Home / Chinese Herb / HAWTHORN [山楂, SHAN ZHA]


Name : Hawthornhawthorn_3565_opt

Chinese Name : 山楂

Latin Name : Fructus Crataegi


This herb is the dried ripe  fruit of Crataegus pinnatifida Bge. and C. cuneata. Sieb. Of the family Rosaceae. It is widely grown throughout the mountainous region of  north and south China. After harvesting in autumn,  the fruit is cleaned, sliced, dried and used unprocessed. The fruit, when ripe, has a sour and sweet taste. Hawthorn is a digestion-improving stomachic.

In classical Chinese materia medica, the  fruit was described as antiscorbutic, laxative, stomachic, deobstruant, and alterative. It was administered to assist digestion  and to promote the circulation of the blood.

Today hawthorn is used to improve digestion and elimination, treat dyspepsia and stagnation of fatty food, invigorate blood circulation, improve blood pressure, and lower blood cholesterol levels.

Use of Hawthorn in TCM

Sour and sweet taste and slightly warm, it acts on the spleen, stomach , and liver meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Improves digestion and eliminates retention of food: for abdominal distension, anorexia, abdominal pain, dyspepsia, and diarrhea caused by enteritis, hawthorn is taken alone in a decoction, or in combination with medicated leaven and germinated barley in a decoction, or with  aucklandia root (mu xiang), white atractylodes, dolichos nut (bai bian dou), myristica, and bitter orange in a decoction.
  2. Invigorates blood circulation and resolves blood stasis:
  • For the treatment of hypertension, angina, and coronary heart disease, hawthorn is made into a deoction, or combined with prunella, chrysanthemum, and scute to make a daily tea if hypertension is caused by hyperactivity of the liver yang.
  • Hawtorn is also blended with acronychia (dalbergia), codonopsis, carthamus, salvia root, and red peony root in a dection for chest pain, dyspnea, and to prevent coronary blood clots.
  1. For postpartum abdominal pain or gastralgia, hawthorn is mixed with Chinese angelica, cnidium, leonurus, corydalis tuber, and pollen typhae (pu huang). It can be combined with leonurus, cyperus tuber, and cinnamon twig to treat dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea caused by stagnation of blood circulation.
  2. Treat hyperlipemia: hawtorn is blended with salvia, chrysanthemum, germinated barlety, and lonicera in a decoction.


In a decoction of 10 to 15 g  per day. For  hypertension and hyperlipemia, 30 to 60 g can be taken in three doses after meals.


People with hyperchlorhydria or stomach ulcers, and pregnant women should not use this herb or use with extra caution.

Side Effects and Toxicity

The therapeutic dose rarely causes undesirable side effects or toxicity.Long-term administration did not produce any side effects. Some patients may experience an upset stomach or light diarrhea. Female mice receiving a daily dose of 100 mg/kg of the flavones of the fruit for one month had normal pregnancies. The offspring had normal blood profiles and clinical  indices. The intravenous LD50 of the flavones was 1650 mg/kg.

Chemical Constituents

Hawtorn leaves and berries contain flavonoid compounds, quercetin, vitexin, hypeerin, hyperoxide, cyanin, quercitrin, catechin, anthocyanidins, and proanthocyanidins. Its triterpenic acids include crataegoic acid, chlorogenic acid, oleanolic acid, ursolicacid, and caffeic acid, citric, succinic, and malic acid. The berries contain cardiotonic amines, cholins, acetycholine, vitamins B1, B2, and C, fructose, amygdalin, pectins, and essential oils.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. The fruit increases the secretion of digestive enzymes and promotes digestion. It also increases the actions of lipase and protease.
  2. Hawtorn lowers serum cholesterol levels. The serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels of rabbits receiving an oral dose of 9.5 g of the fruit’s extract were significantly lower than of the control group. Experimental hyperlipidemia in rabbits could be abated by oral admininistration of 10 g/kg of the fruit’s alcohol extract. In twenty-five-day-old rats, and oral dose of 0.25 mg/g the 30 percent extract of the fruit decreased hyperlipidemia by 45 + 12 percent after ten days of medication.
  3. The flavones of the herb perfused into a rabbit’s heart produced a marked increase in coronary blood flow.
  4. The fruit was shown to strengthen contractions of the heart muscle, increase cardiac output, and decrease the heart rate.
  5. Other effects: hawtorn extract showed antimicrobial, antiarrhythmia, sedative, analgestic, uterine muscle-contraction, and body temperature-lowering properties.

Clinical Findings

The alcohol extract of the was used in sixteen cases of coronary disease with angina  pectoris, with four weeks being one treatment course. Marked effects were observed in one case at the end one course, and marked effect in six  cases and improvement in nine cases were obtained at the end of three coures. Improvement was also observed in twelve cases of atypical angina pectoris.

The tablets of the fruit extract (each tablet was equivalent to 3.1 g of the fruit) were used in 104 cases of hypercholesterolemia, at a protocol of five tablets, three times daily for fifteen months. Serum cholesterol was normalized in seventy-seven cases, reduced  by 20 percent in fifteen cases, and elevated in one case. Using the same dosage in twenty-one cases of hypertriglyceridemia, seventeen cases resulted in normalization of serum triglyceride levels.