Guelder Rose

This genus of about 150 species of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs and small trees is distributed widely in most temperate and warm areas, especially in Asia and N America. Viburnum opulus is an excellent garden shrub with delightful flowers and early-ripening, brightly colored fruits. Viburnum prunifolium has the largest fruits of any viburnum and brilliant autumn color. It may be grown as a small garden tree if restricted to a single trunk. Common to V. prunifolium and V. opulus is scopoletin, a coumarin that has a sedative effect on the uterus. Viburnum prunifolium also contains salicin, an analgesic that occurs in Salix alba (See, White Willow). The two viburnums are prescribed alternately or together; V. opulus is thought to be weaker in action, and V. prunifolium appears to act more strongly on the uterus. In parts of E USA, the fruits of V. prunifolium have been used for preserves and larger-fruited, palatable clones are grown for fruit production. The fruits of V. opulus and the N American V. trilobum can be used for making preserves and wine.

Vigourous deciduous shrub with 3- or sometimes 5-lobed, toothed leaves, to 10cm (4in) long. Flat-topped clusters of tiny flowers, surrounded by conspicuous white, sterile flowers, to 2cm (¾in) across, appear in summer, followed by clusters of glossy, scarlet, almost spherical fruits, 8mm (⅜in) across.

Common Name:
Guelder Rose
Other Names:
Cramp Bark, Cranberry Tree, Dog Rowan Tree, King's Crown, Red Elder, Rose Elder, Silver Bells, Snowball Tree, Viburnum
Botanical Name:
Viburnum opulus
Native Location:
Europe, N Africa, C Asia
Deep, moist soil in sun or partial shade. Remove dead wood and older stems after flowering. Plants may be damaged by aphids and viburnum beetles, and are prone to honey fungus and leaf spot.
By seed sown in autumn (species only); by greenwood cuttings in summer.
Bark is stripped before leaves change color in autumn, or before leaf buds open in spring, and dried for decoctions, liquid extracts, and tinctures (V. opulus, V. prunifolium), creams (V. opulus), and infusions, elixirs, and powders (V. prunifolium). Fruits are picked when ripe in summer for culinary use.
Has a compact habit and bright colden leaves which tend to scorch in full sun.
Is slow-growing, dense and free-flowering
Height: 2.5m (8ft)
Width: 1.5m (5ft)
Fructu Luteo
Has yello, pink-flushed fruits.
Is dwarf and rarely flowers, with good autumn color and thin, upright, reddish winter stems.
Height: 1-1.2m (3-4ft)
Width: 60cm (24in)
Nottcutt's Variety
Is vigorous, bearing large clusters of fruit.
Syn. 'Sterile'
(Snowball bush)

Bears conspicuousm creamy-white, ball-shaped flower heads, composed entirely of sterile flowers.
Has yellow fruits.
5m (15ft)
4m (12ft)
Long prized by Native Americans as a female tonic and a remedy for cramping pain, cramp bark has also enjoyed widespread use in Europe (where it was once popularly known as Guelder rose and also used to treat pain) and in Russia (where is is called Kalina or Kalinushka and used to treat asthma, colds, and high blood pressure). Cramp back is enjoying a renewed popularity today as one of the most effective herbs for relieving menstrual cramps and lower back pain. Numerous research studies confirm that the plant's bark contains high concentrations of viburnin, a potent antispasmodic, and valerianic acid, the same strong sedative found in valerian. Working together, these two chemical compounds are responsible for cramp bark's singular pain-removing effects. The herb is also rich in minerals and vitamins C and K.
Parts Used:
Bark, fruits
A bitter, astringent, sedative herb that relaxes spasms and regulates uterine function.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for painful menstruation, postpartum and ovarian pain, threatened miscarriage, hypertension, nervous constipation, irritable bowl syndrome, muscular tension and cramps. Externally for muscular cramps and aching muscles. Combines well with Dioscorea villosa (See, Colic Root) and Zanthoxylum americanum (See, Toothache Tree) for cramp; and with V. prunifolium (See, Black Haw) and Chamaelirium luteum (See, False Unicorn Root) for uterine pain and threatened miscarriage.
Cramp bark has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, calming, diuretic, pain-relieving, sedating, and tonic properties. It also relaxes uterine muscles and normalizes uterine function. Cramp bark is taken internally for anxiety, back pain, colic, high blood pressure, headaches, intestinal spasms, menstrual cramps, muscle spasms, threatened miscarriage, and uterine pain. It is applied externally, in compresses or rubs, for menstrual and muscle cramps.
Cramp bark is available as dried herb, and in capsules, teas, and tinctures. It is most commonly taken in capsule or tincture form; follow the manufacturer's or your practitioner's directions. To make a decoction, add 1 teaspoon of dried herb to 1½ cups water and bring mixture to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 3 cups a day.
Culinary Uses:
Fruits are made into preserves, sauces, and wines.
Fruits of V. opulus may cause mild stomach upsets if eaten raw.
Prepare fruits prior to consuming.
The fresh berries of cramp bark are poisonous. Only use dried herb.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 403-404
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 113-114