Discover the 5 shocking health benefits of cramp bark and side effects.
Like wintergreen, cramp bark is another herbal remedy that naturally contains a compound called methyl salicylate, which is known to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
As its name implies, cramp bark is known to relieve cramps, including those associated with PMS.
It also has a long history of use in Native American herbalism, including the Penobscot tribe of Maine, who used cramp bark to naturally treat gout and swollen glands.
At the same time, in Wisconsin, the Meskwaki tribe used this herbal remedy for back pain, arthritis, and menstrual cramps.
In general, cramp bark is said to have antispasmodic, sedative, relaxing, and astringent properties.
Let’s take a closer look at this intriguing herb and its many possible health benefits.
The cramp bark plant (Viburnum opulus) is a large deciduous shrub that belongs to the honeysuckle family.
It can grow up to 16 feet tall and has large white flowers that produce small red berries in the fall.
Where does cramp bark grow? Today, you can find it growing in the United States and Canada, but it is native to the lowland forest of Scotland and England.
Common names for cramp bark include Guelder Rose, snowball tree, water elder, and European cranberrybush. However, it is not closely related to lingonberry, although it does have red berries as well.
To obtain the medicinal or herbal form of cramp bark, the bark of the plant is removed in the fall before the leaves turn color or in the spring before the buds open.
The bark contains many naturally occurring chemical plant compounds that are known to have positive health effects, including catechins and epicatechin; ellagic, caffeic, chlorogenic, neo chlorogenic, p-coumaric, ferulic, gallic, protocatechuic, homogentisic, and syringic acids; and flavonoids such as astragalin, alongside.
It is important not to confuse cramp bark and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium). The confusion sometimes occurs because they are cousins of the plant and share some benefits.
What is Black haw used for? Like cramp bark, it is known to relieve menstrual cramps, but they are two different plants.
What are the health benefits of cramp bark? Here are some of the best ways it has been known to improve health:
• Research from in vitro studies reveals that the cramp cortex can block smooth muscle spasms.
• So it’s no wonder that one of the best-known uses for cramp bark as a traditional herbal remedy is for menstrual cramps that can accompany PMS.
• It is known to help calm even severe cramps that are associated with nausea, vomiting, and sweaty chills.
• Cramp bark is traditionally prepared by placing 2 teaspoons of the dried bark in a cup of water, bringing it to a boil, and then simmering for 10 to 15 minutes.
• This tea can be consumed three times a day for cramps. Another option is four to eight milliliters of tincture three times a day.
• Endometriosis is a medical disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus.
• The fruits of Viburnum opulus have been used to treat gynecological disorders, including dysmenorrhea (painful periods) and ovarian cysts.
• A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2016 wanted to see if cramp bark could also improve endometriosis.
• In an animal model study, endometriosis was surgically induced in subjects, and then cramp bark fruit extracts were administered for four days.
• Subjects treated with Viburnum opulus berry extracts showed significant improvement in their endometriosis compared to the control group.
• The study concludes that the chlorogenic acid content of Viburnum opulus, along with its other phenolic compounds, is likely responsible for its positive effects on endometriosis.
• According to experts in the field, cramp bark has long been used as a spasmolytic (or antispasmodic) during pregnancy, particularly in preventing miscarriage.
• This use as a herbal remedy during pregnancy is said to date back to Native American tribes.
• Herbalists in the UK know that cramp bark is an excellent option for preventing miscarriage.
• Several active substances in Viburnum opulus, including scopoletin and aesculetin, have been labeled as having antispasmodic effects on the uterus.
• Midwives sometimes choose cramp bark for threatened miscarriage, as well as premature labor, during the actual labor, and for postpartum pain.
• While this may sound strange, herbs are known to sometimes have opposite effects on the body depending on the amount used, when and how they are used, and whether an herb is used alone or in combination with other herbs.
• Cramp bark has a long history as a natural muscle relaxant.
• As mentioned above, it is known to relieve menstrual cramps due to its ability to stop smooth muscle spasms.
• For this reason, it is also known to help relieve muscle aches and spasms throughout the body, such as in the back or legs, whether in connection with PMS or physical exertion.
• If you are struggling with muscle spasms, aches, or pains, this herbal remedy may be a safer alternative to NSAIDs, which have been shown to have numerous dangerous side effects.
• In fact, all prescription NSAIDs have a warning that they can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and stomach bleeding.
• Other common side effects of NSAIDs include stomach pain, leg swelling, headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, and kidney problems.
• A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics points towards possible antitumor and anticancer effects of Viburnum opulus.
• Using an animal model, the researchers demonstrated how extracts from gilaburu juice (juice made from the berries of the cramp bark plant) showed antitumor activity in vivo.
• Another study published in 2013 used an animal model to evaluate the possible positive effects on colon cancer in particular.
• Overall, they found that groups of animal subjects having 1,2-dimethylhydrazine (DMH) -induced colon cancer that was treated with gilaburu juice for 30 weeks experienced a reduction in the mean total number of tumor lesions.
• The researchers conclude that “gilaburu juice may be useful for the prevention of colon cancer in the initiation stage.”
The reason why the cramp bark plant is also known as Guelder Rose has a bit of history. As it is said that it was first formally cultivated in the Dutch city of Gueldersland, this alternative name is in honor of this city.
Another interesting fact about cramp is that it is one of the national symbols of Ukraine, where it appears in art, songs, and folklore.
In Ukraine, it is known as Kalyna. This alternate name comes from the legend of Kalyna, who was believed to be a goddess during the birth of the universe. To this day, the «Kalyna» plant is a central aspect of Ukrainian culture.
While the bark is used medicinally, the dried berries are used to create dark ink and coloring. The berries are also sometimes used to make jams and preserves.
• If you’re wondering where to buy cramp bark, you can usually find the dried parts of the plant in bulk or as cramp bark capsules, tinctures, or tea bags at health stores or through online retailers.
• There is currently no standard dosage for cramp bark, but a recommendation for health problems such as cramps or muscle spasms is a cup of tea made from 2 teaspoons of dried bark or four to eight milliliters of tincture three times a day.
• The appropriate dose depends on several factors, including the age and health of the user. If you have any questions about use and dosage, always consult a qualified healthcare professional or herbalist. It’s also important to read cramp bark supplement labels closely.
• You can use the dried herb to make a homemade cramp bark tincture recipe. In some stores around the world and online, you can also find juice made from Viburnum opulus berries called gilaburu juice.
• If you are looking to grow a cramp bark plant, perhaps you can find it at your local garden center. These plants are known to thrive in humid, woody climates.
• Cramp bark generally does not cause unwanted side effects in normal doses. However, do not use this herbal remedy if you are sensitive to aspirin. People sensitive to aspirin can also be sensitive to cramp bark.
• Large doses of cramp bark can cause nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
• This herbal remedy is typically not used in young children. Check with your pediatrician before using it on your child.
• Check with your doctor before combining cramp bark with any medication. Also, check with your doctor before use if you have any ongoing health problems.
• Talk to your healthcare provider before using cramp bark if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
• Cramp bark has a long history of use for women’s health problems, including menstrual cramps, as well as endometriosis and miscarriage.
• It is also an herbal remedy for muscle pain and spasms and pain throughout the body.
• It contains many chemical components, which lead it to have antispasmodic, sedative, relaxing, and astringent properties.
• So far, research with animal models show that the juice and extracts of the berries of the plant show promise for having antitumor and anticancer properties.
• The dried cramp bark can be used to make a tea or tincture. You can also buy tea bags, pre-made tinctures, or capsules.