Indian uses of this native tree are not we documented, but one source mentions that they employed a decoction, or extract, from the boiled bark to help support symptoms of bacterial infections. Black haw's service as an ...
Indian uses of this native tree are not we documented, but one source mentions that they employed a decoction, or extract, from the boiled bark to help support symptoms of bacterial infections. Black haw's service as an early home supplement, by contrast, is well recorded.
Although the plant was used in the early 1800's, the first published mention of it appeared in 1857, in the Family Physician, by Dr. John King, who described it as a "uterine tonic". Doctors largely prescribed a decoction of the bark to help avoid miscarriage or threatened abortion. Black haw was also used for the support of painful menstruation and the afterpains of childbirth. As a result of growing demand and repeated articles in scientific journals, black haw bark gained a place in the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1882 and was listed there until 1926.
An extract of boiled black haw bark has traditionally been employed as a uterine tonic (a substance that aids in childbirth by stimulating the muscles of the womb) and as a medicine to help avoid abortion or miscarriage. Research indicates that a bark decoction probably acts as a uterine sedative (an agent that relaxes uterine muscles and hence alleviates menstrual cramps), but they doubt it can reduce abortion or miscarriage.
General Herb Information
In early fall hikers often pause to enjoy the sweet fruits of the black haw tree. The Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) extolled their virtues, writing: "What is sweeter, after all, than black haws, in early fall?"
Habitat: Rocky hillsides, thickets, woods, shores, borders of streams.
Range: Connecticut to Michigan, south to Florida and Texas.
Identification: A shrub or tree growing up to 30 feet tall. The gray- to reddish-brown bark is rough and cracked into small plates on older trees. Heavily veined, finely toothed leaves are elliptical and grow in opposite pairs. Tiny white flowers (April-May) in round-topped clusters are followed by fruits that turn bluish black when they are ripe.
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