Botanical: Viburnum prunifolium
Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle)
Other common names: American Sloe, Stag Brush, High Bush Cranberry, Snowball Bush, High Cranberry, Rose Elder, Nannybush, Silver Bells, Cramp Bark**
"What is sweeter, after all, than Black Haws, in early fall?"
- James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
Black Haw Bark is an old and reliable uterine tonic! It is said to support overall uterine function, help regulate excessive blood flow during menstruation and menopause, and ease postpartum, uterine and ovarian pain. Moreover, the herb is mildly sedative and helps to relieve many nervous conditions. Black Haw has been used to relieve cramps of all kinds, including menstrual pains; and as an herbal muscle relaxant and antispasmodic, it helps to loosen up tight muscles, as well as ease spasms and pains in the lower back and legs.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Black Haw is one of about 150 species of evergreen and deciduous viburnums, including shrubs and bushy trees, and it is said to be native to North America, particularly southern Canada and northeastern United States, where it may be found on rocky hillsides, in thickets, woods and on shores and borders of streams. The tree may also be found growing in the thickets and hedgerows of England and northern Europe. Black Haw is a hardy, deciduous ornamental that resembles the elder tree, growing to a height of thirty feet and producing shiny, green leaves, topped with heads of snow-white flowers and drooping clusters of blue-black berries. The bark of the shrub or tree, depending upon its geographic location is reddish-brown and as it ages becomes rough. The prunifolium** species produces a larger-fruited berry than its relative, Vibernum opulus (also called Cramp Bark), and it was used in Colonial days as a delicious preserve (always cooked, as the berries can be poisonous). Although its applications are similar in nature, the prunifolium species (Black Haw) is considered slightly weaker in its antispasmodic actions on the uterus than its Viburnum opulus cousin. Black Haw thrives in deep, moist soil in sun or partial shade, and the bark is stripped before the leaves change color in autumn or before the leaf buds open in the springtime and dried for use in herbal medicine. It is sometimes also called Cramp Bark and shares many of its stronger cousin's common names because it is so closely related to it and has similar medicinal properties. Black Haw Bark was a remedy among the Native Americans (although its use has not been well documented), who employed it for venereal disease. However, early settlers, by contrast, amply recorded its uses. Although the plant was used in the early 1800s in American home medicine, the first published mention of it appeared in 1857, in the American Family Physician, by Dr. John King, who described it as a "uterine tonic." Doctors largely prescribed it to prevent miscarriage or threatened abortion and also recommended it as a natural treatment for menstrual cramps and the after-pains of childbirth. The plant was officially listed in the United States Pharmacopœia from 1882 to 1926, now omitted, but introduced into the National Formulary as an herbal antispasmodic and sedative. While the early applications of Black Haw Bark included its use during pregnancy to diminish miscarriage, this use is no longer recommended. Some of the constituents included in Black Haw Bark are esculetin (or æsculetin), scopoletin, valerianic acid, oleanic and ursolic acid, essential oil, coumarins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, tannin, 1-methyl-2,3 clibutyl hemimellitate, resin and the bitter glycoside, viburnine. Initially, researchers thought Viburnum prunifolium contained salicin, which was proven later to be arbutin, and it also contains beta-sitosterol, which is a phytoestrogenic sterol.
Black Haw Bark is said to be an effective antispasmodic and herbal remedy for muscle spasms, muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, lower back pain and leg spasms, as well as help ease convulsions, lockjaw and "fits." Its therapeutic qualities were reflected by its entry into the National Formulary as a sedative and herbal antispasmodic.
Additionally, the arbutin content in Black Haw Bark is thought to be effective as an analgesic and painkiller.
As an herbal sedative, Black Haw Bark is believed to alleviate nervous constipation, hypertension, palpitations, hysteria, debility and other nervous complaints. Its effectiveness in easing cases of hypertension is said to be achieved by relaxing peripheral blood vessels, thus lowering high blood pressure.
Black Haw Bark is thought to have an influence upon the reproductive organs and give tone and energy to the uterus and regulate uterine function. The scopoletin and esculetin content in Black Haw Bark are considered a uterine sedative and antispasmodic, which helps to relax the uterus, ease painful menstruation, as well as regulate blood flow and alleviate postpartum and ovarian pain. Interestingly, Black Haw has been shown to have both uterine-stimulant and uterine-relaxant properties, and although it was used at one time to diminish miscarriage, that application is not now recommended.
As a bitter astringent, the tannins in Black Haw Bark are thought to be effective in treating excessive blood loss during menstruation and menopause.
Recent studies have shown that Black Haw Bark is active as a smooth muscle relaxant and may be useful as a cardiotonic.
Pregnant women should not use Black Haw Bark Herbal Supplement unless under the care of a physician, and it should not be taken with blood thinning medication, because of the coumarin constituents in the plant that may cause you to bleed more easily. Black Haw may cause hypotension in large doses or even in average doses if given to previously hypotensive individuals. The bitter principle, viburnine, may cause gastroenteritis.