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Viburnum prunifolium


Viburnum prunifolium


No documentation

Vernacular Name

American Sloe, Black Haw, Blackhaw Viburnum, Stagbush, Sweet Viburnum.


As a tree, Viburnum prunifolium is crooked and stout with branches that spread wide. The irregular bark is reddish-brown when new, turning grayish-brown with age. The thin green twigs bear finely serrated, elliptical leaves. The rich green leaves are glabrous and pubescent on top and can grow up to 9 cm in length and 6cm in width. The inflorescence consists of cymes which grow at the apex of the stem. The white flower clusters bloom between April and very early June, typically. The sweet, edible fruit borne of V. prunifolium are pink at a young age and ripen to a blue-black color.

Origin / Habitat

V. prunifolium, or Black Haw, is a deciduous bush or small tree native to the Eastern and Central North America. Ranging from 3-10 m in height, the plant becomes larger and more tree-like the further south it is grown.

Chemical Constituents

Iridoid glucosides, 1-methyl 2,3-dibutyl hemimellitate, Coumarin glycosides, Amentoflavon, Oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, scopoletin, aesculetin, scoplin, chlorogenic acid, isochlorogenic acid, salicylic acid, salicin, Tannins.(3),(4),(5),(6)

Plant Part Used

Bark and Root.(1)

Traditional Use

Perhaps the most common and important usage of V. prunifolium is its role in promoting healthy and safe pregnancies. The root bark has been used by several tribes, including the Delaware and Micmac tribes, to strengthen the reproductive organs.(7) V. prunifolium was used by some tribes as a treatment during pregnancy to bring the fetus to full term and was reported to reduce the risk of miscarriage dramatically.(8) In addition to promoting safe gestations, V. prunifolium has been used as a uterine relaxant, relieving many of the painful symptoms associated with menstruation.(2)

Additionally, the Cherokee found alternative uses for V. prunifolium. As a diaphoretic, a root infusion has been used to reduce fever and induce perspiration. The Cherokee also use the plant to treat smallpox and as a mouthwash to relieve the pain of a sore tongue.(7)


The dosages vary from tribe to tribe and for the specific conditions which are treated. Infusions, decoctions and extracts are commonly used with a total daily dosage of the bark of 4 grams.

Tea – 1.2 g. in 8 ounces of water steeped for 10 minutes.

Liquid bark extract - 8 ml per day.(2)



Early efforts to find evidence to support the traditional use of V. prunifolium as a uterine relaxant proved unsuccessful in various laboratory animal models.(9) These early studies were conducted at the turn of the 20th century and it is unknown as to the quality of the materials used. Several decades later, scientists were able to demonstrate uterine sedative and antispasmodic action in laboratory animal models.(6),(10),(11)  More current research supports these findings of the relaxant effects identifying the iridoids as the chemical constituent most likely to be responsible for the action.(12)

V. prunifolium constituents have also been examined and found to demonstrate some anti-oxidant activity.(13)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used in combination with oral contraceptives as the pharmacology of this herb is essentially unknown.


V. prunifolium should not be used by those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or nursing. While this herb has traditional use as a uterine relaxant, there is no literature available to confirm safe dosage levels.(8)

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Western Herbs


    1. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: CRC Press; 1993.
    2. Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Inc; 2000.
    3. Jarboe CH, Zirvi KA, Schmidt CM, McLafferty FW, Haddon WF. 1-methyl 2,3-dibutyl hemimellitate. A novel component of Viburnum prunifolium. J Org Chem. Dec. 1969;34(12): 4202-4203.
    4. Tomassini L, Cometa FM, Foddai S, Nicoletti M. Iridoid Glucosides from Viburnum prunifolium. Planta Med. Mar. 1999;65(2):195.
    5. Thomson Healthcare.  PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc; 2007.
    6. Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health. Wiley-Interscience Publications; 1977:20.
    7. Moerman DE. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.
    8. Chichoke A. Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam; 2001.
    9. Pilcher D, Delzell WR, Burman GE. The action of various “female” remedies on the excised uterus of the guinea-pig. JAMA. 1916;47:490-492.
    10. Evans WE, Harne WG, Krantz JC. A uterine principle from Viburnum prunifolium. J Pharmacol. 1942;75:174-177.
    11. Grote IW, Woods M. Studies on Viburnum III. The uterine sedative action of various fractions. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1947;36:191-192.
    12. 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. Jun. 22, 2009;123(2):201-207.
    13. Wang XY, Shi HM, Zhang L, Li XB. New Chalcone Glycoside, a New Tetrahydrofuranoid Lignan, and Antioxidative Constituents from the Stems and Leaves of Viburnum propinquum. Planta Med. Sep. 2009;75(11):1262-1265.

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