People with Diabetes: Keep Blood Pressure in Check with Hawthorn

Healthnotes Newswire (June 29, 2006)—More and more, people are developing diabetes and high blood pressure (or hypertension) together. New research shows that people with both these diseases may find help from an ancient remedy: hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), which has been used medicinally since at least the first century AD.

The British Journal of General Practice reports that a hawthorn extract can lower diastolic blood pressure (the lower number on a blood pressure reading), even in people already taking blood pressure drugs.

“In our study of people with diabetes, 71% were taking drugs to control hypertension,” said Ann F. Walker, PhD, a senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Reading in Great Britain and lead author of the study. “We wanted to know if a daily hawthorn supplement would lower blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes, and if it would provide additional benefit to those who were taking blood pressure medication already.”

Hawthorn berries, flowers, and leaves have been used traditionally throughout Europe to treat cardiovascular diseases. The herb is probably best known as a treatment for congestive heart failure, and several studies have validated its use for this condition. There is also evidence that hawthorn can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, but not all studies have found a benefit.

The 79 people who took part in the present study were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or hawthorn extract (1,200 mg per day, which is equivalent to 6 grams per day of dried flowering tops extract) standardized to contain 2.2% flavonoids. Blood pressure and other measurements were taken at the beginning of the study, at eight weeks, and at sixteen weeks.

Compared with the placebo group, the group taking the hawthorn extract had a significant reduction of 2.6 mm Hg on the blood pressure gauge.

People with diabetes are about twice as likely to get hypertension as people without the disease, possibly due to an abnormality in the way their bodies react to insulin. Hypertension can speed up diabetes-related complications, such as eye and kidney damage and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which in turn raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.

“This is the first study to show a reduction in diastolic blood pressure using hawthorn in people with type 2 diabetes taking prescribed medication,” said Dr. Walker. “The study provides further evidence for the safe use of hawthorn, and we hope it stimulates research into its blood pressure–lowering effects in other groups.”

(Br J Gen Pract 2006;56:437–43)

Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.

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