With centuries of traditional use as a uterine tonic and muscle relaxant, Black Haw has been found to contain the uterine relaxing compound, scopoletin. This active glycoside has been scientifically proven to exert an antispasmodic effect on the uterine muscle, which explains its effectiveness for menstrual cramps and afterbirth pains.
The bark of Black Haw is also used to alleviate heavy bleeding in both the menstrual cycle and menopause.
Black Haw contains another active constituent, salacin, (most commonly associated with White Willow Bark). It is from this compound that the aspirin was synthesised, and in its natural form it has a powerful analgesic effect.
Due to its additional anti-spasmodic effect, couple with the analgesic action, Black Haw can be particularly useful for tension headaches or any kind of pain where tension or cramping is involved. Colic, gastric pain and lower back pain all respond well to this herb.
Black Haw is also considered one of the best herbs for night-time leg cramps – drinking a cup of Black Haw Root Tea before bed will not only relax the body for a good night’s sleep, it can help to prevent painful night cramps.
The relaxant and sedative actions of Black Haw can help to reduce blood pressure by relaxing the peripheral blood vessels. Also rich in phytosterols, this root can help to slow down a racing heart and ease heart palpitations.
When the blood vessels are relaxed, blood can circulate more freely, carrying oxygen to the heart and other important bodily organs.
Black Haw is also effective as a stimulant diuretic. Diuretics can help to stimulate the kidneys, allowing urine to be passed more frequently and in greater quantity - this helps to cleanse the kidneys and can prevent water retention.
Folklore and history
In 1866 Dr E W Jenks of Detroit described Black Haw as particularly valuable in preventing abortion and miscarriage. The herb was thought to tone up the system, preventing or removing those harassing nervous symptoms that so often torment and wear out the pregnant women.
Unfortunately there is a darker side to the use of Black Haw, it was commonly used by slave owners to prevent abortion. Slaves were a valuable asset, and their owner also owned their offspring, so ensuring that female slaves gave birth was of paramount importance. In defiance, some slave women would attempt to use cotton seeds to cause a miscarriage. The slaveowners would therefore force pregnant slaves to drink an infusion of Black Haw to prevent that.
Black Haw was used extensively by the Native Americans, its berries as a food source and its root bark in many types of herbal remedies. They used a decoction of Black Haw to treat gynecological conditions, including menstrual cramps, aiding recovery after childbirth, and in treating venereal diseases.
It was enthusiastically embraced by the early colonists to the United States, where its use was well documented. It was used as a uterine tonic, again to relieve menstrual cramps and afterbirth pains, and it was also taken to prevent miscarriage.
As a result of growing demand and repeated articles in medical and pharmaceutical journals, the Black Haw Bark gained a place in the published pharmacopoeia in 1882 and was listed there until 1926.
Black Haw Root Tea
Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water and simmer for 3-10 minutes depending on taste. Then strain and serve - up to 3 cups per day.
Black Haw Root Tincture
Can be added to water or fruit juice and taken when required.
Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
The bark of the branches and roots of the plant contain the pharmacologically active ingredients of Black Haw. These components include; salicyclic acid, salicin, oxalic acid, tannins, and scopoletin.
Due to the salacin content, Black Haw should not be used by people who are allergic or have a sensitivity to aspirin.
Black Haw should be used with caution in people with kidney stones as it contains oxalic acid.
Please consult your healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on prescription medication before using Black Haw.