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Botanical Description & Habitat

Viburnum opulus, L. var. americanum


Common Names

Cranberry treeEuropean cranberry bush
Guelder roseHigh cranberry
Marsh elderSnowball tree
Squash bushSquaw bush
White dogwoodWhite elder

Indigenous to northern United States and Canada; similar variations occur throughout Europe.

Crampbark is a perennial shrub; it reaches 12 feet in height and has smooth, light gray branches. The leaves are tri-lobed and toothed, with hairy undersides. White flowers with greenish-white or reddish-white cymes appear in June, followed by small red berries, which remain on the tree after the leaves have fallen.

Historical Properties & Uses

The popular names for this medicinal herb suggest its main uses, namely for female complaints, especially cramps.

Crampbark is considered antispasmodic, nervine, tonic, astringent and diuretic: all features that would come into play in treating problems associated with faulty menstruation and pregnancy. It is said to completely suppress cramps during childbirth if taken daily for the last two to three months of pregnancy.

Method of Action

The Pharmacology of Crampbark
Crampbark contains a resin, viburnum, valeric acid and isovalerianic acid, a bitter principle, viburnine, and tannin, from a combination of which its medical action is derived.

Crampbark has not been investigated experimental to any extent.

In homeopathy, a tincture of the fresh bark, collected in October or November, is used for after pains, cough, cramps, dysmenorrhea, labor pains, lumbago, painful menstruation, miscarriage, among other things.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognizes crampbark as spasmolytic, sedative, astringent, for use in the treatment of spasmodic muscular cramp, uterine dysfunction, menopausal metrorrhagia, threatened miscarriage, partus praeparator, and infantile enuresis. It is specifically indicated in cramp and ovarian and uterine pains.

Crampbark is combined with wild yam and prickly ash bark in cramp; with black haw and false unicorn root in threatened miscarriage or uterine pains.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions
Crampbark, insofar as its diuretic action, increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride. It may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuremic effects of glucose elevating agents.

Possible Interactions
The antacid nature of crampbark may decrease or delay the absorption of nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.

Due to the spasmolytic nature of crampbark it may interact in unknown ways with CNS depressants or stimulants.

Crampbark should not be used with methotrimeprazine, a potent CNS depressant analgesic.

Topical application of crampbark in conjunction with the acne product tretinoin (retinoic acid, vitamin A acid) may adversely affect the skin. The tannin in crampbark may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. The tannin in a tea made from crampbark may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.

The use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.

The neuromuscular relaxing action of crampbark may be enhanced by the use of certain aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as clindamycin.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

The berries are poisonous and should be avoided. Even birds won't eat them.

The bark is nontoxic in therapeutic doses.

Preparation & Administration

Use three times daily

Use 2-4g of dried bark

Liquid Extract
Use 2-4ml of 1:1 in 25% alcohol

Use 5-10ml of 1:5 in 45% alcohol

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Braun, H. & D. Frohne. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Schauenberg, P. & F. Paris. Guide to Medicinal Plants, Keats Publishing, Inc. New Canaan, Connecticut, 1977.


Viburnum opulus

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine


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