Benefits Of Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) For Health

Benefits Of Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) For Health


Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium)


Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) is known as other names: Blackhaw, Nanny Bush, Southern Black Haw, American Sloe, King's Crown, Sheepberry, Snowball Tree, Stag Bush, Viburno, Viburno Americano, Viburnum, Viburnum lentago, Viburnum prunifolium, Viburnum rufidulum, Viorne Américaine, Viorne à Feuilles de Prunier, Viorne à Manchettes...

The American plant known as the black haw is native to the American continent, and it is believed to have been in traditional use for preparation of many types of herbal remedies as well as a source of food by the original Native Americans - though documentation is scarce. The black haw is a shrub or more correctly a small deciduous tree which can reach a height of five to fifteen feet when fully mature. The plant is characterized by its red brown bark and the grooved branches. The black haw plant also bears a number of characteristic flat topped white flowers and in season many shiny and blue black berries, the black haw berries are very juicy and used in many Native American food preparations.

Benefits Of Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) For Health
Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) Picture

The herbal literature does not have too many details on the various traditional foods and remedial preparations traditionally made from the black haw by the different Native American peoples - though such preparations were historically used in much of America. At the same time, even though documentation is lacking, according to one source, the treatment of venereal diseases was supposedly carried out by Native Americans through the use of an herbal decoction or remedial extract made from the boiled black haw bark - this supposed historical use of the plant cannot be confirmed. At the same time, there is a lot of documentation on the myriad uses of the black haw's as an early colonial American home medicine - it is presumed that the early colonists learnt the different uses of the black haw from Native Americans. The first published and documented mention of the use of the black haw appeared in a document dating to 1857, though it is assumed that the plant must have been in widespread use as a home based remedy as early as the 1800's. The black haw as a remedial plant was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1882 directly as due to the increasing use and demand for the plant and because of the repeated articles on the purported benefits of the plant in many of the medical and pharmaceutical journals of that era, the plant was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia until the year 1926 and it remained a very popular source of home based remedies for a long time.


Benefits Of Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) For Health


Black haw has been used traditionally for problems related to the female reproductive tract. It acts as a general antispasmodic that may relax skeletal muscle as well, but is particularly effective on the uterus. As such, it is a potential agent to be included in the treatment of threatened miscarriage, menstrual cramps, false labor, and the afterpains of childbirth . The antispasmodic properties of black haw are also reportedly useful for colic , bladder spasms, cramping pain in the bile ducts, diarrhea , and heavy bleeding during menopause . Black haw may also have some ability to lower high blood pressure.

Benefits Of Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) For Health
Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) Picture

It is also known that long before the colonization of North America by Europeans, in many indigenous Native American cultures, the women traditionally made use of the black haw plant for medicinal purposes - using a wide variety of herbal remedies made from different parts of the plant. In many North American cultures, the physical symptoms associated with menopause and the symptoms of menstrual cramps in women were treated by drinks of a decoction prepared from the bark of the black haw plant, the bark decoction was also used in the prevention of miscarriages and to ease the intense pains following labor during the birth of a child. Disorders of the blood and problems such as migraines were also traditionally treated using species of plants related to the black haw. As Europeans came to the continent, they learnt the value of the black haw from natives, and used it in many remedial applications; the black haw was very highly regarded as a remedy by the Eclectics, mentioned before. For example, internal irritation in the womb is alleviated by the remedies made from black haw bark, in women with a history of difficult pregnancies; the herbal remedy made from this plant is therefore a useful and very potent ally in dealing with various symptoms. The presence of a particular helpful chemical known to be a uterine relaxing agent called scopoletin confirms the validity of its traditional use in this role to some extent. Many modern herbalists still swear by the remedial properties of the black haw bark.

As an herbal remedy, the strong astringent and anti-spasmodic effects of the black haw are used specifically in the treatment of pain associated with the menstrual cycle in affected women. Many other gynecological disorders and conditions are also treated using the remedies derived from the black haw bark, thus the practices of the 19th-century are still followed by many herbalist. Some of the conditions treated using the bark include excessive bleeding during menopause in women, the prolapse of the uterus, the presence of morning sickness during pregnancy, and the threat or signs of miscarriage in pregnant women. The presence of colic or the presence of cramping pain along the bile ducts, pain along the digestive tract and the urinary tract are also typically treated using the black haw herb, the strong anti-spasmodic action of the plant comes into play and helps alleviate such physical conditions.

One of the historical uses of black haw was for the relief of asthma . Evidence from contemporary clinical studies does not support this use, although black haw's activity as a smooth muscle relaxant could theoretically relieve bronchoconstriction. On the other hand, some components of black haw, particularly the salicylates, have the potential to trigger an asthmatic reaction in sensitive individuals.

Benefits Of Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) For Health
Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) Flower Picture

Black Haw (Viburnum Prunifolium) Side effects and cautions


Black haw contains chemicals called salicylates. There is some concern that these salicylates could trigger an allergic reaction in people with asthma or aspirin allergies. People who are allergic to aspirin could theoretically have a reaction to black haw, as one of its components is a salicylate (compound related to aspirin). Bleeding time may also be prolonged as a result in patients who take high chronic doses of black haw. Patients with a history of kidney stones should not use this herb, as the oxalic acid it contains could increase the risk of a recurrence of the disorder.

Some sources say that black haw should not be used in pregnancy. Women should consult a health care practitioner experienced in the use of natural remedies for advice on the use of black haw for the prevention of miscarriage or other possible indications for pregnancy.