Heart and Circulation


Hawthorn, long used in Western and Chinese herbal medicine

Hawthorn significantly helps heart failure

Extract of Hawthorn fruit (shan zha) can significantly ease the symptoms of chronic heart failure when used as an adjunct to conventional treatment. A meta-analysis of the results of ten trials including 855 patients indicated that the extract increased the maximum workload that patients could endure, along with their exercise tolerance, while cardiac oxygen consumption showed a beneficial decrease. Symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue improved significantly with hawthorn treatment as compared with placebo. Reported adverse events were infrequent, mild and transient.
(Hawthorn extract for treating chronic heart failure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD005312).

"Nitric oxide bioactivity of traditional Chinese medicines used for
cardiovascular indications."

New research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
suggests that ancient Chinese herbal formulas used primarily for cardiovascular
indications including heart disease may produce large amounts of artery-widening
nitric oxide. Findings of the preclinical study by scientists in the
university's Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention
of Human Diseases (IMM) appear in the Sept. 15 print issue of the journal Free
Radical Biology & Medicine.

Nitric oxide is crucial to the cardiovascular system because it signals the
inner walls of blood vessels to relax, which facilitates the flow of blood
through the heart and circulatory system. The messenger molecule also eliminates
dangerous clots, lowers high blood pressure and reduces artery-clogging plaque

The results from this study reveal that ancient Chinese herbal formulas "have
profound nitric oxide bioactivity primarily through the enhancement of nitric
oxide in the inner walls of blood vessels, but also through their ability to
convert nitrite and nitrate into nitric oxide," said Nathan S. Bryan, Ph.D., the
study's senior author and an IMM assistant professor.

Herbal formulas are a major component of traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs),
which also include acupuncture and massage. "TCMs have provided leads to safe
medications in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes," said C. Thomas
Caskey, M.D., IMM director and CEO. "The opportunity for Dr. Bryan's work is
outstanding given that cardiac disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United

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