The hawthorn (crataegus oxyacantha) is a deciduous tree of which there are approximately 1000 different species. Crataegus oxyacantha is a variety of the English hawthorn – it can grow to 15ft and produces a pink flower but rarely bears fruit.

Hawthorn has been used for centuries as a general heart tonic, and its components can help improve blood circulation and increase the blood supply to areas of local injury.

The flavenoids present in hawthorn have shown to enhance the connective tissue structure of the endothelial lining of heart cavities and the blood and lymph vessels.

Hawthorn dilates the coronary artery and thereby enhances blood flow to the heart muscle.

Hawthorn is also a peripheral vasodilator and dilates blood vessels away from the heart. This lowers blood pressure and relieves the burden placed upon the heart.

The effect of hawthorn on horses and ponies

Hawthorn forms a natural part of the horse’s diet. In the spring, many horses can beobserved eating the new, young leaves from hawthorn trees.

Horses with specific conditions such as laminitis and navicular syndrome can benefit from hawthorn where blood vessel dilation and strengthening will improve the circulation t these “local” injury areas.

However, caution must be observed where a performance horse is prone to bleeding.It is generally accepted that liquids are absorbed more efficiently than solids. It is also vital that the herb/plant supplier can guarantee thattheir source is sustainable and that their growing and harvesting cycles have not been treated with any organo-phosphates or man-made chemical fertiliser.

Information supplied by Equine Health & Herbal, manufacturers of Heartbeat. For furtheradvice contact Equine Health & Herbal on (tel01787 476400) or visit www.equinehealthandheral.co.uk