Hawthorn

The hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers are popular starting materials for phytotherapeutic preparations indicated for mild heart insufficiency in Europe. In the United States, the status of hawthorn is undetermined (13). According to the European pharmacopoeia, berries are collected from two species: Crataegus monogyna Jacq. (Lindm.) and C. laevigata (Poir.) DC (syn. C. oxyacantha L.) or their hybrids. A minimum content of 1.0% pro-cyanidins is required. Leaves and flowers are collected from the two preceding species plus C. pentagyna Waldst. et Kit. ex Willd., C. nigra Waldst.

et Kit., and C. azarolus L. Here a minimum content of 1.5% flavonoids is required (26).

With so many accepted species, which have different chemical compositions, and different extraction procedures, it is necessary to standardize the products. Water, water-ethanol mixtures (30-70%), and methanol (dry extracts) are used as extraction solvents and extract different active groups of compounds. Water is good extradant of oligomeric proanthocyanidins (di- to hexameric), and ethanol extracts polymeric proanthocyanidins and triterpene acids (4). The detailed protocols of the extraction procedures seem to be confidential property of the respective companies (27). Products containing hawthorn leaves and flowers are generally standardized to flavonoids, calculated as hyperoside or vitexin, and products containing berries generally to oligomeric proanthocyanidins, calculated as catechin or epicatechin (28). In addition to standardized products, such as capsules, tablets, and drops, the pressed juice of hawthorn berries is used, especially in Germany (4).

The healing properties of St. John's wort or hypericum (Hypericum perforatum L.) were known to Dioscorides and Hippocrates, were forgotten for some time during the late 19th century, and are now being rediscovered (18). St. John's wort is a plant with a complex chemical composition containing naphthodianthrones, hypericin, isohypericin, and pseudohypericin; flavonoids, flavonols, flavones, glycosides, and biflavonoids (amentofla-vone); phenols, phenolic acids, and prenylated derivatives of phloroglucinol (hyperforin); and tannins, essential oil, and other constituents, such as ca-rotenoids, /3-sitoserol, and different acids (2,20).

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