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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Black Choke Cherry, Choke Cherry, Rum Cherry, Virginia Prune, Wild Cherry
(Prunus serotina)

All members of the Prunus genus contain some degree of amygdalin which hydrolizes in water to hydrocyanic acid.
The wilted leaves have been known to poison livestock.

CONTAINS: Starch, resin, tannin, gallic acid, lignin, salts of calcium, potassium, and iron, hydrocyanic glycoside and isoamygdaline.

A hardwood tree native to North America found growing from Nova Scotia southward to Florida and westward to Texas and South Dakota which attains a height of from 50 to 80 feet with fine-grained, dense wood that has been used in cabinet and furniture making. Trunk is straight; bark is rough, black and separates easily from the trunk; young branches are smooth and reddish with horizontal striping; leaves are obovate, acuminate with incurved short teeth, being thick, smooth and glossy on the upper surface from 3 to 5 inches in length and about 2 inches in width; petioles have 2 pair of reddish glands; flowers are white in erect, long, terminal racemes with an occasional single flower in the axils of the leaves; fruit appears in August to September as a pea-sized, globular drupe of purple-black color and possessed of a bitterish, astringent taste that puckers the mouth.
First listed in the USP in 1820 as a sedative and antitussive.

PROPAGATION: By seed in autumn; by softwood cuttings in summer.
NEEDS: Well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in sun. Prune in summer to restrict growth and encourage fruiting. Susceptible to aphids, catapillars, peach leaf curl, bacterial canker, chlorosis, witch's broom, and root rot.
HARVEST: The outside layer of the bark is removed in fall and the green, inner layer stripped off and carefully dried for infusions, liquid extracts, powders, syrups, and tinctures. Must be collected fresh each year as old bark loses its medicinal properties.
PART USED: Inner bark, root bark.
SOLVENT: Water, alcohol
CHERRY STALKS (P. avium): European species whose fruit stalks are used as an astringent and tonic for bronchial problems, anemia, and bowel looseness; an infusion or decoction is used (1/2 oz. stalks to 1 pint water).


Astringent, bitter, warming, antitussive, pectoral, carminative, increases perspiration rate, sedative, antibacterial, antiviral; affects lungs and spleen.
Has been used for coughs of all types including whooping cough and nervous cough; also, asthma, bronchitis, nervous indigestion, poor digestion, gastritis, ulcers, colitis, diarrhea, dysentary, and debility during convalescence.
In oriental medicine it is combined with licorice, ginseng, cyperus, anise, and tangerine peel in rice wine and left to macerate for 6 months before straining; this tincture is taken in teaspoon full doses before meals as a disgestive aid.
Wild Cherry Cough Syrup is an old-time folk remedy. It's effectiveness as a cough remedy has been attributed to a sedative action on the respiratory nerves.
Another old remedy was to half fill a 1 quart bottle with bark, then fill the bottle with brandy or whisky and allow to steep for 1 week with daily shaking; it was then strained; 1 tbsp was taken before meals as a digestive aid.
Was used by the Cherokee to ease labor pains (due to mildly sedative properties).
A decoction of the inner bark was used by some Native Americans as an enema for hemorrhoids. One Native American tribe allowed the juice of the ripe berries to ferment for 1 year and used it to treat dysentary.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
NOTE = the bark is never boiled as boiling destroys the active principle.
SYRUP, BP & USP = 1 to 4 tsp
TINCTURE, BP = 1/2 to 1 tsp, OR, 10 to 15 drops taken in water.
INFUSION = 1 tsp bark to 1 cup boiling water; 1 or 2 cups taken cold, a mouthful at a time during the day.
FLUID EXTRACT = 1/2 to 1 tsp

©2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH