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The bark of Black Haw, known as Cramp Bark, is employed in herbal medicine. The medicinal part is the bark of the trunk and the root. The fruit of the Black Haw is a shiny, black, juicy berry.
Other names: Stag bush, Snowball tree, Cramp bark, Rose elder, red elder
Note: Berries are dark blue and ovoid in shape and borne in clusters. The plant contains a close chemical relative to aspirin called salicin.
Black Haw as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
Black Haw, sometimes combined with False Unicorn Root and Goldenseal, has been used to help prevent miscarriage. A tincture of the root bark (1 ml doses every 20 minutes for cramps) has been used to help decrease bleeding and pain after childbirth.
Internally Black Haw has been used to treat menstrual pain (decoction of root bark, sometimes combined with Mugwort).
Black Haw has also traditionally been used to treat bronchitis, asthma, and other lung problems.
Black Haw has been used to treat nervous complaints and debility and used with success in cramps and spasms of all kinds, in convulsions, fits and lockjaw, and also in palpitation, heart disease and rheumatism. The decoction (1/2 ounce to a pint of water) is given in tablespoon doses.
Blackhaw and Fertility
It was once believed that black haw boosted fertility and would thereby increase a slave woman’s ability to bear more children. Many Southern slave owners coerced their female slaves to eat the black haw berries in the hope they 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 King’s American Dispensatory.
“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.”
Folk practitioners have used black haw to prevent miscarriage, help decrease bleeding after childbirth, and to treat bronchitis, asthma, and other lung problems.
Decoction and Tincture
Dosages for the herbal decoction can be a cup of the decoction, taken 3 times daily during the treatment period. The decoction can be prepared by boiling two teaspoonfuls of the dried black haw bark in a cup of water; the water must be brought to a gentle boil and then allowed to simmer for ten minutes before being cooled and strained. The black haw herb is also used to prepare an herbal tincture. Dosage of the tincture can be a single dose of 5 to 10 ml of the tincture taken three times daily during the treatment period.
Culinary Uses of Black Haw
Although edible, the berries of black haw are too bitter to be palatable eaten fresh off the trees. When they are crushed, they smell somewhat disagreeable, though birds appreciate them and in Siberia the berries used to be, and probably still are, fermented with flour and a spirit distilled from them. They have been used in Norway and Sweden to flavor a paste of honey and flour.
- Leaves were once used in the southern United States like tea and the Meskwaki indians ate the fruit.
- In Canada, they are used as a substitute for cranberries and are much used for making a piquant jelly, their sourness gaining them the name of High Bush Cranberry, though the tree is not at all related to the true Cranberry.
No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.
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