Review finds Hawthorn Extract can help the heart

February 06, 2008
Low vitamin E tied to physical decline in the elderly

Older adults with low levels of vitamin E are likely to see a steeper deterioration in physical function over a 3-year period than those with higher vitamin E levels, a study shows. Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine studied 698 adults age 65 or older who were randomly selected in Tuscany, Italy. Physical function was assessed using tests of walking speed, standing balance and other physical abilities. The researchers excluded people with already low scores less than 4 out of 12 possible points. Vitamin E was the only micronutrient associated with reduced physical function after taking account of factors such as illnesses, obesity, physical activity level, depression, and mental function. Compared to people with the highest level of vitamin E, those with the lowest amount were 62 percent more likely to have at least a 1-point drop in their physical capacities. The authors point out that vitamin E, being a powerful antioxidant, may protect against DNA and muscle damage, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative disorders. The study is published in this weeks Journal of the American Medical Association, January 23, 2008.

A major review of 14 high-quality randomized placebo-controlled human clinical-trials by the ultra-strict Cochrane Collaboration show that Hawthorn extract, an herbal treatment for patients with heart failure, "significantly" improves symptoms. In the trials that involved a total of 855 patients, Hawthorn’s effects were gauged by adding either it or an inactive placebo (for comparisons sake) to conventional therapy:
Compared to placebo, Hawthorn extract;
- improved maximal workload of the heart muscle (it pumped blood better)
- significantly increased exercise tolerance (the body was re3ceiving more oxygenated-blood and the heart was protected)
- reduced oxygen consumption by the heart (made it more efficient)
- significantly reduced shortness of breath and fatigue (because function of the circulatory system improved)
"There is good evidence that, when used alongside conventional therapy, Hawthorn extract can bring additional benefits," says lead researcher Dr Ruoling Guo, from Peninsula Medical School at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, UK.
"If I had chronic heart failure, I certainly would consider (using) it," said review co-author Dr. Max Pittler, deputy director of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England.
The review does not include results of a large new study -- unpublished to date -- that suggested hawthorn has an effect on improving lifespan and survival; and although limited, this is hard to achieve in heart failure patients, not to mention the benefit of improved day-to-day quality of life.
At issue is heart failure, a common condition that is both debilitating and deadly. An estimated five million Americans suffer from heart failure, which is often the result of clogged arteries that put stress on the heart by forcing it to work harder.
As a result, the heart becomes larger while failing to effectively move blood around the body. This causes fluids to build up in the legs and lungs, often causing shortness of breath and other symptoms.
The analysis found that hawthorn, as compared to placebo, also decreased the "pressure-heart rate product," a measurement of how much oxygen is used by the heart. In addition, the analysis reports that two other measurements -- exercise tolerance, and shortness of breath and fatigue -- improved "significantly" in patients who used hawthorn.
Overall, the review showed a "significant benefit in symptom control and physiologic outcomes" in patients who took Hawthorn, Pittler said. According to him, the extract appears to boost the strength of heart contractions, increase blood flow through arteries and reduce irregular heartbeats (dangerous and often life-threatening arrhythmias). The review appears in Issue 1, 2008 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Hawthorne helps reduce blood pressure in diabetics

Scientists at the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, The University of Reading working in conjunction with physicians in private practice enrolled 79 patients with type 2 diabetes who were taking diabetes medication. 71% of these patients also took medication for high blood pressure. They gave 39 of these patients Hawthorne Extract on a daily basis for 16 weeks while 40 patients received look-alike but inactive placebo. The Hawthorne Extract significantly reduced their diastolic blood pressure (the lower figure in a blood pressure reading) and had a small effect of systolic pressure vs. placebo. There were no drug-herb interactions and minor complaints decreased in both groups. The study is published in the June 2006 issue of the British Journal of General Practice. Commentary by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.; reducing diastolic pressure is very significant because this allows the heart to take a mini-rest in between filling up with blood and having to pump it out to the rest of the body