Andrea Lowing

Hawthorn extract - viable treatment for cardiovascular disease or unscrupulous herbal supplement?

Crataegus laevigata, more commonly known as the English Hawthorn, is a tree native to western and central Europe and parts of Asia but can also be found in the United States including the state of Michigan.  The tree blossoms red and white flowers in the spring and produces bright red berries during the late summer and early fall.  In the past the Hawthorn berries, leaves and flowers were used in parts of Asia to treat hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure) and other cardiovascular diseases.

It is hypothesized that extracts of the Hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers act as a vasodilator (Chen et al, 1998; for review see Furey and Tassell, 2008) by relaxing the smooth muscle, by means of decreasing the amount of calcium that is present in the intracellular fluid.  This may be accomplished by increasing the effectiveness of the calcium -ATPase pump or by altering the sodium -calcium antiport exchanger thus decreasing the amount of calcium present in the intracellular fluid.  This current study evaluates the effects of the Hawthorn berry, flower and leaf on the coronary and pulmonary arteries to determine if the proposed relaxation of the smooth muscle actually occurs and to gain insight into the mechanism of action.  By studying both the coronary and pulmonary arteries, it will allow us to understand how Hawthorn extract impacts specific organs.

Faculty Mentor: Francis Sylvester, Biomedical Sciences

Page last modified July 14, 2010