Black Haw

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Viburnum prunifolium (L)

Synonyms: black haw bark, sweet viburnum, stag bush, American sloe

Order: Caprifoliaceae

Description: A shrub or small tree common in central and southern North America,  characterised by its short pointed winter buds and its acuminate, sharply serrulate, ovate leaves in long slender, glabrous, narrow-margined petioles. Its sessile white-flowered cymes are succeeded by bluish-black drupes.

Parts used: dried bark of the root or stem

Collection: The root bark is collected in autumn; the stem bark in spring and summer. 

Constituents: Coumarins (including scopoletin), bitter glycoside (viburnin), triterpenoid saponins, salicosides, resin, plant acids (including valeric acid), viburnin, tannin, arbutin, trace of volatile oil.

Actions: Uterine tonic, sedative, nervine, spasmolytic, antasthmatic, hypotensive, antidiarrhoeal, astringent

Indications: Dysmenorrhoea, false labour pains, threatened miscarriage, asthma. Specifically indicated in threatened abortion, especially with a rise in arterial tension.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Viburnum prunifolium has similar uses to its relative Viburnum opulus, or Cramp bark. It is a powerful uterine relaxant and is used in the treatment of spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, excessive menstrual flow (especially around the menopause) and false labour pains. It may be used for threatened miscarriage as well. It is used to treat vaginal and cervical discharges. Its relaxant and sedative actions explain its ability to reduce blood pressure, which is achieved through relaxation of the peripheral blood vessels. It may be used as an antispasmodic in the treatment of asthma. A cream may be applied to muscle cramps or muscle tension.

Scopoletin, a coumarin, has been identified as a uterine relaxant; it has a number of pharmacological actions probably mediated via autonomic transmission blockade. Salicin has the analgesic and other effects of salicylates.

Combinations: Combines well with Hydrastis and Chamaelirium in threatened miscarriage.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status GSL

Powdered bark: 2.5-5g by infusion or decoction

Liquid Extract 1:1 in 70% alcohol (B.P.C. 1949), 4-8ml

Tincture: 1:5 in 70% alcohol, 5-10ml



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals