According to a study published in the "Journal of Medicinal Chemistry", the antispasmodic properties of Cramp Bark are due to the presence of the coumarin derivative, scopoletin. It also contains volatile oils that help to soothe and relax the uterine cramps so commonly associated with the menstrual cycle. The bark also contains methyl salicylate which is a weak acting precursor to the salicylic acid that is used in aspirin, but much less irritating to the gastric mucosa than over the counter medications, making it beneficial for pain too.
According to contemporary herbalists, Cramp Bark will not stop the symptoms of period pains by altering the body’s chemical pain signalling system (like analgesic drugs), instead it helps to treat the cause of the pain by releasing tension in the area the pain is coming from . For this reason it can be useful to use dose “little and often” until the cramping subsides. There is some anecdotal evidence that Cramp Bark can significantly improve menstrual migraines, possibly due to its ability to relax the muscles of the neck and upper back.
The astringent action of Cramp Bark also helps to slow down heavy menstrual bleeding and especially bleeding associated with the menopause.
The antispasmodic action of Cramp Bark benefits mothers who have just given birth by soothing post-partum contractions. This genius herb can reduce muscle tension without inhibiting muscle function, allowing to the contractions to continue with their important work. It also relieves after-birth cramping pains and can regulate heavy bleeding, preventing excessive blood loss.
The anti-spasmodic compounds in Cramp Bark work on all other types of cramp in the body too. These include; bronchial, gastrointestinal, genitourinary and skeletal muscle spasms. As a skeletal muscle relaxant, it is particularly effective for leg cramps.
Taking Cramp Bark in conjunction with magnesium is recommended by many herbalists. This is due to the symptoms of magnesium deficiency manifesting as cramps and muscle spasms, this combination can be especially useful to athletes.
Nervous System Support
It also restores sympathetic and parasympathetic balance in voluntary and involuntary muscle spasms of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic controls fight or flight, whilst the parasympathetic controls rest and digest – balance between these two systems is vital to overall vibrant health. Together they ensure that there are enough resources in the right place at the right time.
The relaxing action of Cramp Bark also allows for increased circulation and blood flow – muscles that are relaxed work more efficiently and improved blood flow aids in the removal of waste products from the body. It also has vaso-dilatory properties which widen the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily and exerting a positive effect on blood pressure.
Cramp Bark is also rich in valerenic acid, most popularly associated with the sedative herb Valerian. It was listed in the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) from 1894 – 1916 as an anti-spasmodic and sedative. Its mild sedative effect can be enhanced by combining with other hormone regulating, sedative herbs.
Folklore and history
Cramp Bark has many common names, the most famous being "Guelder Rose" in honour of the Dutch city of Gueldersland where formal cultivation of the plant originated. It was introduced into England with the name "Gueldres Rose" and was a highly popular ornamental plant.
European Cramp Bark is known in the Ukraine as "kalyna", where it is the national symbol and an important icon found in much of their traditional folk art.
The deeply relaxing nature of this herb make it useful as an aid in meditation. In folklore and magic it is associated with protection and female energy.
The very aptly named Cramp Bark herb does exactly what it says on the tin – and much more. Native to the temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere, Cramp Bark has been used by herbalists and medicine men/women to treat a whole host of maladies for many centuries.
The berries were consumed as a vitamin C rich food and the bark was especially popular amongst Native Americans who used it for cramps and pains throughout the body. The Penobscot Tribe of Maine also used it to treat gout and swollen glands, whilst the Iroquois specifically used the bark to treat a prolapsed uterus post-childbirth.
Cramp Bark Tincture
Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken as required, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Active Constituents of Cramp Bark include; Coumarins, catechin, epicatechin, bitters, arbutin, valeric acid, salicylates, tannins, p-coumaric, gallic, protocatechuic, homogentisic and syringic acids; and flavonoids like astragalin, paeonoside.
Do not use Cramp Bark if you have an aspirin sensitivity.
Not recommended for young children.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking prescription medications (especially blood thinning medications), please consult your healthcare practitioner before using Cramp Bark.
Do not exceed the recommended dose.