young age. With this, it is important to get at least seven hours of sleep everyday.

RELATED: The benefits of sleep & stress management

Where can I find hawthorn berries? How can my body absorb the extracts?
Information sourced from Healthline

Hawthorn berry is difficult to find at grocery stores and supermarkets, but hawthorn berry-infused food, drinks, and supplements can readily be purchased online.

Listed below are some of the dietary sources of hawthorn berry extract.

  • Raw hawthorn berries. If you are able to harvest some hawthorn berries from the tree itself, exercise caution when eating them raw. The seeds are said to be poisonous and dangerous to children.
  • Ready-to-drink or homemade hawthorn tea. Hawthorn tea products are fairly easy to find and purchase online through e-commerce platforms like Amazon. You may also opt for the homemade approach and concoct a tincture (concentrated herbal extract) of the plant’s leaves, flowers, and berries by searching up instructions online.
  • Hawthorn jams or jellies. You may create a homemade hawthorn jam using raw hawthorn berries. Recipes for this can also be found online.

Another way to take hawthorn berry extract is through its supplement form. Usually, these supplements contain an infusion of the leaves’ and flowers’ respective extracts as well.

How much hawthorn berry extract should I be taking? 

Supplementary hawthorn berry extract is available in powder, pill, and liquid form. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states that the recommended dosage ranges from 160 to 1,800 milligrams divided into two or three doses daily, and this may depend on the health conditions that you wish to manage. According to Healthline, the most common dosage of the supplement falls between 250 to 500 milligrams taken three times a day. 

Are there any side effects or precautions I should be worried about?
Information sourced from WebMD

Although the AAFP reports that the human body generally tolerates hawthorn berry well, WebMD has listed some side effects that may arise when consuming supplemental hawthorn berry extract:

  1. Nausea and dizziness
  2. Headache
  3. Insomnia
  4. Sweating
  5. Fatigue
  6. Palpitations

According to WebMD, some of the major interactions with hawthorn berry supplements are the following:

  1. Medications for heart failure treatment
  2. Medications that increase blood circulation (nitrates)
  3. Medications for high blood pressure management (beta-blockers)

Hawthorn berry supplements are strongly discouraged if you are already taking medications for pre-existing heart conditions. If you have been prescribed medications fulfilling any of the purposes mentioned above, consult with your health physician before consuming hawthorn berry extract. Seek medical advice as well if you have a scheduled surgery in the near future, and/or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

IMPORTANT: Consult your healthcare professional before you start taking supplements containing hawthorn berries.

References: Click here

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