crampbark large Crampbark

Crampbark | Viburnun opulus

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include cramp bark, Guelder rose, snowball tree, European cranberry, high cranberry bush, dog rowan, squaw bush, water elder.

A native of Europe and North America and favouring damp or swampy ground, cramp bark is a large deciduous shrub/small tree (drops leaves in autumn) growing up to 4 metres high with large flat clustered white flowers in early summer and drooping bunches of bright red shiny berries in autumn. The leaves turn from green through to yellow to a peachy red during autumn before dropping. It is a member of the Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle) family and generally grows in hedgerows and on the edge of woodland. More recently reclassified as belonging to the Adoxaceae family (same as elder).

Geoffrey Grigson describes the smell of the flowers as like "crispy fried, well peppered trout" in his book "The Englishman's Flora".

It is almost identical to the American variety now named Viburnum opulus var. americanum which has been used traditionally by native Americans as a food source and as medicine in the same way as our European native.

The berries dry black and have been used in the past to make an ink. In folklore it is associated with the ogham/rune 'Io' which represents the mysteries of life, the labyrinth and ancestral roots. It is one of the national symbols of Ukraine.


Dried crampbark and crampbark tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.



harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

Crampbark bark is harvested in the spring around April/May time by pruning off a few younger branches and carefully scraping off curls of the outer bark using a sharp knife. the bark curls are then dried on a tray before storing in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
The berries are also edible but only in small quantities if eaten raw, only when fully ripened and are safer when cooked into a sauce, jam or jelly which is good for coughs and contains good quantities of vitamin C. They are said to have a strange sour or bitter after-taste and need to be sweetened to make any product palatable. They are often combined with other vitamin C rich berries (elder, rosehips etc) to form an immune boosting syrup which also helps in fevers and the like.
Dried crampbark and crampbark tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.







therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses


Crampbark is a very useful herbal aid that is, as the name suggests, excellent for cramps and spasm. It is termed a spasmolytic or anti-spasmodic herb which means that it relaxes tension throughout the entire body. It also contains substances that are sedative, hypotensive (blood pressure lowering), vaso-dilatory (widens blood vessels), cardiotonic and anti-inflammatory. It is not so much a 'restorative' remedy yet it will allow the body welcome relief from painful symptoms whilst other healing treatments are applied alongside.

The bark is rich in potassium, valerianic acid (as in Valerian), coumarins, anti-oxidants and citrate (found in the fruits) amonst others.

It will gently yet rapidly induce relaxation in the smooth muscles and skeletal muscles which relaxes tissues of the organs, passageways, tubules, ducts and blood vessels. It is perhaps best known to herbalists as a uterine tonic and as a remedy against tension, spasm and cramp. It is very similar in action to the herb black haw (Viburnum prunifolium).


As a potent antispasmodic and muscle relaxant it is appropriate in the treatment of childhood convulsions, cramps & spasms (anywhere in the body), lockjaw (tetanus), backache and muscular tension.


Menstrual cramps, painful ovulation, uterine cramps, it has a reputation as protecting against miscarriages (combined with false unicorn root) also and has also been used to help remedy prolapsed uterus. It also has astringent qualities which help to slow heavy blood loss from the uterus and controls heavy bleeding and pain from fibroids or endometriosis. Crampbark can also be of benefit during the menopause when flooding and cramping occurs. It can also help relieve after-birth pains and has been used traditionally as a partus praeperator, a facilitator to child birth as it helps to relax and dilate the cervix.


In men it can relieve the pain of orchitis and can be of some use during prostate enlargement.


Spasmodic headaches, especially if caused by tension or blood vessel constriction or poor blood circulation in the head. Nervous tension, irritability, anxiety and restlessness can also be helped.


Can help with the passage of stones (such as gallstones or kidney stones) as the muscular walls of the organs and passages are relaxed and dilated with the use of crampbark, allowing the potential for easy passage of stones and obstructions. They help in renal colic and to help soothe an irritated or overactive bladder and help prevent bedwetting also.


Oesophageal spasm and difficulty with swallowing can benefit from small doses of crampbark also.


Constipation may also be eased if caused by tightness and constriction in the bowels. Similarly, the painful spasms that can accompany irritable bowel syndrome may be eased with a few drops of crampbark tincture. Digestive spasms generally will be eased with crampbark.


Asthma, spasmodic coughs and breathing difficulties can benefit from the addition of crampbark to a herbal formula as it relaxes the muscles and eases spasm in the constricted airways and promotes better gas and blood flow.


Crampbark relaxes the muscles in the walls of the arterial blood vessels so helps to improve blood flow and circulation. If vessels are constricted or perhaps blocked (as in atheroma, arteriosclerosis, intermittent claudication, Raynauds disease, nervous tension and stress etc) then crampbark can help by relaxing and dilating the vessels. Angina pains and palpitations can also be relieved with crampbark.

It can also help to reduce high blood pressure for the same reason.


It can also be added to herbal formulas aimed at insomnia or to prevent teeth grinding at night. It may also help to prevent snoring. Take your dose an hour or so before bedtime.


An interesting monograph on crampbark and its traditional uses.

dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

*Crampbark is most suited to short term use, up to 6 weeks at one time for example.

*Regular long term use may induce heavy menstrual bleeding.

*Overdose is rumoured to cause gastrointestinal upset.

*Use caution if taking alongside blood thinning or anti-coagulant medications or treatments.


Dried herb in tea form:  up to 2 teaspoons of dries bark in a pan with a cup or so of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Do this up to 3 times daily.

Tincture: 4-8ml up to 3 times daily.

Powder: 2-5g up to 3 times daily.

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.


Child watering plants




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