Want to read about my experience with Hawthorne after using it for 2 years on my cat? Read When Oliver was “cured” of HCM
What is Hawthorn?
Hawthorn is a bush or tree of the rose family, native to Europe and some parts of northern Asia. It can grow to be up to 7.5m tall. It has strong-smelling, white flowers and bright red berries.
Hawthorne is known to have been used in Europe for over two thousand years in the treatment of various ailments such as stomachache and bad circulation. In Chinese traditional medicine it is mainly used as a digestive aid (berries) and is found as jam, jelly, wine and even candy.
Hawthorne is extremely well tolerated and side effects are rare. The most common side effect in humans is slight dizziness and stomach ache. In animals it can most commonly be seen in some digestive problems or skin rash.
Hawthorne is one of the most researched herbs and extensive animal trials have been performed. Research in humans is not yet complete, but it has shown consistent effectiveness over placebos in trials. It is popular in Europe, in particular in Germany where it is approved for use in treatment of long term heart failure classes I and II (leaves and flowers), and in Japan. It is also gaining acceptance in the US, with clinical trials currently being conducted.
Most importantly, how can it help my pet?
Hawthorne is recommended for dogs and cats with cardiomyopathy and valvular heart disease. The effective agent in Hawthorn is believed to be so-called flavonoids. Hawthorne is shown to increase blood supply to the heart muscle and decrease blood vessel resistance, which reduces the hearts’ workload. This gives better oxygenation of the heart tissue and the rest of the body without the heart having to work so hard. The berries are high in B-vitamin, and Hawthorn has potent anti-oxidant properties*.
In cats it has shown not only relief of symptoms, but in some cases ultrasound has shown stop in progress and normalization of the heart.
How to dose:
The recommended human dose varies from site to site I have read, but generally lands at about 3-600mg per day. This fits well with the pills I bought which are 300mg each with a recommendation of 1-2 pills a day (for humans). I found the recommended dose for cats and small dogs to be 1/8 of a human dose. If you take 300mg as a start, that would make 37.5mg. However, another page has posted a general formula to use when giving herbs to pets (any herb, not Hawthorn in particular). I have listed the formula below. Which one to use is up to you, i am currently using the 1/8 dose. You may perhaps want to start a little slow to check the tolerance in you pet, and decide if you want to increase. In any case, be aware that it is estimated to take up to 6 weeks before Hawthorn is working at its maximum. Be patient. Hawthorne is most often recommended to be combined with Q10. See more in my post about Q10.
In any case, please do not administer any remedy to your pet without consulting you veterinarian first! If your pet is taking other medicine or supplements, they may not go well together. It is also important to consider the stage of your pets’ disease. This is not an herb meant to replace medicine. If your pet has come to the stage of heart failure, it may be that regular medicine is the best course.
Where to buy?
There are a tonne of hawthorne products, just take a pick. I am personally a big fan of Iherb because they ship incredibly fast, even internationally. Looking for extract made of flowers, leaves and berries (other products may contains only berries) I decided on Now Foods-Hawthorn extract 300 mg-90 Vcaps
How to administer the herb:
Now this depends on your pet and what you yourself prefer. Both Mio and Oliver were VERY interested in the herb. When I let them smell my fingers which had handled the powder they kept rubbing their mouth onmy hand. I therefore believe it is fully possible to mix with some wet food. However, since I want Oliver to have the full dose, not Mio, it was not possible for me to do it that way. I give them separate bowls of food, but I never know who is eating from which bowl or how much. So I decided to go for the pill. I bought empty capsules online (size 4 is perfect for cats) and just did the tedious work of dividing each capsule in the bottle into eight cat capsules (took about 90 min). Oliver is very good at taking pills, so this is the easiest solution for me.
I buy capsules from capsuledepot.com. I buy 1000 capsules at 19 dollars. If you are unsure if making and giving pills is for you, a 100 pck is about 5 dollars. There are also many other sites where you can buy empty capsules. AAs mentioned, I use size 4. If they are too small for you to handle, you can try bigger, like a size 3. Just remember that a small pill is easier for the cat to swallow, and therefore more likely to be accepted.
I buy this box of Hawthorn from Iherb.com. This costs about 8 dollars, and gives me approx. 360 days of medicine (two pills every day). So if you only give one pill each day then you have for two years! That is not bad for 25 dollars.
I recommend using a “pill popper” when giving the pills to your cat. It is much more comfortable for the cat to not have your big finger in his mouth, and it is easier for you to see where you are putting the pill and avoid potential biting.
Why not to use Hawthorn?
As I am by no means an advertiser of hawthorne products, I also wanted to know the potential backside of this medal. I have of course found one, although it was not easy to find anything substantial on the subject.
The concern is that, as hawthorn may increase the power of the heartbeat, that it may actually be more damaging to hearts with HCM. Although the concern is understandable, I have not managed to find any good research on the subject, only suspicions. I have also not been able to find much on experts discussing the subject, the opinions vary from potential damage, to very little impact to no impact. I think you have to decide for yourself. There are risks with every remedy we give anyway. Oliver has HCM and when i asked his heart specialist about using Hawthorne she gave me a big thumbs up (with a smileyface behind it… yes seriously)
This article is based on my research. I have done extensive reading on the subject, but if you have any information you think may be important to add to this article, or if I have made some mistakes, please let me know so that I can continuously improve the article to the benefit of our pets. Thank you!
References for this article:
*Oxidation is a chemical process in the body where free radical are created, which damage cells. Antioxidants stop this chemical reaction. This is considered helpful in general for health, but in particular for health of the heart.
Formula for use of herbs with pets:
You take the weight of your pet and divide by 150punds/68 kg which is the average weight of a human. The result is the % of the human dose that you should give your pet.
Let me show you how:
Oliver is 9 pounds Oliver is 4 kg
9/150=0.06 4/68= 0.06
Olivers dose of herbs is 6% of the human dose.
If we again take the 300mg (300*0.06=18), Olivers dose is 18mg per day.