Highbush Cranberry or Crampbark, Viburnum trilobum

Family: Caprifoliaceae, the Honeysuckle Family

Description: Native large shrub up to 4m tall. White sterile flowers surrounding small fertile flowers, leaves oppositely arranged, 3-lobed, coarsely toothed, fruit a shiny drupe

Abundance: Occasional on Mt. Desert Island

Habitat: Wet areas

Plant Parts Used: Fruit, bark

Food: Tea, jellies, sauces

Medicine: Vitamin C and K, menstrual cramps, labor pains, urinary tract infections, muscle spasms

Despite its name, highbush cranberry is not actually related to true cranberries, which are in the blueberry family, Ericaceae. This plant is famous for being a woman’s plant, as are unrelated cranberries. The fruit has a similar flavor and medicinal qualities to true cranberries, which is why it was given its common name. The dried and powdered bark can be taken internally for treating urinary tract infections. Highbush cranberry is also good for easing menstrual cramps and labor pains. To treat uterine prolapse, the Iroquois would take an infusion of the roots and the Chippewa would take a decoction of branches. The Chippewa would take this same concoction for preventing hemorrhaging after childbirth. Deb scrapes the bark from branches she collects in March and April and uses a tincture of the fresh bark to treat menstrual cramps and adds it to a formula for treating muscle spasms that come as a result of broken bones.

Oddly enough, mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), and large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) can be used very similarly to highbush (non)cranberry. The fruit of these true cranberries can be used raw or in cooking; drinking the juice is popularly known as a home remedy for urinary tract infections.

Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.


  • Brooks, John. Personal Interview. 28 Nov. 2010.
  • Chilton, Patti. Telephone interview. 31 Oct. 2010.
  • Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
  • Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
  • Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Medicinal Plants: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Portland, Or.: Timber, 2009. Print.
  • Reitze, Raymond and Nancy. Personal interview. 8, 15 Oct. 2010.
  • Soule, Deb. Personal interview. 4 Feb. 2011.
  • Szwed, Sue. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2010.
My grandfather picking highbush cranberries in 2011, photo courtesy of my aunt Wanda Garland
My grandfather picking highbush cranberries in 2011, photo courtesy of my aunt Wanda Garland