Herb: Oregon Crab

Latin name: Malus fusca

Synonyms: Malus rivularis

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Oregon Crab:

Oregon crab was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. In particular, it gained a reputation with some tribes as a heal-all, especially useful for treating any of the internal organs. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The trunk, bark and inner bark are antirheumatic, astringent, blood purifier, cardiac, diuretic, laxative and tonic. A decoction has been used in the treatment of coughs, stomach ulcers, dysentery, diarrhoea, rheumatism and consumption. The shredded bark has been used to treat blood spitting. A poultice of the chewed bark has been applied to wounds. An infusion of the bark is used as an eyewash. a decoction of the bark is used as a wash on cuts, eczema and other skin problems. An infusion of the bark, combined with wild cherry bark (Prunus sp.) has been used as a cure-all tonic. The juice scraped from the peeled trunk has been used as an eye medicine. The soaked leaves have been chewed in the treatment of lung problems.

Description of the plant:


12 m
(39 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Moist woods, stream banks, swamps and bogs in deep rich soils, usually occurring in dense pure thickets.

Edible parts of Oregon Crab:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Up to 2cm in diameter. An agreeable sub-acid taste, it can be eaten out of hand or made into jellies, preserves etc. The fruit can be left on the tree until there have been some autumn frosts, this will soften the fruit and make it somewhat less acid. The fruit is rich in pectin so it can be added to pectin-low fruits when making jams or jellies. Pectin is also said to protect the body against radiation.

Other uses of the herb:

The fruit is a source of pectin. Wood - hard, close grained, durable. Used for mallets, tool handles and bearings.

Propagation of Oregon Crab:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It usually germinates in late winter. Stored seed requires stratification for 3 months at 1C and should be sown in a cold frame as soon as it is received. It might not germinate for 12 months or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. If given a rich compost they usually grow away quickly and can be large enough to plant out in late summer, though consider giving them some protection from the cold in their first winter. Otherwise, keep them in pots in a cold frame and plant them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of mature wood, November in a frame.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist woods, stream banks, swamps and bogs in deep rich soils, usually occurring in dense pure thickets.

Known hazards of Malus fusca:

All members of this genus contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide in their seeds and possibly also in their leaves, but not in their fruits. Hydrogen cyanide is the substance that gives almonds their characteristic taste but it should only be consumed in very small quantities. Apple seeds do not normally contain very high quantities of hydrogen cyanide but, even so, should not be consumed in very large quantities. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.