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Cramp Bark

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 15, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Cramp Bark


Cramp bark is a large shrub of the honeysuckle family that can grow to fifteen feet in height. It is native to the lowland forest areas of Scotland and England, and was brought to the northern part of the US and southern Canada. It is customary for cramp bark to be stripped of its bark prior to the changing of its leaves’ color during the fall season. Cramp bark has large white flowers and yields red berries. The berries can be a substitute for cranberries, but should be taken in moderation. Cramp bark is also known by the names of Viburnum opulus, Guelder Black Haw, Dog Rowan Tree, Cranberry Tree, May Elder, Viburnum, May Rose, and King’s Crown.

History and Origin

Cramp bark originated from the Highbush Cranberry. It flourishes under the sun and in moist soil. It matures in the woodland areas, thickets, low grounds, and in hedges. Cramp bark has numerous types of compounds in small amounts. This herb is a native of Africa and Europe, and was later introduced to North America where it spread in huge range zones. Cramp bark has hydroquinones, viopudial, tannis, and coumarins. The active component is viopudial, which is found to be a good muscle antispasmodic. The other constituents are viburnine, Vitamin K, salicin, isovalerianic acid, salicosides, resin, sterol, and arbutin.

Ancient Uses

Traditionally, Native Americans would utilize the cramp bark in relieving women’s menstrual cramps as well as comforting them from spasms after giving birth. It can also prevent possible miscarriage. The bark is an astringent, antispasmodic, and works as a sedative in the uterus. It also works as a muscle relaxant. Cramp bark is appropriate when used as combination in the treatment of asthma and tension.

Modern Uses

Cramp bark eases uterine cramps. It is most considered as a potent uterine antispasmodic because of its antispasmodic constituent scopoletin contents. It works very well in the treatment of menstrual cramps. Cramp bark can stop contractions in cases of premature labor. Even before a child’s delivery, pregnant women use it during the last trimester in order to strengthen uterine muscles for an easy labor. The cramp bark’s antispasmodic constituents can lower blood pressure through the relaxation of vessel walls. With large dosages, it can eradicate muscle spasms, leg cramps, and pain associated with a stiff neck. The bark is prepared by peeling it from the roots, and then it is dried for decoction. Otherwise, in can be made into a glycerin or alcohol tincture. The dosage is typically thirty to sixty drops in an hour for use in acute muscle spasms. When used for painful menstruation, cramp bark should be taken frequently. The starting dose would be a half-dropperful in the first half hour and then gradually increased each hour thereafter until there is an effect.

Side Effects

Cramp bark possible side effects include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. People who are aspirin sensitive will most likely also be sensitive to cramp bark as well. Its ability as a muscle relaxant can affect the body’s organs such as the intestine as well as the skeletal muscles. When cramp bark fails in relieving symptoms of menstrual camps, it could be due to a uterine muscle spasm and not inflammation of the ovary or a case of endometrial infection. When planning to use cramp bark during the last trimester in pregnancy, consulting with a qualified physician or naturopathic doctor is highly advised.

Read also: Stevia

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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