A genus of about 280 deciduous, often thorny, shrubs and trees, which occur throughout northern temperate regions. Crataegus laevigata and C. monogyna are very similar, the latter differing mainly in having more deeply lobed leaves, and fruits with one stony seed, rather than two. The former tends to grow farther north in Europe, while C. monogyna occurs throughout Europe as far as Afghanistan. Hybrids between C. laevigata and C. monogyna, known as C. x media are common in the wild. Many species of Crataegus are very variable, which in the past has led to the naming of over 1,000 different species, some of which are probably of hybrid origin. Taxonomic research has reduced this number considerably, but the numerous forms and hybrids continue to pose problems of identification. The common names of C. laevigata refer to different aspects of the plant; "may" from its time of flowering; "quickset" from its use as a "quick" or "living" hedge; and "bread-and-cheese" from the tasty young leaves, which were traditionally added to sandwiches in country areas. Many practices are associated with the hawthorn, notably the custom of going "a-Maying", and choosing a May queen, which predates Christian times. In pagan times the king and queen of the May were killed at the end of the growing season — hence the ambiguity today of hawthorn being both a symbol of hope and an omen of death. As a medicinal herb, hawthorn was traditionally used to treat kidney and bladder problems. Its use as a heart remedy began during the end of the 19th century. Crataegus laevigata, C. monogyna, and their hybrids are now used interchangeably for medicinal purposes. Unlike most medicinal plants that act on the heart, hawthorn is relatively non-toxic, although its use for such serious conditions should be confined to qualified practitioners. Crataegus pinnatifida was first mentioned as an herb in the Supplement to the Extension of the Materia Medica by Zhu Zhen Heng (c.1347). Fruits of another Chinese species, C, cuneata, have a sour but pleasant taste and are used mainly to control diarrhea.

English Hawthorn, a spring-flowering shrub often ground as an impenetrable hedge, is traditionally used to decorate maypoles for May Day celebrations. Numerous human studies have shown that English hawthorn is helpful in treating the symptoms of mild chronic heart failure and may be helpful in treating hypertension when combined with standard medicines such as ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers.

Deciduous, densely branched, spiny shrub or small tree, with shallowly lobed, obovate leaves, to 5cm (2in) long. Scented white flowers, 1cm (3/8in) across, are produced in clusters in late spring, followed by dark red, egg-shaped fruits, to 1.5cm (½in) long.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Bread and Cheese Tree, English Hawthorn, Hagthorn, Haw, Hawthorn, Ladies' Meat, May, May Bush, May Tree, Mayblossom, Mayflower, Quickset
Botanical Name:
Crataegus laevigata syn. C, oxyacantha.
Native Location:
Europe, especially the North
Moist soil, including alkaline, in sun or partial shade. Crataegus laevigata flowers and fruits better in open, sunny positions. Trim to shape at any time from late summer to early spring, or in winter for shrubs in which autumn color is a feature. Leaves may be attacked by caterpillars or affected by leafspot, powdery mildew, or rust. Honey fungus may cause rapid death. Crataegus laevigata, C. monogyna and their hybrids are subject to plant controls in parts of Australia.
By seed separated from ripe berries in autumn and sown in a seedbed or cold frame. Germination may take 18 months. Cultivars do not come true from seed, and are propagated by grafting in winter or budding in midsummer on to stocks of C. monogyna.
Flowering sprigs (with leaves) are collected in spring and dried for infusions, decoctions, tinctures, and tablets. Fruits are collected when ripe and used raw or cooked, or dried whole for use in tinctures.
Crimson Cloud
Has large, deep pink flowers with white centers.

Paul's Scarlet syn. Coccinea Plena
Has double, deep pink flowers.
It arose as a sport of C. laevigata 'Rosea Flore Pleno' (which has paler pink double flowers) in a garden in Hertfordshire, England in 1858.

Has double, white flowers. It has been grown in gardens since c.1770.
5-8m (15-25ft)
5-8m (15-25ft)
Hawthorn's synonymous botanical name, Crataegus oxyacantha is derived from the Greek words kratos ("hard"), oxcus ("sharp"), and akantha ("thorn")—which pay homage to the plant's hardwood, thorny branches. Those branches were once believed to be the source of Christ's crown of thorns, a darkly "sacred" association that has been with hawthorn since the time of the ancient Pagans, Greeks, and Romans. The shrub's common name "May Tree" refers both to the season in which the shrub blooms and to the fact that hawthorn's flowering branches (called "mays") were an integral part of pagan "Maying" rituals—which began in spring with celebrations and ended in autumn with human sacrifices!
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed hawthorn symbolized joy and hope and used the flowers in wedding bouquets. At the same time, they also believed hawthorn could chase away demons and strewed the herb in their children's beds. During the Middle Ages, hawthorn garnered and evil reputation. Many Britishers believed its flowers retained the stench of the dead during London's great plague, and bringing a flowering hawthorn branch into a home was synonymous with inviting Death in as well. But these same people gave the hawthorn some of its most whimsical names: "Bread and Cheese Tree" and "Ladies' Meat" honor hawthorn's deliciously edible leaves, which were often added to luncheon sandwiches. And the small, applelike fruits of the hawthorn shrub were variously dubbed "pixie pears", cuckoo's beads" and "chucky cheese".
Surprisingly none of hawthorn's common names eludes to its greatest power—healing the heart. Since medieval times, herbalists have prescribed hawthorn to treat heart disease. Modern-day researchers have confirmed hawthorn's significant heart-healing properties and rate it as a superb cardiotonic, second only to garlic.
Parts Used:
Flower clusters (with leaves), Leaf, fruits.
An aromatic, sweet and sour, warming herb that improves peripheral circulation and regulates heart rate, blood pressure, and coronary blood flow. It is also diuretic and antioxidant.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for circulatory disorders and heart disease of all kinds, often combine with Selenicereus grandiflorus (See, queen-of-the-night), Tilia spp. (See, linden), Viscum album, (See, mistletoe), or Scutellaria laterifolia (See, Virginian scullcap). Also combined with Ginkgo biloba (See ginkgo biloba) for poor memory.
To treat elevated blood pressure and certain kinds of irregular heartbeat; as a sedative; to prevent the destruction of collagen in the joints. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of English hawthorn to treat a decrease in cardiac output.
Hawthorn has antispasmodic, blood-pressure-lowering, cardiotonic, sedating, and vasodilating properties. Hawthorn also increases the pumping force of the heart muscle and regulates blood flow and heart rate. It is taken internally for angina, anxiety, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), blocked arteries, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), and insomnia.
Hawthorn is available as dried herb and in capsules, liquid extracts, and teas. To make a tea (if prescribed by a medical practitioner), pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb and steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to 1½ cups a day, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of English hawthorn is approximately 5 mg of the herb, taken in divided doses three times daily.
Hawthorn is considered the safest and least toxic of the medicinal herbs used to treat heart disease. Nevertheless, it is best used under the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner. Do not self-diagnose or self-treat heart disease, and do not take hawthorn with prescription heart medications without consulting your doctor. Overconsumption of hawthorn may cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure, fainting, and oversedation.
Possible Side Effects:
English hawthorn's side effects include palpitations, dizziness, headache, and flatulence.
Drug Interactions:
Taking English hawthorn with these drugs may enhance the drug's therapeutic and adverse effects:
Amiodarone, (Cordarone, Pacerone)
Amlopidine, (Norvasc)
Bepridil, (Vascor)
Bretylium, (Bretylium)
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Dofetilide, (Tikosyn)
Felodipine, (Plendil, Renedil)
Ibutilide, (Corvert)
Isosorbide Dinitrate, (Apo-ISDN, Isordil)
Isosorbide Mononitrate, (Imdur, Ismo)
Isradipine, (DynaCirc)
Lacidipine, (Aponil, Caldine)
Lercanidipine, (Cardiovasc, Carmen)
Manidipine, (Calslot, Iperten)
Nicardipine, (Cardene)
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Nilvadipine, (Nilvadipine)
Nimodipine, (Nimotop)
Nisoldipine, (Sular)
Nitrendipine, (Nitrendipine)
Nitroglycerin, (Nitro-Bid, Nitro-Dur)
Pinaverium, (Dicetel)
Sotalol, (Betapace, Sorine)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking English hawthorn with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Taking English hawthorn with these drugs may decrease drug absorption:
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Taking English hawthorn with this drug may be harmful:
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)—may increase the risk of drug toxicity.
Supplement Interactions:
  • Increased risk of cardiotoxicity due to potassium depletion when taken with cardioactive herbs, such as Digitalis, Lily of the Valley, and Squill.
  • Increases the action of Adonis when taken concurrently.
  • Increases the action of Lily of the Valley when taken concurrently.
  • Increases the action of Squill when taken concurrently.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni BrownCopyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg. 182
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD. Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.196-197
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 114-115