Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna) is a plant that offers many benefits for horses with each of its components being beneficial – leaves, berries and flowers.
Hawthorn has been used in a number of cultures for thousands of years to cure and heal all manner of ailments. The ancient Greeks considered Hawthorn to be a vitally important heart tonic. During the Middle Ages, Hawthorn was used for curing all manner of ailments and the plant itself was strung up outside buildings including homes and stables in the belief that it would protect against lightening strikes! Hawthorn was also historically heavily relied upon in Chinese culture (as early as 659 A.D) and in Native American tribal communities for its many benefits to the gut and heart in particular. Today, Hawthorn is used widely across Europe and in Asia for its healing attributes.
What makes Hawthorn so effective and powerful is its high levels of active ingredients, particularly bioflavonoids and proanthocyanidins. These act as powerful antioxidants, which serve to protect collagen, blood vessels and other tissues from the damage of oxidation. Its high levels of antioxidants are a key reason that we’ve included hawthorn berries in our Spring Cleansing Blend.
Hawthorn is usually found within hedges and grows easily in most European climates. The plant itself is thorny so it’s nearly impossible for horses to eat away the entire plant but they are usually able to enjoy small amounts that they can reach without being pricked. In many cases this will be the berries as they are particularly delicious but they will most likely also reach for the leaves and flowers if that is all they can reach.
A substantial body of research has been carried out on Hawthorn and it has been shown to improve heart function by assisting the heart to be a more effective pump – ideal for am athletic, competing horse!This is achieved by improving the heart muscle’s metabolism – dilating the coronary blood vessels which results in improved blood and oxygen supply to the heart and allows for better and more stable, rhythmic contractions. In addition, it is a peripheral vasodilator – opening up blood vessels in the arms and legs, thereby facilitating a better flow of blood throughout the body. Hawthorn’s effects on peripheral circulation makes it valuable for treating/ managing conditions such as navicular and laminitis. Indeed, horses and ponies suffering from these ailments are often seen seeking out the new growth on hawthorn bushes. Its many benefits for the circulatory system are another reason we felt it was important to hawthorn berries in Spring Cleansing blend, particularly as Spring is a time when many horses are especially prone to laminitis and gastric upset. Promoting good circulation can help to protect against both ailments.
Hawthorn can also benefit horses suffering from arthritis and other chronic joint conditions as the improved circulation it produces has the effect of flushing the body of toxins, which have a tendency to build up in the joints.
Hawthorn is considered to be an astringent, antispasmodic, diuretic and tonic herb. Whilst it has many benefits to offer to many horses it is worth noting that it is not an overnight fix and the effects can take several weeks of consistent feeding to be noticed.
Hawthorn berries are included in our Spring Cleansing blend, which you can read more about and shop here.