Cramp bark is native to the moist lowland forests of England and Scotland and naturalized to moist forests of the northern United States and southern Canada.
Typical preparations consist of teas or tinctures. In rare instances, cramp bark is used as a ground herb administered in capsules. Often combined with corydalis and/or valerian for pain.
Cramp Bark as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The flowers used in modern herbal medicine are considered to have tonic, stimulant and emmenagogue properties, with action similar to that of Blessed Thistle.
Cramp bark, as its name suggests, is used to treat cramps and spasms of all types. The bark is is antispasmodic, astringent, and sedative, especially in the uterus. Cramp Bark is one of the best female regulators in the herb world. It is a uterine sedative, aiding in menstrual cramps, afterbirth, and postpartum pains. It helps to prevent miscarriage, as well as internal hemorrhaging. It is often used to treat muscle cramping and spasms, as well as heart palpitations. Use no more than two cups per day for three consecutive days, or it may cause nausea or skin rash.
Cramp bark is used as a muscle relaxant (works on smooth muscles to relieve muscle tension); has been used as a relaxant on a short term basis to break the vicious cycles of physical behavior (as in anxiety disorders) which are due to long term stress.
Cramp bark has been used to treat dysphagia, irritable bowel syndrome, nervous bowel, asthma (1 tablespoon of decoction as needed) and hysteria. A warm tea made by combining equal parts of crampbark, ginger and angelica root with 3 parts chamomile has been used for all types of cramping and convulsions.
Nursing mothers have taken the tea for colicky infants, the properties of the herb being passed along in the breast milk, or else a very weak tea has been given to the infant, one dropperful every 15 minutes.
When drying, the berries mature to a black color and have been used to dye fabric. The wood has been used for making skewers.
In Russian Folk Medicine the berries have been made into brandy (nastoika) and used to treat peptic ulcers.
Also, fresh or dried the berries have been used for high blood pressure, heart conditions (fruit with seeds), coughs, colds, tuberculosis, shortness of breath, kidney problems, bladder problems, stomach problems, bleeding and stomach ulcers.
A strong decoction of the flowers had been used for coughs, colds, fevers, sclerosis, tuberculosis, stomach problems, and stomach cancer; this same decoction has also been used in the bath for tubercular skin conditions and eczema.
Combine 4 ounces of dried bark in 1 pint of 100 proof vodka or other spirit and steep, shaking daily in a covered jar, for 2 weeks; taken 2 to 4 ml (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) 3 times daily.
Culinary Uses of Cramp Bark
After being cooked the fruits are eaten, usually as a preserve of some type.
In Scandinavia and Siberia a liqueur and honey paste have been made from the fruit.
An extract and the berries have been used commercially for candy, fillers, pastry, marmalade, and as an aromatic.
Cramp bark is not recommended for anyone taking blood thinning medications.
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