The hawthorn berry is a small but mighty red berry that resembles a cranberry in look and taste. There are over 250+ varieties of hawthorn that can be found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Chinese hawthorn (crataegus pinnatifida), known as Shan Zha 山楂 in Chinese, is used often in Chinese foods and medicine for many purposes (other than its delicious, tangy taste!) including hawthorn berry tea and hawthorn candies. As a warming superfood, hawthorn can help those with excess Yin energy. Here are the hawthorn berry’s top five health benefits:
1) Digestive Health
Hawthorn berries have been used for centuries to treat digestive issues due to its high fiber content that acts as a prebiotic. According to a 2015 critical review published in Nutrients that analyzed 88 scientific papers, the entire hawthorn plant has been found helpful in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases such as abdominal pain, constipation, and indigestion. The berry may help enhance the production of enzymes needed to digest rich and fatty foods.
2) Heart Health
Multiple studies suggest that the flavonoids found in hawthorn may have beneficial effects on those who have heart failure, a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to other organs in the body properly. Hawthorn contains phytonutrients, antioxidants that tonify and strengthen blood vessel walls, according to a 2018 study by the NIH National Library of Medicine.
3) Relieve Chest Pain
There is preliminary evidence suggesting that hawthorn may help with chest pain (angina), which is caused by low blood flow to the heart. According to Mount Sinai, those who receive hawthorn experienced improved blood flow to the heart and were also able to exercise for longer periods of time without any chest pain.
4) Better Sleep
Hawthorn tea can provide sedative and anti-anxiety effects. In the August 2010 issues of the journal “Pharmaceutical Bulletin”, laboratory animals who were given hawthorn pulp and seed extracts resulting in opiate-like calming effects on the central nervous system that decreased anxiety and alleviated pain. The researchers concluded that their study may support traditional uses of hawthorn to alleviate stress, sleep disorders, and pain.
Hawthorn contains significant amounts of polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant compound found in plants that fights free radicals and protects against inflammation. Free radicals can come from exposure to environmental toxins such as air pollution. Hawthorn can fight free radicals, unstable atoms linked to premature skin aging, chronic disease, and some cancers.
How to Enjoy Chinese Hawthorn Berries:
2) Bing Tanghulu (Candied Hawthorn)
3) Homemade Hawthorn Tea
4) Ready-to-Drink Hawthorn and Hibiscus Tea
Sources: Ecowatch, Healthline, Mount Sinai, SF Gate