Crampbark is a deciduous shrub native to Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia in the Adoxaceae family that typically reaches heights of 12-16 feet in a bushy, thicket like clump in woodland clearings and wet soils. It’s opposite leaves are smooth on the upper sides and downy on their undersides, have slightly rough and wrinkled surfaces, coarsely serrated margins with rounded bases and impressed veination. The leaves are typically three to five lobed. The white summer flowers are insect pollinated, hermaphroditic, and grown in panicle like corymbs. Each corymb is comprised of an outer ring of superficial, sterile flowers that surround the central, smaller fertile flowers. The flowers produce bright red drupes that each contain a single seed. Although it can tolerate a variety of soils, it prefers moist, moderately alkaline soils.
Crampbark is a bitter, heating herb that is an excellent anti-spasmodic, sedative, and astringent. It’s a relaxer of muscular tension and spasms, effecting the intestines, muscles, and smooth muscles of the uterus. It not only acts to relieve painful menstrual cramps, but can help prevent a threatened miscarriage. It’s astringent properties treat excessive menstrual and menopausal bleeding. Native Americans used the bark to treat mumps.
Viburnum opulus, called Kalyna, is one of Ukraine’s national symbols, and it can be found referenced and pictured numerous times in folklore, embroidery, paintings, and songs, tracing back hundreds of years to Slavic Pagan roots. According to one legend, Kalyna is associated with the birth of the Universe and the so-called Fire Trinity of the Sun, the Moon, and the Star. Its berries symbolize blood and the undying trace of family roots, and represents the beauty of a young lady. The berries can be used as a red dye, and although considered toxic when raw, can be cooked and made into jellies and spirits.
As a decoction, 2 teaspoons of dried bark per cup of water, simmered for 10-15 minutes, drunk hot three times a day. As a tincture, 4-8ml taken three times daily. Crampbark combines well with prickly ash and wild yam to ease cramping. For uterine and ovarian pains, or threatened miscarriage, it combines well with black haw and valerian.
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