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 Herbal Materia Medica: Black Haw  
Viburnum prunifolium


Names: Stagbush, American Sloe.

Habitat: Eastern and Central USA.

Collection: The bark from the roots and the trunk is collected in the autumn. The shrubs should be dug out and the bark stripped from roots and trunk. The bark from branches should be collected in spring and summer. In both cases the bark should be dried in the shade.

Part Used: Dried bark of root, stem or trunk.


  • Coumarins, including scopoletin
  • Salicin
  • l-Methyl-2, 3-dibutyl hemimellitate
  • Miscellaneous; viburnin, plant acids, volatile oil, tannin.
Actions: Anti-spasmodic, nervine, hypotensive, astringent.

Indications: Black Haw has a very similar use to Cramp Bark, to which it is closely related. It is a powerful relaxant of the uterus and is used for dysmenorrhoea, false labour pains as well as in threatened miscarriage. Its relaxant and sedative actions explain its power in reducing blood pressure in hypertension, which happens through are laxation of the peripheral blood vessels. It may be used as an anti-spasmodicin the treatment of asthma.

King's describes this herb thus "That it has a decided affinity for the female reproductive organs is well established. Decoctions of the drug were formerly used as a gargle in apthae, as a wash in indolent ulcers, and in various ophthalmic disorders. By its astringency it has proved of value in diarrhoea and dysentery. It has been recommended in jaundice, but we have a better agent in Chionanthus. Palpitation of the heart is said to have been relieved by it. Its principal use at the present day is in disorders of the female organs of reproduction. As a uterine tonic it is unquestionably of great utility. In the hyperasthetic, or irritable condition of the uterus incident to highly nervous women, or as the result of overwork, it will be found an admirable agent. In dysmenorrhoea, with deficient menses, uterine colic, and in those cases where there are severe lumbar and bearing-down pains, it will prove an efficient drug. It is specifically indicated in cramp-like menstrual pains, pains decidedly expulsive and intermittent in character and in the various painful contractions of the pelvic muscles, so common to disorders of women. Uterine congestion and chronic uterine inflammation are often greatly relieved by Black Haw. It acts promptly in spasmodic dysmenorrhoea. especially with excessive flow. It is a good remedy for uterine hemorrhage attending the menopause. In amenorrhoea in pale, bloodless subjects, the menses are restored by it. Cramps of limbs attending pregnancy yield to both black haw and cramp bark. It is considered almost specific for cramp in the legs, not dependent on pregnancy, especially when occurring at night. The condition for which black haw is most valued is that of threatened abortion. It is the most prompt drug in the materia medica to check abortion, provided the membranes have not ruptured. In all cases of habitual abortion it should be given in small doses for a considerable length of time. The abundant testimony as to its value in this condition alone gives it a high place among drugs. By its quieting effects upon the irritable womb, women who have previously been unable to go to full term have been aided by this drug to pass through the pregnancy without mishaps which would otherwise have proven disastrous to both child and mother. It has been used to control postpartum hemorrhage, but is less effective than ergot and cinnamon. It assists in reducing the size of the womb in subinvolution of that organ. Viburnum is of some value innervous disorders, and has been advised in chorea, hysteria, hystero-epilepsy, petit mal, and paralysis agitans. It is of service only when these troubles are associated with menstrual wrongs. Viburnum opulus resembles this agent very closely in its effects, and may be used in the above-named conditions, for which the black haw is useful.

Specific Indications and Uses - Uterine irritability and hyperasthesia; threatened abortion; uterine colic; dysmenorrhoea with deficient menses; severe lumbar and bearing-down pains; cramp-like, expulsive menstrual pain; intermittent, painful contractions of the pelvic tissues; after-pains and false pains of pregnancy; obstinate hiccough."

Preparations & Dosage: Decoction: put 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried bark in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer for l0 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 5-l0 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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