08 July, 2011
Hawthorn berries have a long history of use by herbalists to treat heart conditions, including high blood pressure. The question of whether hawthorn use is safe in pregnancy depends on whom you ask. Alternative medicine practitioners such as herbalists use the red or black berries, called haws, to treat high blood pressure or other heart problems in pregnancy. Traditional medical practitioners do not condone the use of hawthorn in pregnancy, as clinical trials have not proved its safety. Do not use hawthorn to treat heart problems during pregnancy without your physician’s approval and supervision.
Hawthorn has strong vasodilator properties, according to herbalist and author Susun Weed in her book “Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.” The berries also contain antioxidants, substances that can reduce DNA cellular damage by destroying molecules known as free radicals. This herb is used in Germany to improve irregular heartbeat and may also have blood-thinning properties.
Weed recommends hawthorn berries to treat essential hypertension in pregnancy rather than gestational hypertension. If you have high blood pressure before you get pregnant as well as during pregnancy, you have essential hypertension. If you develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, usually after the 20th week of pregnancy, you have gestational hypertension. Author and herbalist Jill Rosemary Davies also recommends using hawthorn to treat irregular heartbeat, varicose veins or thrombosis in pregnancy in her book, “In a Nutshell: Hawthorn.” Because hypertension, thrombosis and irregular heartbeat can have serious causes and effects, talk with your doctor before taking this herb.
You can buy hawthorn berry in several forms, including tinctures, capsules or liquid or solid extracts. You can also make tea from the dried berries, leaves and flowers. ( Weed recommends a tincture dose of 15 drops two to three times per day or one cup of a cold infusion, a type of tea, made by steeping 1 oz. of crushed dried berries in two cups of cold water overnight. Bring it quickly to a boil and strain, then sip during the day. Davis states that small doses are always advisable, but does not specify an amount.
Studies have not been done on the effects of this herb during pregnancy, so it’s not known whether the herb could affect the development of the fetus. This herb could reduce uterine tone and is not considered safe in pregnancy, the People’s Pharmacy warns. Side effects include headache, nausea and a rapid heartbeat.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hawthorn; Steven Ehrlich; March 2009
- "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year"; Susun Weed; Ash Tree Publishing; 1986
- "In a Nutshell: Hawthorn"; Jill Rosemary Davies;Element Books Ltd; February 2000
- The People's Pharmacy: Hawthorn: J. Graedon, et al.; October 2005
- iosifbudau/iStock/Getty Images