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Viburnum prunifolium


Viburnum prunifolium


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Black haw, viburnum


Viburnum prunifolium or Stagbush is from the Adoxaceae family and is related to honeysuckle. In addition to its use for colorful foliage in gardens, it has been used medicinally for female problems such as menstrual cramps and also as a uterine stimulant.

Ranging from 3-10m in height, the plant becomes larger and more tree-like the further south it is grown. As a tree, V. 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 9cm 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 is a deciduous bush or small tree native to the Eastern and Central North America. It is commonly found in or near hardwood forests and commonly found where oak trees are prevalent.

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.[2],[3],[4],[5]

Plant Part Used

Bark, Rhizome

Medicinal Uses




Menstrual Cramps




Most Frequently Reported Uses



Menstrual Cramps


Dosage Range 

Tea: 1-2 in 8 ounces of water steeped for 10 minutes

Most Common Dosage

Liquid bark extract- 8mL per day[1] 

Standardization Dosage

No standardization known.




Early efforts to find evidence to support the traditional use of V. prunifolium as a uterine relaxant proved unsuccessful in various laboratory animal models.[6] 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. [5],[7],[8] 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.[9]

V. prunifolium constituents have also been examined and found to demonstrate some anti-oxidant activity.[10]

Native American tribes used V. prunifolium as a digestive aid for stomach aches[5] but there are no studies available to support this use.


At this time, there are no clinical studies available to support the anecdotal use of this herb.

While this herb has traditional use as a uterine relaxant, there is no literature available to confirm safe dosage levels.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Based on implied pharmacology from traditional use, this herb should not be taken with oral contraceptives.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

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


Those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or nursing, should not use V. prunifolium.

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1) Native American Herbs


  1. Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Inc; 2000.
  2. 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.
  3. Tomassini L, Cometa FM, Foddai S, Nicoletti M.Iridoid Glucosides from Viburnum prunifolium. Planta Med. Mar 1999;65(2):195.
  4. Thomson Healthcare.  PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc; 2007.
  5. Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health. New York: Wiley-Interscience Publications;1977:20&276
  6. 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.
  7. Evans WE, Harne WG, Krantz JC. A uterine principle from Viburnum prunifolium. J Pharmacol. 1942;75:174-177.
  8. Grote IW, Woods M. Studies on Viburnum III. The uterine sedative action of various fractions. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1947;36:191-192.
  9. 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. 22 Jun 2009;123(2):201-207.
  10. 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. 27 Mar 2009.

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