This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
MEDICINAL PART. The bark.
Description. -- It is a nearly smooth and upright shrub, or small tree, usually from five to twelve feet in height, with several stems from the same root branched above; the leaves are three-lobed, three-veined, broadly-wedged shape, and crenately toothed on the side. The flowers are white, or reddish-white; the fruit ovoid, red, very acid, ripens late, and remains upon the bush after the leaves have fallen. It resembles the common cranberry, and is sometimes substituted for it.
History. -- It is indigenous to the northern part of the United States and Canada, being a handsome shrub, growing in low rich lands, woods, and borders of fields, flowering in June, and presenting at this time a very showy appearance. The flowers are succeeded by red and very acid berries, resembling low cranberries, and which remain through the winter. The bark is the officinal part, as met within drug-stores. It is frequently put up by Shakers, when it is somewhat flattened from pressure. It has no smell, but has a peculiar, not unpleasant, bitterish, and astringent taste. It yields its properties to water, or diluted alcohol. Viburnine is its active principle.
Properties and Uses. -- It is a powerful antispasmodic, and hence generally known among American practitioners as Cramp Bark. It is very effective in cramps and spasms of all kinds, as asthma, hysteria, cramps of females during pregnancy, preventing the attacks entirely if used daily for the last two or three months of gestation.
The following forms an excellent preparation for the relief of spasmodic attacks, viz.: take of Cramp bark, two ounces; scull-cap, skunk cabbage, of each one ounce; cloves, half an ounce; capsicum, two drachms. Have all in powder, coarsely bruised, and add to them two quarts of sherry or native wine. Dose of this, half a wineglassful two or three times a day.
It may here be remarked that a poultice of the fruit of the Low Cranberry is very efficacious in indolent and malignant ulcers, malignant scarlet fever, applied to the throat; in erysipelas, and other similar diseases. Probably the High Cranberry will effect the same result.
Dose. -- Of the decoction, or vinous tincture, one glassful two or three times a day.