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Black Haw

Viburnum prunifolium

American Sloe
Black Haw
King's Crown
Snowball Tree

Parts used
Habitat and cultivation
How much to take
Collection and harvesting

Herbs gallery - black haw

Black haw - this deciduous tree or shrub grows 5 to 15 feet tall, with grooved branches and red brown bark, flat-topped white flowers, and shiny, blue-black, juicy berries.

Indian uses of black haw are not well documented, but one source mentions that they employed a decoction, or extract, from the boiled bark to treat venereal disease. Black haw's service as an early American home medicine, by contrast, is well recorded. Although black haw was used in the early 1800's, the first published mention of it appeared in 1857. Doctors largely prescribed a decoction of the bark to prevent miscarriage or threatened abortion. Black haw was also recommended for the relief of painful menstruation and the after pains of childbirth. As a result of growing demand and repeated articles in medical and pharmaceutical journals, black haw bark gained a place in the U.S. Pharmcopeia in 1882 and was listed there until 1926.


Bark, root bark.


Native Americans made the fruit of black haw into jams and used the stems in baskets. Southern slave owners coercively gave female slaves black haw to increase the production of slave children. This use is mentioned in Kings American Dispensatory, a 19th-century medical text used by doctors who called their group the Eclectic movement:" It was customary for planters to compel female slaves to drink an infusion of black haw daily whilst pregnant to prevent abortion."

Native American women took black haw for medicinal purposes long before the European settlement of North America. They drank decoctions of black haw bark to treat menopause and menstrual cramps, to ease pains following childbirth, and to prevent miscarriage. Related species were used to treat ailments ranging from blood disorders to migraines. Highly valued by the Eclectics, black haw bark soothes irritation in the womb, making this herb a potent aid for women with histories of pregnancy difficulties. Black haw contains scopoletin, a uterine relaxant, perhaps verifying its traditional uses. This bark continues to be popular among modern herbalists.

Black haw is antispasmodic and astringent, and is regarded as a specific treatment for menstrual pain. Echoing its 19th-century applications; the bark is also used to treat other gynecological conditions, such as prolapse of the uterus, heavy menopausal bleeding, morning sickness, and threatened miscarriage. Black haw's antispasmodic property makes it of value in cases where colic or other cramping pain affects the bile ducts, the digestive tract, or the urinary tract.


Native to the United States, black haw grows as a shrub in northern areas and as a small tree in southern areas.


Black haw contains triterpenoids, coumarins, bitter principle, valerianic acid, salicosides, tannin.


Decoction: put 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried bark in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 5 - 10 ml of the tincture three times a day.


The bark from the roots and the trunk is collected in the autumn. The shrubs should be dug out and the bark stripped from roots and trunk. The bark from branches should be collected in spring and summer. In both cases the bark should be dried in the shade.


For threatened miscarriage it will combine well with false unicorn root and cramp bark.

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