Hungarian Hawthorn (Crataegus nigra) is a species of hawthorn that grows to about 6 meters. It is very much like other hawthorn species, and produces a round berry that can be up to 10 mm in diameter. The berry can be consumed fresh or cooked. In traditional medicine the leaves, flowers and berries of hawthorn are used to treat cardiovascular disease, and in this regard have anti-hypertensive, anti-angina, anti-arrhythmic effects. However, hawthorn is also useful in the treatment of stress, nervousness and sleep disorders, suggesting that it may be useful as a treatment for anxiety. The beneficial effects of hawthorn plants in treating diseases including mood disorders are through to come from the high amounts of antioxidants they contain. Researchers have measured these antioxidants and shown that hawthorn contains high amounts of phenolic acids and flavonoids including anthocyanidins. In animals tissues these phytochemicals may have antioxidant effects.
Researchers have assessed the anxiolytic effects of hawthorn berry fruits. In this regard one study investigated the effects of extracts of hungarian hawthorn berries on the anxious behaviour of rats. Administration of the berries to the rats caused their behaviour to become less anxious when they were exposed to stress indicating that the berries had a significant anxiolytic effect. In this regard the hawthorn berry extract had effects that were similar to the benzodiazepine pharmaceutical diazepam. In addition, administration of the berry extracts also increased the sleeping time of the rat, suggesting it had sedative effects. These results therefore support other data to show that hawthorn extract of various kinds including leaves, flower and berries may have therapeutic value as treatments for mood disorders such as anxiety. Berries of most plants are high in antioxidants, and it is likely that if this is the reason for their therapeutic effects, then berries of other plants may also have similar effects on mood.
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