Black Haw is a deciduous shrub of the Caprifoliaceae family that can grow up to 15 feet in height, bearing serrated oval leaves that are shiny on their topsides and tomentose on their undersides. They turn red in the fall. In the spring, flat topped clusters of creamy white flowers appear in cymes, each individual funnel-shaped flower bearing five petals, maturing into blue-black drupes in the summer and fall that are a popular food among wild birds. The berries persist into winter, becoming edible after the first frost. The reddish-brown and rough trunk is typically crooked and branching. It’s native to Central and Southern North American woodlands; in the Northern most parts of it’s range, it stays bushy and shrubby, reaching taller heights and appearing as a small tree in it’s Southern range. Black Haw prefers sunny woodland areas with well draining soils and regular water.
Dried bark from the stems, roots, or trunks.
Similar in it’s effects to cramp bark, to which it’s related, Black Haw is a powerful uterine relaxant with sedative, astringent, antispasmodic, and hypotensive properties. It’s useful for treating menstrual cramps and false labor pains, intestinal cramping, and can help prevent miscarriage and ease morning sickness. It’s relaxing, sedative actions also affect the peripheral blood vessels, make it useful for reducing blood pressure and treating excessive menstrual bleeding, prolapsed uterus, and excessive menopausal bleeding. It’s anti-spasmodic actions also reach the digestive tract and the lungs, where it can prove useful in the treatment of asthma and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The Catawba people used Black Haw to treat dysentery and as a useful uterine tonic. Decoctions of the root bark were used to treat excessive uterine bleeding and hemorrhage. Colonial American slaveholders also used infusions of the plant to forcibly prevent abortions among their slaves. In defiance, oftentimes slave women would attempt to use cotton seeds to cause a miscarriage.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Astringent, bitter, cool, dry.
5-10ml of tincture, three times daily, or a decoction of 2 tsp of the dried bark per cup of water, simmered for 10 minutes, and taken three times daily.
For threatened miscarriage, it combines well with False Unicorn Root and Crampbark.
Those allergic to asprin should not take Black Haw.
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