Prunus serotina

From ancient times the cherry has been associated with virginity, the red colored fruit with the enclosed seed symbolizing the uterus.

Wild CherryIn Danish folklore, a good crop of cherries was insured by having the first ripe fruit eaten by a woman shortly after her first child was born. Many myths used cherries as symbols of both education and concealment.

The tree is most abundant and grows to its full size in the south-western States. The root-bark is of most value, but that of the trunk and branches is also utilized. This bark must be freshly collected each season as its properties deteriorate greatly if kept longer than a year.

Wild Cherry as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Wild cherry has the odor of almonds, which almost disappears on drying, but is renewed by maceration. Its taste is aromatic, prussic, and bitter. It imparts its virtues to water or alcohol, boiling impairs its medicinal properties.

Wild cherry bark frequently was used in Southern Appalachian folk medicine as an ingredient in cough syrups (Cavender 2003). Folk practitioners used wild cherry to make a tea, also known as Cherokee tea, which was used to relieve pain during the early stages of labor. The tea, made from boiling the bark, had sedative properties.

Slaves used wild cherry in a variety of medical ways including as a blood tonic, for bad colds, and mixed with other herbs for medical ailments.

The bark is also about 1/2 percent hydrogen cyanide, just enough to stop coughing and to relax the bronchial tubes without having any other physiological effects.

Wild Cherry Bark is a very good expectorant. It is useful for all illnesses that have related lung congestion. The bark is boiled down into a wild cherry bark syrup, which is safe to use even for small children.

Modern Research

Modern research indicates that the plant does have sedative properties and could be effective as a cough sedative. The PDR for Herbal Medicines reported that wild cherry bark is an astringent, antitussive, and sedative (Fleming 2000).

Culinary Uses of Wild Cherry

Wild cherry is eaten plain, added to pies, jams, juice, liqueurs, wine and there’s even Wild Cherry Gummi Bears.


All stone fruits (cherries, apples, apricots, peaches, plums, pears) contain very low levels of hydrogen cyanide in their bark and pits. The concentration is low enough to be considered therapeutic, but don’t take the whole bottle all at once! Not recommended for small children, nursing mothers, pregnant women, or people with severe kidney or liver disease. Not recommended for long term use.

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