Botanical Name: Viburnum opulus

Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle family)

Common Names: Guelder Rose, Cramp Bark, Snowball Tree, High Cranberry, Red Elder, May Rose, Silver Bells, Whitsun Bosses, Black Haw

Identification:  A large, deciduous shrub or small tree which is very commonly found at roadsides or in hedgerows in the UK. It has smooth and hairless greyish twigs, toothed leaves which are almost Maple like. Its flowers are white and in very conspicuous flattopped clusters. In the autumn it produces red berries and the leaves turn a lovely red as well. Less common in Northern Scotland.

Parts Used: Bark, stem bark, harvested while the tree is still in leaf

Qualities: Cooling & Drying

Medicinal Actions & Uses:  Anti-spasmodic, hypotensive, nervine, peripheral vasodilator, sedative, carminative, astringent, anodyne 

  • Crampbark is one of our primary herbs for relaxing muscular tension and spasm. 
  • It is a specific herb to calm the uterine spasms which cause period pains,  and Rosemary Gladstar considers it a most useful herb for preventing miscarriage caused by anxiety
  • Crampbark is also useful in abdominal cramp & spasms, muscle tension, backache and tension headaches, as well as other conditions where tension is causing secondary problems
  • It is a hypotensive remedy, lowering blood pressure and benefiting circulation by improving blood flow around the body

History and Folklore:  The name Guelder comes from Gueldersland, a province in Holland where the tree was first cultivated. It was introduced into England with the name ‘Gueldres Rose.’

In Canada the berries of the Guelder Rose are used as a cranberry substitute and are often made into a tart jelly.

Active Constituents: Coumarins, catechin, epicatechin, bitters, arbutin, valeric acid, salicylates, tannins, resin

Contra-indications: Avoid with anti-coagulant drugs like Warfarin


Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal (2008) Hedgerow Medicine: Harvest and Make your Own Herbal Remedies

Anne McIntyre (2010) The Complete Herbal Tutor

David Hoffman (2003) Medical Herbalism

Spring Tincture Blend Sale is now on! Use code SPRING20 for 20% off our 5 herbal tinctures until stocks last. Free postage on orders over £50
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