Cramp bark
Viburnum opulus

Cramp bark - Viburnum opulus (in the Caprifoliaceae or Honeysuckle family)

Parts used: Bark.

Taste/smell: Astringent, aromatic.

Tendencies: Drying.

Dosage: Decoction: 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of water; or 1:5 dry strength liquid extract: 20-75 drops 1-4 times per day. For spasms: 1 teaspoon per hour, or 15 drops every 15 minutes, as needed, for several hours.

Mental picture and specific indications: Cramp bark can be used for most spasmodic pains but is specific for spasmodic and congestive conditions of the female genitourinary tract. It is indicated when pelvic pains extend down the thighs and are accompanied by nausea. The spasms are usually worse lying on the affected side, in warm rooms and in the evening; and better in open air and from resting.

Use: (a) Antispasmodic, (b) Astringent, (c) Nervine, (d) Cerebrospinal vasostimulant, (e) Hypotensive, beta 2 receptor agonist, (f) Carminative, (g) Restores sympathetic and parasympathetic balance in voluntary and involuntary muscle spasms (g) Anti-inflamatory.

Cramp bark is used for bronchial, gastrointestinal, genitourinary and skeletal muscle spasms. Due to its astringent and antispasmodic nature it is useful for menstrual cramps with excessive blood loss. Cramp bark's astringent action also benefits atonic conditions of the pelvic organs, like uterine prolapse. It is also helpful with asthma and threatened miscarriage where there is a spastic uterus and has been used to prevent habitual abortions, morning sickness, premature contractions, and hemorrhage during labor and post-partum. As a skeletal muscle relaxant, it is wonderful for leg cramps.

Viburnum prunifolium (Black haw), a relative in the Caprifoliaceae family, is used similarly although V. opulus is thought to be a stronger antispasmodic. Although research has shown dose-dependent uterine antispasmodic action both in vivo and in vitro with V. prunifolium extract V. opulus extract was shown, in vitro on rat uteri, to be four times more active than V. prunifolium at relaxing uterine contractions. V. prunifolium contains the antispasmodic constituent, esculetin, and V. opulus contains the more potent antispasmodic, viopudial. Both species have demonstrated uterine sedative activity. Initially researchers thought V. prunifolium contained salicin; which was proven later to be arbutin. Viburnum prunifolium contains beta-sitosterol which is a phytoestrogenic sterol.

A volatile oil extracted from V. opulus has uterine sedative activity.

Contraindications: The leaves and fruits contain a bitter principle, viburine, which may cause gastroenteritis. Cramp bark should not be taken with blood thinning agents because of the coumarin constituents in the plant. It may cause hypotension in large doses or even in average doses if given to previously hypotensive individuals. The berries have been known to cause death. Cramp bark should not be used in pregnancy unless under the guidance of a qualified health care professional.

Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.