Botanical Name :Viburnum prunifolium
Synonyms: black haw bark, sweet viburnum, stag bush, American sloe
Common Name: blackhaw viburnum
Order: : Caprifoliaceae
Parts used: Bark, root bark.
Habitat: Native to eastern and central North America
Black haw is usually grown as a large, upright, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with an irregular crown, but it also may be grown as a small, single trunk tree. As a shrub, it typically grows 12-15′ tall with a spread of 6-12′, but as a tree may reach a height of 30′. A Missouri native plant which commonly occurs in moist woods, thickets and on streambanks throughout the State. Non-fragrant white flowers in flat-topped cymes (to 4.5″ diameter) appear in spring.
Flowers give way in autumn to blue-black, berry-like drupes which often persist into winter and are quite attractive to birds and wildlife. Ovate, finely toothed, glossy dark green leaves (to 4″ long) turn attractive shades of red and purple in fall. Fruits are edible and may be eaten off the bush when ripe or used in jams and preserves. Common name refers to the purported similarity of this plant to hawthorns (sometimes commonly called red haws), though hawthorns are in a different family.
Constituents : Black haw contains triterpenoids, coumarins, bitter principle, valerianic acid, salicosides, tannin.
The black haw has been traditionally used in a number of ways by the Native Americans, the stem of the plant were used to make baskets, while the berries were turned into a kind of jam. Fertility was believed to be boosted by the plant, and to increase a slave woman’s ability to bear more children, many Southern slave owners used to coerce their female slaves to eat the black haw berries – the idea being to make her bear more children. The supposed ability of the herb to boost fertility in women is even mentioned in the old clinical text called the Kings American Dispensatory, this 19th-century medical text was extensively used by medical doctors of that era, in this text, a group of doctors called the Eclectic movement state various uses of the herb to boost fertility and to preclude abortion in women, it is written:” It was customary for planters to compel female slaves to drink an infusion of black haw daily whilst pregnant to prevent abortion”- thus the plant was believed to control fertility and the reproductive functions of women.
It is also known that long before the colonization of North America by Europeans, in many indigenous Native American cultures, the women traditionally made use of the black haw plant for medicinal purposes – using a wide variety of herbal remedies made from different parts of the plant. In many North American cultures, the physical symptoms associated with menopause and the symptoms of menstrual cramps in women were treated by drinks of a decoction prepared from the bark of the black haw plant, the bark decoction was also used in the prevention of miscarriages and to ease the intense pains following labor during the birth of a child. Disorders of the blood and problems such as migraines were also traditionally treated using species of plants related to the black haw. As Europeans came to the continent, they learnt the value of the black haw from natives, and used it in many remedial applications; the black haw was very highly regarded as a remedy by the Eclectics, mentioned before. For example, internal irritation in the womb is alleviated by the remedies made from black haw bark, in women with a history of difficult pregnancies; the herbal remedy made from this plant is therefore a useful and very potent ally in dealing with various symptoms. The presence of a particular helpful chemical known to be a uterine relaxing agent called scopoletin confirms the validity of its traditional use in this role to some extent. Many modern herbalists still swear by the remedial properties of the black haw bark.
As an herbal remedy, the strong astringent and anti-spasmodic effects of the black haw are used specifically in the treatment of pain associated with the menstrual cycle in affected women. Many other gynecological disorders and conditions are also treated using the remedies derived from the black haw bark, thus the practices of the 19th-century are still followed by many herbalist. Some of the conditions treated using the bark include excessive bleeding during menopause in women, the prolapse of the uterus, the presence of morning sickness during pregnancy, and the threat or signs of miscarriage in pregnant women. The presence of colic or the presence of cramping pain along the bile ducts, pain along the digestive tract and the urinary tract are also typically treated using the black haw herb, the strong anti-spasmodic action of the plant comes into play and helps alleviate such physical conditions.
Collection & Harvesting:
Autumn is the usual period for harvesting of black haw root and trunk bark, this is preceded by the collection of bark from stems in the spring or summer. The normal way of collection of bark, is by uprooting the entire shrub and then carefully stripping off the bark from the roots and the trunk of the plant. During the summer or the spring the bark of the branches is collected and stored after drying – the difference in collecting time ensures optimal utilization of the plant as individual plants are dead when uprooted during autumn. Drying of the bark is carried out in shaded areas in all cases and these are then stored and processed to be used in herbal medications at a later time.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider