Cramp Bark, as the name indicates, is used to relieve cramps. Its a European herbal medicine and one that is highly effective. The best way to use it is in tincture form, as making the bark tea is both time consuming, and results in a pretty unsavory tea! But, if you have cramps, from over exertion or from a bad period, Cramp Bark is the cure. The best part is that it does not have the side efffects associated with some of the over the counter muscle pain medications. Here you will find a fact sheet on Crampbark, and, if you want to know more, I have included a chapter from one of my books.
Part Used: Bark
In a Word: Cramp Killer
Uses: Muscular Pain and Muscle Cramps
When it comes to pain associated with movement, there is no better plant than cramp bark. Whereas most of the other plants in this book are ones I have seen used effectively by other people, this is one with which I have a permanent personal relationship. After a regrettable bicycle accident that resulted in my doing a superman move through someone’s windshield, I developed blinding back pain. Ever since then, twice a year I wake up with a knot in my back that makes doing everything hard. Cramp bark has made my life livable when the condition acts up. This wonderful plant will relieve your pain, too.
Cramp bark, scientifically know as Viburnum opulis and commonly known as guelder rose, has been in the European medicine cabinet for at least 700 years. The plant produces tons of red berries that even birds won’t eat and which repel people due to their noxious smell and taste. In the Canterbury Tales , Chaucer writes that these berries, “Shal be for your hele to pick hem right as they grow and ete hem in.” food must have been a little scarce on the way to Canterbury as Chaucer recommends eating them right off the tree. Modern sources indicate that this is not a good idea: the berries are toxic. Don’t worry though, that’s not the part we are planning to use.
The plant’s name doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Cramp bark is a native of Europe and the British Isles and can be found in most yards in the United States, where it is one of the more popular shrubs. What most Americans don’t know is that the shrub right next to their own garage, Viburnum opulis , is the source of the best cramp reliever ever dreamed up by Mother Nature. The medicinal part, as the name suggests, is the bark, which is collected from the shrub in early spring, April or May, chopped into bits, dried, and stored for the moment someone pulls a muscle. The bark of Virburnum opulis is filled with hydroquinones including arbutin, methylarbutin, and free hydroquinone; coumarins including scopoletin and scopoline; and tannins.
Herbalists know of no better substance for the relief of pain due to strain or an accident. I think most would agree that the better portion of the population walks around in a state of almost constant tension, muscles clenched with nervous excitement. This is called overspasticity, and not only does this tension make you much more likely to injure the muscles, joints, and tendons that keep you up and going, it intensifies the pain once injury has occurred. Cramp bark melts muscle spasms while reducing the spasticity of the muscles themselves. If you ever suffer from tension headaches, this is the plant for you.
Dr. R. V. Peirce suggested that cramp bark be kept around the house in case anyone was injured. In his People’s Common Sense Medical Advisory , the 1895 version of what you are reading right now, he wrote of Viburnum opulis : “This is a powerful anti-spasmodic, and is effective in relaxing spasms of all kinds. It is a valued agent in threatened abortion.” Another physician, Dr. King, writing at about the same time, called it a “powerful anti-spasmodic, to be used in cramps, asthma, hysteria, cramps of the limbs, convulsions, spasmodic constriction of the bladder, spasmodic stricture.” A convulsion is one major cramp, and if your stress problem ever reaches the point where you are having cramps of that magnitude, it will be time to look for a different job. Both doctors agreed that when there was a cramp, a cup or two of hot cramp bark tea would resolve it.
The Western world treats many muscular problems and pains with anti-inflammatories. These are quite effective, but they come packing side effects. A doctor friend and I were talking not too long ago, and she made a rather interesting point. Rheumatologists and gastroenterologists tend to have a close relationship as the anti-inflammatories prescribed by the rheumatologists to end musculoskeletal pain so destroy the digestive tract that their patients always end up needing a gut doctor. Obviously, this is a situation to avoid.
The other drugs commonly used for muscular spasms are antispasmodics, which tend to come with warnings like this one on the package: “Don’t drive a car when taking this drug.” Cramp bark is a far superior medication in that it will take care of your muscular pain without side effects. It would be one thing if cramp bark merely didn’t make you sick in the process of taking care of your pain, but for an added bonus, it is reported to improve the overall health of your nerves.
When cramps and muscular pain set in, get out the cramp bark! When disaster strikes and you end up with some sort of cramp or incredible painful muscle, use cramp bark to survive the recovery period. In this instance, remember, sore muscles need time to heal and to recover. So, use the Cramp bark to make life bearable while you are healing; do not use it to enable yourself to do more damage! Do not push it is the message.
If you suffer from chronic muscle cramps, the kind that come on when you are under stress, or in very particular circumstances, use Cramp bark before the cramp sets in. Say you are heading into a stressful period and you know your neck or back is going to play up because of the stress, start taking Cramp bark before you end up in excruciating pain. Cramp bark can be used to melt a cramp or prevent a cramp. Bear this in mind when you think of Cramp bark.
History: European folk medicine used to treat cramps
Science: Contains valerianic acid, a proven spasmolytic
Practitioners’ Opinion: Works immediately
Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest”
In Britain in 1993 people spent 18.7 million pounds on topical analgesics-ointments that can be spread on sore muscles and cramps to bring a little relief. In America 194 million pounds was spent on the same products used for the same problem, sore backs and more. The modern world for many is all about physical inactivity, unless you count walking from your office cubicle to the water fountain or to the fast food restaurant for lunch exercise. Our bodies were meant for physical work and we dont use them for that anymore. We are out of shape and when we have to use them physically our bodies take a fit. They say to us, hey, what was that? The way they show their shock at being used is pain. The body can do amazing amounts of physical work but when you surprise it with some it tends to lead to an outcry.
As well for those folks that do use their bodies to make a living there can be muscular pain. Those of us that work physically tend to do repetitive motions, like when I used to dig holes for shrubs and trees. This constant repetition of a singular motion irritates the muscles used in the process. All sorts of aches and pains result from this constant use. The body was meant to be used physically, but pushing a paint brush up and down a wall several thousand times a day is getting a little specific. There was once a rather rude condition termed scrub womens knee , and women that did domestic work- cleaning floors on their hands and knees – got it. Too much time and pressure was put on those knees and they finally let their owners know they had it.
Pain due to over exertion is just one of those things that happens and as we get older and more out of shape. Moving that sofa to the other side of the room or hauling the new bed into the house can result in a pain in the back that makes being alive rather a drag. Then there are these weekend athletes that decide after four years of watching a sport on the television they are qualified to play it with predictable results. When you have done yourself some damage and are in incredible pain, walking with that special waddle a person that has over exerted themselves tends to have, life hurts.
Are you one of those persons that when your life is getting a little crazy you end up with a strained neck or back? You go to sleep fit as a fiddle and wake up crippled? Have you ever pulled something out of socket while in the midst of slumber? Everyone reacts to stress differently, some get acid burps, others migraines, and still others clenched muscles. There is what I call the grit and grind crew; those that tense up when life is a touch overwhelming. The problem with this is that when your muscles are all tensed up your are much more likely to hurt yourself, and that can be while you are asleep! Periods of stress often result in muscular pain, the most embarrassing sort because you cant even attribute it to any specific action. Not much drama in saying you pulled your back out in bed, at least not usually.
As well, there is musculo-skeletal pain (cramps, charlie horses, knots, etc.), the sort that is recurrent and happens on a somewhat regular basis. Say you have had a car accident and got a pretty nasty whip lash and once a year you end up with a relapse unable to move your neck. Doing little things like driving a car or turning your head to look at a friend become a major effort. The problem with mechanical injury is it tends to result in permanent damage, those joints, bones, and muscles seem to have a memory and every once in a while they act up again.
The amount spent in America on prescription oral medications to treat musculoskeletal pain would pay for more than a few drug company executives kids to attend several thousand colleges. The top performers in 1993 sold the following amounts.
napogen: 405 million dollars
voltaren: 296 million dollars
lodine: 255 million dollars
relafen: 315 million dollars
toradol: 195 million dollars
daypro: 161 million dollars
anaprox: 154 million dollars
ansaid: 146 million dollars
There is a lot of muscular pain happening in America and people are first attempting to combat it with rubs and aspirin, and if that fails, their doctors provide them with pills that will do the trick. The problem with many of these prescription medicines is they cause a lot of damage to the stomach in the process! You start with back pain and end up with an ulcer.
It must be said that pain in and of itself is not a bad thing, its one of the bodies way of taking care of itself. If you have damaged some muscle, joint, or tendon, the pain that results keeps you from using the injured bit, giving it some time off to heal itself. The reckless use of “muscle relaxants” and “pain killers” can lead to serious injury as they mask the pain and can allow you to do further damage to yourself. The first thing to remember when you are playing doctor is that pain is the bodies way of telling you something and you ought to listen.
The most inhumane part of the modern world is that your head could fall off your body and your boss would say put it in a bag and carry it to work. You may not be able to move your head but that end of month report has to go out regardless and you will have to get it done. The world does not stop just because you are hurting- that’s reality. This explains why we spend so much money on pain relievers, we need something to keep us going when in fact we would like to lie in a ditch and have a good cry.
This was also true a couple hundred years ago when working physically resulted in food on or not on the table. When planting season came you either got the crop out in the field or junior and missy not only got no presents at christmas they in fact starved before christmas came around. You better believe people in those days scoured the woods for some plant that would allow them to get the work done regardless of how their muscles felt. Our next plant hails from the very practical and brutal period in time. Much like today, farmers in America didn’t get a vote as to whether they went in to work. Farmers knew all about cramp bark and very shortly you will too.
When it comes to pain associated with movement there is no better plant around than Cramp bark. Whereas I have seen most of the plants in this book used effectively by other people, this one I have a permanent relationship with. After a regrettable bicycle accident that resulted in my doing a superman move through someones wind screen I developed blinding back pain. Not all the time, just twice a year I wake up with a knot in my back that makes doing everything hard. Cramp bark to the rescue has made my life liveable when the condition acts up. When it hurts to move cramp bark will relieve your pain.
Cramp bark, scientifically known as Viburnum opulis, and commonly known as guelder rose, has been in the European medicine cabinet for at least 700 years. Chaucer mentions it in his canterbury tales. The plant produces tons of red berries that birds just love and people avoid due to the noxious smell and taste they emit. Chaucer mentions them, ” Shal be for your hele to pick hem right as they grow and ete hem in”. It seems that on the journey through canterbury food must have been a little scarce as Chaucer recommends eating them right off the tree. Modern sources suggest this may not be a good idea as they are indeed toxic. This food would not have gone down easily, only a real hungry person could pull that one off.
The name doesn’t leave much to the imagination, a less subtle relative of black haw which we have already looked at. Its native to Europe and Britain and can be found in most yards in america as it is one of the more popular shrubs in those parts. Unbeknownst to most Americans the shrub next to the garage, Viburnum opulis is the source of the best cramp receiver ever dreamed up by mother nature. The bark is collected from the shrub in early spring, april or may, chopped into bits, dried, and stored for the moment someone pulls something. The bark, which is the part you want to use, is filled with hydroquinones including arbutin, methylarbutin, free hydroquinone, coumarins including scopoletin, and scopoline, and tannins.
Cramp bark is considered to the be the best herb to dissolve cramps ever created, herbalist know no better a substance for a person with pain due to strain or accident. The plant is loaded with glycosides that are responsible for this cramp and pain melting action. I think most would agree that the better portion of the population walk around in a state of tension, their muscles are clenched with nervous excitement. This is called over spasticity and when in a state such as that your are much more likely to injure the muscles, joints, and tendons that keep us walking about. Once you have hurt a muscle ,joint, or tendon, this tenseness makes the pain all the worse. Cramp bark not only melts muscle spasms, it reduces the spasticity of the muscles themselves, if you suffer from tension headaches, this plant is for you.
R.V.Peirce, MD, writing in 1895, suggested the plant be used in cramps and muscular pain and kept around the house in case anyone was injured. In his “Peoples Common Sense Medical Advisory, the 1895 version of what you have in your hands right now, he said this of cramp bark, ” The bark is the part used. It is also known as cramp bark. This is a powerful anti-spasmodic, and is effective in relaxing spasms of all kinds. It is a valued agent in threatened abortion.” Another physician, Dr.King writing at about the same time, said this, ” Powerful anti-spasmodic, to be used in cramps, asthma, hysteria, cramps of the limbs, convulsions, spasmodic constriction of the bladder, spasmodic stricture.” A convulsion is one major cramp and if your stress problem reaches the point you are having cramps to that scale, its time to look for a different job. What both doctors found to be true was that when there was a cramp a cup or two of hot cramp bark tea would resolve it.
The western world treats a lot of muscular problems and pain with anti-inflammatories which is quite effective but comes packing with side effects. A doctor friend and I were talking and she made a rather funny point. Rheumatologists and gastro-interologists have a close relationship as the anti-inflammatories prescribed by the Rheumatologists to end musculo-skeletal pain so destroy the digestive tract their patients always end up needing a gut doctor.
The other drugs used for muscular spasms are anti-spasmodics which tend to come with warnings like these on the packages, ” Dont drive a car when taking this drug.” Cramp bark is a far superior drug in that it will take care of muscular pain and has no side effects. It would be one thing if it merely didn’t make you sick in the process of taking care of your pain, but for an added bonus it is reported to in fact improve the health of your nerves in the process.
“relaxing and stimulating nervine, cerebrospinal vasostimulant. Restores sympathetic and parasympathetic balance, has a specific action to relieve voluntary and involuntary muscle spasms.
Priest and Priest.
When cramps and muscular pain sets in get the cramp bark out! The drug is very safe and is perfectly suited for long term usage – a good thing as this sort of pain doesn’t tend to be a short term proposition. The most important thing to remember is to not pour salt on the wound – don’t do any further damage by over-exerting a hurt body. Take your cramp bark and try to take it easy for a while.
Getting your supply:
1. Buy the dried bark at the health food store or herb seller.
2. Grow your own. Cramp bark is a fast growing shrub usually used in landscape plans because of its showy white flowers and easy to tend nature. The plant is so easy and attractive there is no reason not to have one out in the back yard. You can always use another flowering shrub in the yard and it might as well be cramp bark. There is nothing particular to know about growing the shrub other than give it as much space as possible as you will want to allow it to produce as many branches as possible, the bark covering them is the part we use in medicine. The plant is similar in shape and size to the lilac bush and you can integrate it into the garden accordingly. Once it has grown to the point there is something to cut you will be in business. The part we use is the two year old stems. These are clipped off and the bark pealed off the stems and dried in the oven at a low heat. A very stable substance cramp bark is last for years in a paper sack.
Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.