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 Herbal Materia Medica: Cramp Bark 
Viburnum opulus

Part Used: Dried bark.


  • Hydroquinones; arbutin, methylarbutin and traces of free hydroquinone
  • Coumarins, such as scopoletin and scopoline
  • Tannins; mainly catechins.
Actions: Anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, nervine, hypotensive, astringent, emmenagogue.

Indications: Cramp Bark shows by its name the richly deserved reputation it has as a relaxer of muscular tension and spasm. It has two main areas of use. Firstly in muscular cramps and secondly in ovarian and uterine muscle problems. Cramp Bark will relax the uterus and so relieve painful cramps associated with periods (dysmenorrhoea). In a similar way it may be used to protect from threatened miscarriage. Its astringent action gives it a role in the treatment of excessive blood loss in periods and especially bleeding associated with the menopause.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a "relaxing and stimulating nervine, cerebrospinal vaso-stimulant. Restores sympathetic/parasympathetic balance - has a specific action to relieve voluntary and involuntary muscular spasms." They give the following specific indications: colicky pains and spasms of tubular organs: gastro-intestinal and genito-urinary use with with Dioscorea villosa. Atonic conditions of pelvic organs where menses is scanty or delayed.

Ellingwood considered it specific for "relieving irregular spasmodic pains of the womb & ovaries. It is antispasmodic in its action upon the entire pelvic viscera, influencing spasmodic contractions of the muscular structure of the bladder."

King's Dispensatory describes it as a "powerful antispasmodic", recommending it use in cramps, spasms, asthma, hysteria, cramps of the limbs, convulsions during pregnancy, threatened miscarriage, hysteria, dysmenorrhoea, spasmodic contraction of the bladder, spasmodic stricture. The authors give V. opulus the following specific indications: cramps; uterine pain, with spasmodic action; pain in thighs and back; bearing down, expulsive pains; neuralgic or spasmodic dysmenorrhoea. As an anti-abortive.

Preparations & Dosage: Decoction: put 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried bark into a cup of water and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk hot three times a day. Tincture: take 4-8 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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