Shan Zha – Crataegus fruit – Hawthorn (C. pinnatifida or C. cuneata)

Nature: sour, sweet, slightly warm

Enters: Spleen, Stomach, Liver

Actions: Promotes blood circulation and dispels blood stasis and clumps; promotes digestion, eliminates food retention, digests fat. The partially charred form stops diarrhea (and is superior for moving blood).

• Food retention: distended epigastrium, abdominal pain, diarrhea. Particularly for over-consumption of meat or fatty foods.
• Blood stasis: abdominal pain (including post-partum), clumps, testicular pain and hernial disorders.
• Chronic diarrhea/dysentery: use the partially-charred form.
• Breast lumps: use the seeds.
• Hypertension; coronary artery disease; elevated serum cholesterol.
• Oddly, this herb has been shown to promote hair growth in this study.
• This herb’s combination of sweet and sour flavors give it the potential to nourish Yin.
• The herb is used commonly used raw for dispelling blood stasis and is dry-fried for food stagnation.
Li: Softens hardness: clots, etc.
Jin: Add to phlegm-resolving formulas to treat phlegm due to food sensitivity.
• For acne: pimples are deposits of oil (fat) and this herb helps digest fat (see Jin’s acne formula.
• For weight loss: digests fat.
MLT: Reduces hypertension, cholesterol, blood lipids; also for murmurs, enlarged heart.
Yoga: V-, P+; K+ (in excess)
• Not for Pitta-type (hot) heart conditions.
• Especially good for Vata heart conditions like nervous palpitations, or the heart problems of old age (the age of Vata) like cholesterol and arteriosclerosis.
Hsu: Increases secretion of digestive enzymes; antibacterial, vasodilator.

Dose: 9-15g (to 30g)

Western Hawthorne, C. oxycantha and many other species (in Western herbalism, the leaves and flowers are also often used):
K&R: Cardiac sedative, hypotensive, sympatholytic, febrifuge, diuretic and astringent, coronary dilator, chronotrope negative (strong), bathmotrope negative, antispasmodic.
• Fire and wood excess:
Fire: slows and reinforces the heart’s contractions, treats tachycardia, extrasystoles, arrhythmia, promotes vasodilation of the coronaries and treats sequela of infarctus, increases oxygen supply to the heart, stimulates venous walls (varices, varicose ulcer), diminishes arterial tension, treats arterial hypertension, can reverse arteriosclerosis; diuretic.
• Diminishes diarrhea from full heat in the small intestine, inhibits the sympathetic tonus.
• Precordial pain or oppression, dyspnea, rapid and weak heart contractions, cardiac hypertrophy, endocarditis.
• Also for such Fire yang symptoms as: vertigo, dizziness, anguish, insomnia, night terrors, enuresis, hot flashes of menopause.
Wood: disperses liver and gallbladder channels, calms sympathetic nervous system, calms sympathotonic spasms, CNS sedative.
• The flowers and berries are astringent – use in decoction for a sore throat.
• East Asian uses: for blood stasis, menstrual pain, postpartum lower abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, lower abdominal distention.
• Increases stomach acidity to help digest meats and fats.
• Treats bacterial dysentery and chronic enteritis.
• Chinese research has shown that its flavones can alleviate myocardial ischemia. Its flavones also can reinforce the crosslinking of collagen that forms connective tissue, and can prevent the release of pro-inflammatory substances such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and histamine, and thus prevent tissue destruction in inflammatory diseases of the soft tissues.
• Potentiates the action of barbiturates.
• Topical: for angina.
• Not for acute cardiac insufficiency (use Lily of the Valley [Convallaria] or Foxglove [Digitalis]) – Hawthorn should be taken over time to improve the functional tone of the myocardium and prevent arteriosclerosis.
• Contraindicated for stomach ulcers with hyperacidity.
BII: Beneficial in: atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmia, CHF, hypertention, peripheral vascular disease, vascular fragility.
• Reduces angina attacks, lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol.
IBIS: (berries, flowers, leaves)
• Qualities: sweet, slightly bitter, cool, dry, astringent.
• Affinities: heart, arteries, blood.
• Actions: cardiotonic, myocardial trophorestorative; coronorary and peripheral vasodilator, anti-arrhythmic, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic, hypotensive, positive inotrope.
• Tincture (flowers & leaves) : 1 – 2 ml T.I.D.
• Tincture (berries) : 2 – 4 ml. T.I.D.
• (Preparations may vary, some are 50/50 Flower/Berries.)
• Dried herb : Infusion (flowers & leaves) Decoction (berries) Two teaspoons per cup (30gm/500ml) One cup T.I.D.
• Powdered dried herb : 500 – 1000 mg T.I.D.
• Standardized Extract : 100-250mg T.I.D. (Standardized to 1.8% vitexin or 10% total flavonoids as hyperoside)
• Therapy: coronary artery disease; angina pectoris; myocardial hypoxemia; Cardiac insufficiency (NYHA Stage I and II), arrhythmias; senile degeneration of the heart and atherosclerosis; post-infectious weakening of myocardium (Weiss pp. 164-65); paroxysmal tachycardia; Buerger’s disease, (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia), synergist to reduce dosage of cardiac glycoside herbs (or drugs).
• Specific indications: hypertension with myocardial weakness, angina pectoris (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia).
• Cardioactivity: It is established that Crataegus oligomeric procyanidins and flavonoids increase myocardial and coronary blood flow, that it is positively inotropic and and hypotensive, but the mechanism of action is unclear. Crataegus flavonoids inhibit cAMP Phosphodiesterase, and myocardial Na+/K+ ATP’ase. The same compounds exhibit high antioxidant free radical scavenging activity, and are hypolipidemic via an action on hepatic LDL receptors and increased bile secretion. Crataegus also inhibits TXA2 (Thromboxane) formation, while stimulating prostacycline. Crataegus prolongs rather than reduces the myocardial refractory period, unlike most positive inotropes, hence reducing risk of arryhthymia. Animal studies have confirmed the abilty of Crataegus to lower blood pressure, increase myocardial perfusion, minimize ischemic damage (reduces post infarct LDH by 50%).(Literature Review see American Herbal Pharmacopoeia).
Clinical trials:
• Several controlled studies have been performed with Crataegus extracts and NYHA stage I and II cardiac insufficiency patients. Crataegus increased exercise tolerance, decreased systolic BP and heart rate (Schmidt 1994), decreased severity of symptoms subjectively as well as HR, BP (Leuchtgens, 1993). In another group (n=1476) Crataegus decreased symptom severity by 66%, and was associated with systolic drop of 10mm and diastolic drop pf 5mm average blood pressure. (Loew, 1996)
Drug interactions:
• Crataegus will synergize with the cardiac glycoside containing plants such as Convallaria, Digitalis, Strophanthus, Urginea, Apocynum, Asclepias etc., as well as the hypotensive alkaloids of Veratrum and Rauwolfia. Western clinical herbalists use Crataegus as an adjuvant to lower the dose of these more toxic herbs required for effective action.
• Crataegus potentiates the activity of cardiac glycosides including digitoxin, digoxin etc. Patients using these medications should be monitored by a herbalist or physician since the dose of pharmaceutical drug will need to be reduced during intercurrent therapy.
Joseph Coletto (OCOM): Extract of the berry (e.g. Scientific Botanicals’ solid extract) is both tasty and excellent for oral lesions and irritation (administer repeatedly and hold in the mouth).

2 comments on “Shan Zha – Crataegus fruit – Hawthorn (C. pinnatifida or C. cuneata)

  1. DV says:

    Can you comment on differences for medical purposes between various types of hawthorn? I have been using large dried TCM-supplier-sourced to good effect. But around where we live there are many hawthorn trees wild (brought by British Isles immigrant farmers to this impoverished soil in the 19th century, farms abandoned largely but trees widespread and only this year noted as coming on some to full magnificent, delicious fruit, we’re here for decades and this is the 1st time and we hope not the last!). These are much smaller. I also have some poor quality dried from Croatia bought from a western-type herbal supplier. Should one consider all as equivalent? If all hawthorn have the telltale large thorns, is it fair to consider that a “signature” that they all serve to break up blood hardnesses? I asked once here about another plant east vs west, it does seem variable, eg teasel seems to have same useful effects, but dogbane west is to be avoided vs east drunk now widely there, a TCM herbalist did not trust for his purposes what we call peppermint in the west, etc.

    • Peter Borten says:

      I wish I could answer your question, but I just don’t know. I, too, have encountered many kinds of hawthorn. Some with fruits over an inch in diameter, others with tiny fruits that are barely more than skin covering seeds. I honestly don’t know. They are often grown for ornamental purposes, and they are generally very tough trees, but I think they are rarely grown for medicinal purposes. I think we can only know by experimenting with them, possibly utilizing chemical analysis (though I don’t entirely believe the medicinal value can be ascertained thru chemical assays), and maybe using shamanic journeying or similar non-ordinary methods to meet with the plants. As for the thorns as a signature, this makes sense to me, though in TCM the blood moving function is definitely considered secondary & it is rarely used for this purpose. It may be that the Chinese species have less potency in this regard and that’s why it’s not considered much of a blood mover compared to European hawthorns, or it may simply be a quality that wasn’t recognized.

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