Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Blackhaw

Black Haw – Viburnum prunifolium, V. rufidulum

Parts used: root, bark, leaf, berry

Traditional uses: Infusion taken as an anticonvulsive. Root bark taken as a diaphoretic. Febrifuge. Root taken as a tonic. Infusion of bark used as a wash for sore tongue. Compound infusion taken for smallpox and ague.

The bark, known as Cramp Bark, is employed in herbal medicine. It used formerly to be included in the United States Pharmacopoeia, but is now omitted though it has been introduced into the National Formulary in the form of a Fluid Extract, Compound Tincture and Compound Elixir, for use as a nerve sedative and anti-spasmodic in asthma and hysteria. In herbal practice in this country, its administration in decoction and infusion, as well as the fluid extract and compound tincture is recommended. It has been employed with benefit in all nervous complaints and debility and used with success in cramps and spasms of all kinds, in convulsions, fits and lockjaw, and also in palpitation, heart disease and rheumatism. The decoction (1/2 oz. to a pint of water) is given in tablespoon doses. The bark is collected chiefly in northern Europe and appears in commerce in thin strips, sometimes in quills, 1/20 to 1/12 inch thick, greyish-brown externally, with scattered brownish warts, faintly cracked longitudinally. It has a strong, characteristic odour and its taste is mildly astringent and decidedly bitter.” ~Grieve MH 

Bark used traditionally for gynecological issues and to aid menstrual cramps (because of its antispasmodic properties). Bark analgesic for pain relief (caution should be taken by those allergic to salicin as the blackhaw does contain the chemical compound). Large doses of the bark purgative and laxative. Berries taken for asthma, chest congestion, and stomachache.

Used for “female complaints” – “Blackhaw bark, according to the old folks, makes a tea that is useful in all sorts of ‘female complaints.’ It is good for scanty, irregular, or painful menstruation. Women going through the change of life consume large quantities of blackhaw bark, and this use of the stuff is so well known that there is a whole cycle of allegedly funny stories about it.” ~Randolph OMF 194-195

“Dig black haw roots…and boil for tea. Drink the tea for female trouble.” ~Parler FBA III 3960

Bark used for cramping – “Boil bark of black haw…in water to make tea for relief of cramps in women.” ~Parler FBA II 1987

Bark tea for malaria – “To cure malaria, make a tea of Black Hall (Viburnum prunifolium) bark.” ~Parler FBA III 2666

Root tea used for measles – “Make a tea by boiling black haw…roots in water and give hot to the sick patient who has measles and is having trouble getting them to brake out.” ~Parler FBA III 1684

Root tea to start a period – “Several years ago it was believed by some people that by the time a girl reached the age of 12 years she should start having a period each month. If she failed to do this then the thing to do was to boil some Black hall roots and make a tea and have the girl drink the tea so she would start having her periods.” ~Parler FBA III 2707

Root tea for upset stomach – “To cure an upset stomach, drink a cup of tea made from boiling blackhaw roots.” ~Parler FBA III 3307


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

Source: Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Blackhaw

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