Crataegus Oxycanthus—The English Hawthorn

Botanical name: 


The Eclectics have done much to introduce this remedy to the profession of America. However, the man who first prepared a tincture from the English hawthorn and made good use of it was an Irishman and a homeopath. The eclectic literature on the subject, states a well known physician, the late Dr. Greene, of Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, attained an extended reputation in the treatment of "Heart Disease" keeping the remedy a secret. Upon his death in 1894, his daughter revealed the fact that his famous cure was a tincture of the ripe berries of crataegus oxycanthus. In 1896 The New York Medical Journal published an article by Dr. J. C. Jennings of Chicago, on the use of crataegus, but neither of the authorities cited make any reference to Dr. Greene as a homeopath. Dr. Homedes of Barcelona, Spain, is responsible for the statement concerning the homeopathic origin of crataegus.

The ripe fruit of the hawthorn was the part used by Dr. Greene in preparing the tincture he used. The hawthorn or "haw" as it is generally called is native to this country, and one of the best preparations of crataegus obtainable is made from the ripe berries of one of the American species of hawthorn. Although first introduced by a homeopathic physician, I find no satisfactory proving of the drug. It seems to have been extensively used in Europe in recent years, and Dr. Homedes already referred to says of it: "This new remedy deserves better consideration by clinicians and provers in order to establish its pathogenesis on more solid bases."

It is a remedy well worth remembering in both functional and organic heart affections, especially when praecordial pain and oppression and dyspnoea are troublesome. The drug seems to have no cumulative action and can be given for an indefinite length of time, safely. Chronic sufferers from either functional or organic heart affections if treated with crataegus soon learn its value, and insist on having handy at all times "a bottle of that brown heart medicine" as they are apt to call it.

Dr. Jennings, of Chicago, gives the physiological action of crataegus as follows:

From experiments on dogs and cats made by myself, it appears to influence the vagi and cardioinhibitory centers and diminishes the pulse rate, increases the intraventricular pressure, thus filling the heart with blood, causes retardation of the beat and an equilibrium between the general blood pressure and force of the beat. The cardiac impulse after a few days use of the crataegus is greatly strengthened and yields that low, soft tone, so characteristic of the first sound as shown by the cardiograph. The entire central nervous system seems to be influenced favorably by its use; the appetite increases and assimilation and nutrition improve, showing an influence over the sympathetic and the solar plexus. Also a sense of quietude and well being rests on the patient, and he who before its use was cross, melancholic and irritable, after a few days of its use shows marked signs of improvement in his mental state."

As this paper is designed to be short, I shall close without giving any cases in which I have found crataegus especially useful. In closing, however, let it be emphasized that nothing but the best preparations of crataegus and echinacea should be used. I think our homeopathic pharmacies dispense dependable preparations of both these drugs, but I have seen, and am sorry to state have used, at least one preparation of echinacea from an old school drug house that was far below standard. I have always found Lloyd's preparations of these drugs excellent.

Ellingwood's Therapeutist, Vol. 3, 1909, was edited by Finley Ellingwood M.D.