Scientific Name(s): Viburnum prunifolium L.
Common Name(s): Black haw, Blackhaw, Blackhaw viburnum, Smooth blackhaw, Smooth blackhaw viburnum, Stagbush, Sweet-haw
Black haw is a large shrub or small tree native to the eastern and central United States, with white flowers and shiny, juicy, blue-black berries.Khan 2009, USDA 2016 The root and stem bark is preferred to the trunk bark for use in black haw preparations.Cometa 2009, Khan 2009 Synonyms include Viburnum bushii Ashe, Viburnum pruniflorium var. bushii (Ahse) Palmer & Steyerm, and Viburnum prunifolium var. globosum Nash.
V. prunifolium has traditionally been used for menstrual cramps and cases of threatened miscarriage (also see the Viburnum opulus/Cramp Bark monograph), as well as for its sedative and antiasthmatic effects.Campbell 1886, Duke 2002, Khan 2009 Black haw was used by Cherokee and Delaware American Indian tribes as an antispasmodic for female reproductive complaints. It reputedly was used by slave owners to forestall abortions in female slaves using cotton root bark to induce abortion.Brinker 1998, Duke 2002 Its use was sufficiently common that black haw was officially recognized in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1882 to 1926 and in the United States National Formulary. Case reports of use for preventing abortion and/or miscarriage have also been noted historically in the British Medical Journal.Wilson 1886 Black haw was popularized by the Eclectic medical movement of the early 19th century in the United States as a mild sedative and uterine antispasmodic. An aqueous infusion of the bark from roots and stems was most often used in folk medicine.Cometa 2009
The bioflavonoid amentoflavoneHörhammer 1966 and the coumarin scopoletinJarboe 1967 have been isolated from black haw root bark. Four iridoid glucosides isolated from the ethanol and butanol fraction of a methanol extract were noted to have a Valeriana-type skeleton and were found to contribute to the spasmolytic effects on animal jejunum and trachea in vitro. The less polar 2ʹ-O-acetyldihydropenstemide and 2ʹ-O-trans-p-coumaroyldihydropenstemide were obtained from the ethanol fraction and exhibited higher potency than 2ʹ-O-acetylpatrinoside and patrinoside from the butanol fraction.Cometa 2009 Other constituents identified include beta-sitosterol, heptacosane, aesculetin, amyrin, arbutin, esculetin, and methyl-2,3-dibutyl hemimellitate. Oxalic, capronic, formic, malic, citric, and myristic acids, as well as linoleic, oleanolic, oleic, palmitic, ursolic, and valerianic acids have also been described.Duke 1992, Khan 2009
Uses and Pharmacology
In vitro data
Properties associated with ethnobotanical use of V. prunifolium were investigated in vitro, specifically its spasmolytic effect on smooth muscle. The spontaneous contraction of rabbit jejunum was inhibited in a concentration-dependent manner by cumulative concentrations of V. prunifolium methanol extract, its ethanol and butanol fractions, and all 4 isolated iridoid glucosides in a similar but less potent manner than the beta-adrenergic agonist isoprenaline. Complete inhibition of spontaneous contraction was achieved with the highest concentrations, an effect that was reversed when the tissue was washed. The adrenergic antagonist propranolol antagonized the effect of all V. prunifolium components on the jejunum. Additionally, the same effects were observed on guinea pig trachea precontracted with carbachol. However, washing the tissue did not reverse the relaxant effects imparted by the extracts. The most potent relaxation effects were observed with the ethanol fraction, followed by the butanol fraction, the methanol extract, the less polar iridoid 1 and iridoid 2, then finally the more polar iridoid 3 and iridoid 4. These data suggest the iridoids contribute to the spasmolytic effect of V. prunifolium and that the effect is mediated through the beta-adrenergic system.Cometa 2009
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of black haw as an antispasmodic or in other conditions.
Animal and in vitro data
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of black haw in dysmenorrhea or other conditions.
There is no recent clinical evidence to provide dosing recommendations for black haw.
Consultation with a medicinal herbalist or other licensed practitioner experienced in the use of black haw is recommended.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
Black haw has historically been used to prevent abortion and miscarriageBrinker 1998, Wilson 1886 Consultation with a medicinal herbalist or other licensed practitioner experienced in the use of black haw is recommended.
None well documented.
Black haw appears to be safe, but studies evaluating safety have not been performed.
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