Crampbark (Viburnum opulus)
1:53 PM | Author: Atie
Common names:
  • Crampbark
  • Cranberry Bush
  • Cranberry Tree
  • Guelder Rose
  • Pembina
  • Pimbina
  • Whitten Tree

Crampbark - native to both North America and Europe, crampbark was recognized in the US National Formulary as recently as 1960 as a sedative for nervous conditions and an antispasmodic in the treatment of asthma. As its name implies, the herb's primary medicinal use is to relieve cramps and other conditions, such as colic or painful menstruation caused by over contraction of muscles.


Native American remedy - The Meskwaki people of North America took crampbark for cramps and pains throughout the body, while the Penobscot used it to treat swollen glands and mumps.
Muscle relaxant - Crampbark is effective at relieving any over tense muscle, whether smooth muscle in the intestines, airways, or uterus, or striated muscle (attached to the skeleton) in the limbs or back. Crampbark may be taken internally or applied topically to relieve muscle tension. The herb also treats symptoms arising from excess muscle tension, including breathing difficulties in asthma, and menstrual pain caused by excessive contraction of the uterus. For night cramps and back pain, lobelia is often mixed with crampbark. The herb also relieves constipation, coilic, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as the physical symptoms of nervous tension.
Arthritis - In some cases of arthritis, where joint weakness and pain have caused muscles to contract until they are almost rigid, crampbark can bring remarkable relief. As the muscles relax, blood flow to the area improves, waste products such as lactic acid are removed, and normal function can return.
Other medical uses - Cramp bark is commonly used in treatments for high blood pressure and other circulatory conditions.


Crampbark grows in woodlands, hedges, and thickets in Europe and eastern North America. Crampbark is propagated by seed sown in autumn. Bark from the branches is collected in spring and summer when the plant is in flower.


Active constituents To date, crampbark has been poorly researched, and there is also some confusion over which active constituents it contains, and which occur in the closely related black haw.


Crampbark contains hydroquinones, coumarins, tannins, resin.


For internal use as a decoction, crampbark is taken when spasm is present, rather than on a continuous basis. To relieve cramp from period or other sources, take 100 ml (4 fl oz) up to a maximum amount of six times daily. The tincture can be similarly used: take 2 1/2 ml (50 drops) up to six times in one day. For external relief of muscle spasm, add 2 ml (40 drops) of the tincture to 30 g (1 1/2 oz) cream, e.g. comfrey, and mix well in. It is possible to add 2 ml (40 drops) of lobelia tincture, which will enhance the antispasmodic effect. Apply up to three times a day.


Crampbark acts as a muscle relaxant, particularly of smooth muscle. As mentioned, the opulus variety is thought to act on the body as a whole, while the prunifolium variety acts particularly to relax the muscles of the uterus. For this reason its main function has to do with the reproductive system, for example, to relieve the cramping which occurs during a period. It is also used in cases of threatened miscarriage, but should only be used in this context under the supervision of a qualified herbal or medical practitioner. Crampbark also has uses in many other systems of the body: in the stomach to relieve symptoms in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome; in the respiratory system to help relax the airways in asthma; and for the musculoskeletal system to relieve the tension of arthritic pain. It is also employed in the cardiovascular system, together with other herbs to help reduce high blood pressure.


The bark is collected in April and May, cut into pieces and dried.


For the relief of cramp it may be combined with prickly ash and wild yam. For uterine and ovarian pains or threatened miscarriage it may be used with black haw and valerian.

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