The Benefits of Viburnum (Cramp Bark)

viburnum opulus (cramp bark)
Viburnum opulus (cramp bark). Francois De Heel/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Viburnum opulus is a plant long used in herbal medicine. Also known as cramp bark, extract of the bark of viburnum is available in dietary supplement form. In addition, the berries of the viburnum plant are sometimes consumed as food.

Viburnum bark contains several compounds found to enhance health, including ellagic acid (a chemical with antioxidant benefits). The berries of the viburnum plant also contain a number of antioxidants, including vitamin C.

Uses for Viburnum

In alternative medicine, viburnum bark is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

In addition, viburnum bark is said to reduce fluid retention and improve eye health.

Benefits of Viburnum

In studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, scientists found that certain compounds present in viburnum bark may help suppress muscle spasms and reduce muscle tension. Although viburnum bark is commonly used for conditions involving muscle spasms and muscle tension (such as menstrual cramps and low back pain), there is a lack of more recent research on viburnum bark's effectiveness against such conditions.

While recent research on viburnum bark is lacking, there's some evidence that the fruit of the viburnum plant may offer certain health benefits.

For example, a preliminary study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health in 2012 found that the juice of viburnum fruit may help fight colon cancer.

For the study, scientists induced colon tumors in mice by injecting the animals with a carcinogen called 1,2-dimethylhydrazine. Compared to a DMH-injected control group given only drinking water, DMH-injected animals fed viburnum juice had a significantly lower rate of colon cancer.

Although the study's authors concluded that viburnum juice "may be useful for the prevention of colon cancer at the initiation stage," more research is needed before viburnum can be recommended for colon cancer prevention.

In addition, a 2006 study on rats (published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology) determined that antioxidants found in viburnum fruit may help protect against the gastrointestinal damage associated with ulcer development.


There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing viburnum's health effects, so it's unknown whether viburnum supplements are safe for long-term use. However, there's some concern that taking viburnum in combination with blood pressure medication or antibiotics may have harmful effects.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

 Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Alternatives to Viburnum

If you're seeking natural relief of a condition associated with muscle tension or muscle spasms, several remedies may serve as an alternative to viburnum.

For help in relieving low back pain, consider the use of capsaicin cream, white willow bark, and/or devil's claw.

To soothe menstrual cramps, remedies like raspberry leaf tea and ginger may be beneficial. 

In addition, many mind-body therapies may help curb chronic pain. These therapies include guided imagery, massage, acupuncture, and yoga.

Where to Find It

Viburnum is sold in supplement form in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements. Additionally, viburnum supplements are widely available for purchase online.

Using Viburnum for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend viburnum as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.


Jarboe CH, Zirvi KA, Nicholson JA, Schmidt CM. "Scopoletin, an Antispasmodic Component of Viburnum opulus and prunifolium." J Med Chem. 1967 May 1;10(3):488-9. 

Kraujalytė V, Venskutonis PR, Pukalskas A, Cesonienė L, Daubaras R. "Antioxidant properties and polyphenolic compositions of fruits from different European cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus L.) genotypes." Food Chem. 2013 Dec 15;141(4):3695-702.

Nicholson JA, Darby TD, Jarboe CH. "Viopudial, a hypotensive and smooth muscle antispasmodic from Viburnum opulus." Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1972 Jun;140(2):457-61.

Rop O, Reznicek V, Valsikova M, Jurikova T, Mlcek J, Kramarova D. "Antioxidant properties of European cranberrybush fruit (Viburnum opulus var. edule)." Molecules. 2010 Jun 23;15(6):4467-77.

Turek S, Cisowski W. "Free and chemically bonded phenolic acids in barks of Viburnum opulus L. and Sambucus nigra L." Acta Pol Pharm. 2007 Jul-Aug;64(4):377-83.

Ulger H, Ertekin T, Karaca O, Canoz O, Nisari M, Unur E, Elmali F. "Influence of gilaburu (Viburnum opulus) juice on 1,2-dimethylhydrazine (DMH)-induced colon cancer." Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Apr 30.

Zayachkivska OS, Gzhegotsky MR, Terletska OI, Lutsyk DA, Yaschenko AM, Dzhura OR. "Influence of Viburnum opulus proanthocyanidins on stress-induced gastrointestinal mucosal damage." J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006 Nov;57 Suppl 5:155-67.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading