Hawthorn (Crataegus species) has been used to treat heart disease as far back as the 1st century. By the early 1800s, American doctors were using it to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses in humans.
Traditionally, hawthorne berries were used to treat heart problems ranging from irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure.
There are two common ways to use hawthorn to fight heart disease.
Hawthorn is a small tree with sharp thorns that are readily embedded in dogs’ feet when they are stepped on. Regardless of its dangers in your yard, hawthorn trees yield reddish berries which, along with the flowers and leaf buds, can be easily fed to your dog in either a fresh or dry form. You can also make a tincture or tea. Hawthorn trees of various species are abundant and can be found in thickets and meadows in most of North America.
The fruit of the hawthorn is the best cardiotonic available. It improves the general function of the heart and can steady and strengthen a weak or irregular heartbeat. Hawthorn berry is so powerful in fact, that it’s been shown to be as effective as digitalis but in a safer, milder form.
There is no danger of side effects or cumulative danger with hawthorn. In patients already on digitalis, giving hawthorn at the same time can help patients lower their dose of digitalis by nearly half.
Hawthorn also functions to dilate the coronary vessels and those of the brain. Flavinoid, the red pigment found in hawthorn berries, is the compound most responsible for its tonic effect on the smooth muscles. Although flavinoids are found in many fruits and vegetables, hawthorn is the richest natural source.
Not Just For Seniors …
Hawthorn is not only useful for older dogs. It’s a valuable daily supplement for working dogs who may undergo continued cardiac stress. Sled dogs, agility dogs, herding and bird dogs would all benefit from this herb.
Hawthorn is often essential for the care of the older dog. It’s daily use can assist those dogs suffering from congestive heart failure or heart issues stemming from heartworms, infections or chemotherapy. It also works to strengthen appetite and digestion. Hawthorn can also improve circulation through the liver and kidneys but without the risk of elevated blood pressure.[Related: Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs: Holistic Treatment Options]
Where To Find Hawthorn
Hawthorn is not only an effective herb, it’s quite easy to obtain.
The hawthorn tree is common and fairly easy to spot. When you do find a hawthorn tree, you can easily pick the berries and feed them straight to your dog. You can also take the berries home and dry them and then grind them into a powder with a pestle or a good coffee grinder. For best results, add about a teaspoon per pound of your dog’s food per day.
Hawthorne berries are also found as the homeopathic remedy Crataegus oxyacantha.
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As a homeopathic remedy, Crataegus can be used to treat dilatative or hypertrophic cardiomyopathies as well as myocarditis. Like the herbal form, Crataegus is a general heart tonic and can lower the pulse and blood pressure. Key symptoms include a rapid, irregular, small pulse.
Although the herbal form is generally safe to use, the homeopathic Crataegus is very powerful, so care must be exercised when using it. Crataegus should only be used in low potencies (3c to 12c) and ideally under the direction of an experienced homeopath: if Crataegus causes an aggravation, it can kill the patient, so it’s not a remedy for beginners to consider.