A group of Cochrane researchers has found that hawthorn extract is effective in controlling symptoms of chronic heart disease, and in improving a range of heart-related measurements.
Known to be a popular herbal medicine in Europe and the USA, hawthorn extract is made from dried leaves, flowers and fruits of hawthorn bushes.
Dr Ruoling Guo, who works in Complementary Medicine at Peninsula Medical School at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, says that the extract is capable of enabling the heart to beat more powerfully, and of increasing the amount of blood that flows through the heart's muscles.
For the purpose of their study, the researchers identified 14 randominsed control trials that compared the effects of adding hawthorn extract or placebo to conventional therapies. The trials involved a total of 855 patients.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that hawthorn extract improved maximal workload, increased exercise tolerance, reduced oxygen consumption by the heart, and reduced shortness of breath and fatigue.
A few people reported mild nausea, dizziness and heart and stomach complaints.
"There is good evidence that, when used alongside conventional therapy, hawthorn extract can bring additional benefits," says Dr Guo.