Cramp bark - Viburnum Opulus

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This Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) monograph is an excerpt from the 1999, first edition of Dr. Sharol's book "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth." You can purchase the 2020, third edition of this book with an expanded materia medica/monograph section, herbal formulas and directions on making herbal products in Dr. Sharol's Book Store. You receive free shipping in the USA. The expanded 3rd edition materia medica, and additional herbal tidbits are also available as a kindle ebook at Amazon and details about this e-book are here.

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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: Viburnum spp. may cause hypotension in large doses or even in average doses if given to previously hypotensive individuals. Cramp bark should not be used during pregnancy unless under the guidance of a qualified health care professional. Raw V. opulus fruits have an astringent-bitter-sour taste and are considered slightly toxic because of the occurrence of saponin glycosides and the bitter principle viburnine. The leaves and fruits both contain viburine, which may cause gastroenteritis.

If you are looking for directions on making teas or tinctures, please see our "Making Herbal Products" page.

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

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