Viburnum opulus, common name guelder-rose is a species of flowering plant in the family Adoxaceae native to Europe, northern Africa and central Asia.
Other common names include water elder, cramp bark, snowball tree and European cranberry bush, though this plant is not closely related to the cranberry. Some botanists also include the North American species Viburbum trilobum as V Opulus, Americanum Ait or as V. Opulus.
V Opulus is a deciduous shrub growing to 4–5 m (13–16 ft) tall. The leaves are opposite, three-lobed, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and broad, with a rounded base and coarsely serrated margins; they are superficially similar to the leaves of some maples, most easily distinguished by their somewhat wrinkled surface with impressed leaf venation. The leaf buds are green, with valvate (having adjacent edges abutting rather than overlapping) bud scales.
The hermaphrodite flowers are white, produced in corymbs 4–11 cm (2–4 in) in diameter at the top of the stems; each corymb comprises a ring of outer sterile flowers 1.5–2 cm in diameter with conspicuous petals, surrounding a center of small (5 mm), fertile flowers; the flowers are produced in early summer, and pollinated by insects. The fruit is a globose bright red drupe 7–10 mm diameter, containing a single seed. The seeds are dispersed by birds.
The fruit is edible in small quantities, with a very acidic taste; it can be used to make jelly. It is however very mildly toxic, and may cause vomiting or diarrhea if eaten in large amounts.
Cramp bark is a plant that grows in North America. Historically, Native Americans used cramp bark as medicine for reducing swollen glands treating fluid retention, mumps, and eye disorders. They also smoked cramp bark as a substitute for tobacco.
These days, the term cramp bark is related to the properties of the bark’s ability to reduce smooth muscle tightness. It is called cramp bark as relieving this type of muscle tightness is most often associated with relieving women’s menstrual (period) cramps.
However, this can also be used during pregnancy for cramps or pain and general muscle cramping.
Cramp bark is also used as a kidney stimulant for urinary conditions that involve pain or spasms.
Some people use cramp bark for cancer, hysteria, infection, nervous disorders, a vitamin-deficiency condition called scurvy, and pain and swelling of the uterus (uteritis). Cramp bark is also used to increase urine flow and to cause vomiting, emptying of the bowels, and sleepiness.
Don’t confuse cramp bark with black haw (Vibernum prunifolium), which is sometimes referred to as cramp bark.
How does it work?
Chemicals in cramp bark seem to decrease muscle spasms. These chemicals might also lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate.
From this plant are harvested bark of young branches and stems.
For internal use, drink a decoction of the bark, up to 2 cups per day.
How To Do The Infusion: add 250 ml of boiling water over 5 grams of dried and shredded bark; cover the pot and leave it to soak for 30 minutes; then strain the liquid and it is ready for drinking.