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Cramp Bark – (Viburnum opulus)

Cramp Bark

Cramp bark is a low-growing shrub with thick shiny leaves. Some species will also have shiny berries. While often used as an ornamental shrub in the yard, the berries are edible and make a passable substitute for cranberries. Another common name for the shrub is "snowball bush" after the clusters of white flowers that bloom in the spring. They are popular in the garden because of their bright red berries, prefering a well drained, fertile soil. They make a very colorful addition.

Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Cramp bark is a muscle relaxant. It has long been used to treat uterine cramps, but it also relaxes other muscles in the body like the intestines and stomach. It is a good relief for stomach cramps. This herbal remedy usually works very quickly for menstrual cramps. It is so effective that it has been used to stop contractions during premature labor. In small doses, it can be used in late pregnancy to tone the uterine muscles in readiness for labor, to relieve postpartum discomfort and under the guidance of an experienced care provider, it may help prevent miscarriage. It also helps treat excessive blood loss during perimenopause. In large doses, it may help leg cramps, muscle spasms and neck pain.

Externally – Not used externally

Herbs to Combine/Supplement

Combining cramp bark with valerian and wild ginger is helpful for people who get cold extremities in the winter.

Parts Used

Root – Cramp bark is peeled from the root and dried or made into a tincture.


Cramp bark does no harm in normal doses, however do not use if you are sensitive to aspirin. Side effects may include vomiting, nausea and diarrhea when large doses are taken of 60 drops or more per hour. While the fruit is edible in small quantities, it is mildly toxic and consuming large amounts may cause diarrhea or vomiting.

Preparation and Dosage

The usual dosage for tincture is 30 to 60 drops an hour for acute muscle spasm. For pain during menstruation, take cramp bark frequently for the best results. Begin with ½ a dropperful every half hour until you notice an effect, then change the dose to every 1 to 3 hours. Reduce the dose as the symptoms subside. If your cycles are regular, you can begin taking the tincture 3 to 4 times a day before the cramps begin. Be careful to only use when you need it.

For a decoction of the dried root bark, put 2 teaspoons of the cramp bark into a cup of boiling water. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink this decoction while hot three times per day.

Cramp Bark Herbal Remedies Top