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Black Haw

Scientific Name(s): Viburnum prunifolium L.
Common Name(s): Black haw, Blackhaw, Blackhaw viburnum, Smooth blackhaw, Smooth blackhaw viburnum, Stagbush, Sweet-haw

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 27, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Ethnobotanical uses of black haw include treatment of female reproductive complaints and prevention of abortion and/or miscarriage due to its antispasmodic activity; it has also been used for its diuretic, sedative, and antiasthmatic properties. However, there are no clinical trials to support these uses.


There is no clinical evidence to provide dosing recommendations for black haw.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Black haw has historically been used to prevent abortion and miscarriage.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

No studies have been performed.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle)


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

Antispasmodic activity

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)


Animal and in vitro data

Relaxant activity in isolated uterine tissue has been demonstrated, possibly due to its scopoletin and amentoflavone constituents.(Evans 1942, Grote 1947, Jarboe 1966, Munch 1941)


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.

Adverse Reactions

Black haw appears to be safe, but studies evaluating safety have not been performed.


No data.

Index Terms

  • Viburnumprunifolium var. globosum Nash
  • Viburnum bushii Ashe
  • Viburnum pruniflorium var. bushii (Ahse) Palmer & Steyerm



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Brinker F. A comparative review of Eclectic female regulators. J Naturopathic Med. 1998;7:11-26.
Campbell WM. Note on Viburnum prunifolium in abortion. Br Med J. 1886;1(1313):391-392.20751476
Cometa MF, Parisi L, Palmery M, Meneguz A, Tomassini L. In vitro relaxant and spasmolytic effects of constituents from Viburnum prunifolium and HPLC quantification of the bioactive isolated iridoids. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;123(2):201-207.19429363
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Duke J. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Inc; 1992. Accessed 2016.
Evans WE, Harne WG, Krantz JC. A uterine principle from Viburnum prunifolium. J Pharmacol. 1942;75:174-177.
Grote IW, Woods M. Studies on Viburnum; the uterine sedative action of various fractions. J Am Pharm Assoc Am Pharm Assoc. 1947;36(6):191.20252795
Hörhammer L, Wagner H, Reinhardt H. Chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmaceutics of the components of Viburnum prunifolium and V. opulus. Botan Mag (Tokyo). 1966;79:510-525.
Jarboe CH, Schmidt CM, Nicholson JA, Zirvi KA. Uterine relaxant properties of Viburnum. Nature. 1966;212(5064):837.5988219
Jarboe CH, Zirvi KA, Nicholson JA, Schmidt CM. Scopoletin, an antispasmodic component of Viburnum opulus and V. prunifolium. J Med Chem. 1967;10:488-489.22185161
Khan I, Abourashed E. Leung’s Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2009.
Munch JC, Pratt HJ. Studies on Viburnum XI. bioassay methods. Pharm Arch. 1941;12:88-91.
Viburnum prunifolium L.USDA, NRCS. 2016 The PLANTS Database (, 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Wilson JH. Viburnum prunifolium, or black haw, in abortion and miscarriage. Br Med J. 1886;1(1318):640-641.20751515

Further information

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