BACKGROUND: Clinical studies have shown that hawthorn, a popular European herb, may help improve symptoms of moderate heart disease. It has also been used to treat nervousness and sleep disorders. Like many herbs, hawthorn is rich in a family of antioxidants known as polyphenols.
RESEARCH: Researchers investigated levels of antioxidant polyphenols in hawthorn and their effect in reducing the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL oxidation is an early step in the development of coronary artery disease.
RESULTS: Hawthorn's ability to slow LDL oxidation was related to its concentration of antioxidant polyphenols. Polyphenol extracts from the flowers and tops-the richest sources of these antioxidants in the plant-had the most pronounced ability to decrease LDL oxidation.
IMPLICATIONS: This study demonstrated that hawthorn's apparent ability to reduce LDL oxidation was related to the parts of the plant containing the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols. Hawthorn's rich supply of antioxidants may help explain why the herb may be beneficial in heart disease.
Quettier-Deleu C, Voiselle G, Fruchart JC, et al. "Hawthorn extracts inhibit LDL oxidation." Pharmazie, 2003;58:577-581.
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