Herb: Guelder Rose

Latin name: Viburnum opulus

Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Medicinal use of Guelder Rose:

Guelder rose is a powerful antispasmodic and is much used in the treatment of asthma, cramps and other conditions such as colic or painful menstruation. It is also used as a sedative remedy for nervous conditions. The bark is antispasmodic, astringent and sedative. The bark contains "scopoletin", a coumarin that has a sedative affect on the uterus. A tea is used internally to relieve all types of spasms, including menstrual cramps, spasms after childbirth and threatened miscarriage. It is also used in the treatment of nervous complaints and debility. The bark is harvested in the autumn before the leaves change colour, or in the spring before the leaf buds open. It is dried for later use. The leaves and fruits are antiscorbutic, emetic and laxative. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh bark. It is used in the treatment of menstrual pain and spasms after childbirth.

Description of the plant:


5 m
(16 feet)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Hedges, scrub and woodland, usually on damp soils.

Edible parts of Guelder Rose:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is up to 8.5mm in diameter but with a large seed. A sour taste, it is best cooked. The crushed fruit has an unpleasant smell. Used as a cranberry substitute in making, jellies, preserves etc. Some caution is advised, see notes on toxicity at top of the page.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the fruit. An ink can be made from the dried berries. Plants can be grown as a tall hedge, they are rather bare in winter though. The wood can be used to make skewers.

Propagation of Guelder Rose:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Germination can be slow, sometimes taking more than 18 months. If the seed is harvested "green" (when it has fully developed but before it has fully ripened) and sown immediately in a cold frame, it should germinate in the spring. Stored seed will require 2 months warm then 3 months cold stratification and can still take 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame or greenhouse. Plant out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of soft-wood, early summer in a frame. Pot up into individual pots once they start to root and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8 cm long with a heel if possible, July/August in a frame. Plant them into individual pots as soon as they start to root. These cuttings can be difficult to overwinter, it is best to keep them in a greenhouse or cold frame until the following spring before planting them out. Cuttings of mature wood, winter in a frame. They should root in early spring - pot them up when large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer if sufficient new growth is made, otherwise keep them in a cold frame for the next winter and then plant them out in the spring. Layering of current seasons growth in July/August. Takes 15 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Hedges, scrub and woodland, usually on damp soils.

Known hazards of Viburnum opulus:

Large quantities of the fruit can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. The fruit is of very low or zero toxicity, it only causes mild upsets when eaten unripe or in large quantities.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.