Viburnum Opulus. High cranberry, Cramp bark.

Botanical name: 

Related entry: Viburnum prunifolium

Description: Natural Order, Caprifoliaceae. In the same Family with the common elder, which it resembles in habits of growth and its more globose form of inflorescence. From the common name, many have supposed it to be a species of the edible cranberry; but this article is not a cranberry, which belongs to the order Scrophulariaceae and genus Vaccinium. The shrub here under consideration presents a variety under cultivation, known as snowball tree or guelder rose; and the wild plant so closely resembles its cultivated variety as to be essentially the same thing in a less vigorous form. A shrub, growing with clustered stems from five to ten feet high, erect, nearly smooth, branching above. Leaves opposite, strongly three-lobed, broadly wedge-shaped at the base, acuminate, toothed; petioles with two or more stalked glands at the base. Flowers in large, terminal, nearly globular cymes; calyx small and five-parted; corolla white, five-lobed, spreading, those of the margin many times larger than the others, and without stamens or pistils; central flowers with five stamens and one style. Fruit an ovoid, scarlet, one-sided, somewhat pulpy and acid drupe. Blooming early in June, ripening in summer. Showy. Common in rich and low lands northward.

Properties and Uses: The bark is a slowly-acting relaxant, with gentle tonic properties, mild, and chiefly influencing the nervous system. The character of its action is that of the antispasmodic class; and it is chiefly employed in hysteria, painful menstruation, neuralgia and rheumatism of the womb, and the uterine crampings incident to pregnancy. For these purposes, it is usually employed in combination, especially in the Compound Sirup of Mitchella. It is sometimes used in colic and crampings of the bowels, where it may be associated with dioscorea; and in asthma and nervous restlessness, with caulophyllum. The best method of preparation is in some compound sirup; but it may be formed into decoction by macerating two ounces in a quart of hot water, expressing, evaporating to half a pint, and giving a fluid ounce three or four times a day.

A wine tincture may be made by percolation, using two ounces of the bark so as to obtain a pint of tincture, of which the dose may be a fluid ounce. This tincture is an excellent article with which to associate a moderate dose of the fluid extract of valerian, with the addition of some polygonum when a light stimulating impression is desired.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at