My little guy has come down with a cold which is accompanied by an irritable cough which was keeping him awake at night. When he first started getting sick I figured I had better go ahead and start making preparations for the cough. It just so happens that I have wild cherry trees (Prunus serotina ) all over my property which makes it really handy for me when making medicine. I just love strolling out into the yard for medicine….how cool is that.
Wild Cherry bark is a wonderful simple cough remedy which is primarily indicated for irritable coughs which are keeping you up at night or creating a lot of tension. Wild cherry bark is a relaxing expectorant and demulcent (soothes irritated tissues) which makes it rather versatile when combined with other herbs. There are numerous other herbs that can be added to the wild cherry depending on the type of cough you are dealing with. For example, if the cough is dry you can add Marshmallow, Slippery Elm or Licorice root. Antimicrobials can be added if you suspect infection
I have always prepared the bark as a cold water inf usion as the properties of the plant are said to be destroyed by heat. However, I do know of a number of folks who prepare the bark as a decoction, simmering it on low heat, and seem to have success with this method as well. Here is a quote by William Cook in the Physiomedical Dispensatory of 1869 who writes:
“Cold water, warm water, and diluted alcohol, extract its virtues readily; but its better qualities are volatile, and are readily dissipated by heat.”
I usually harvest the bark in the fall, but I’d say anytime of the year would be appropriate if you need it for medicine. The aroma is a good indicator of it’s potency as it will smell like almond extract when it makes for good medicine. I usually cut off small branches with new bark so as to not harm the tree. The bark should peel quite easily when using a sharp knife. The peel also includes the inner bark so this is the part I use. There are a lot of resources out there that say the bark should be dried before preparing, but I have used it fresh with no problems. If you don’t feel comfortable using it fresh you can always dry some and use it that way. However, I’ve only ever had to use it in small amounts. If you have to use large doses for an extended period of time because you are not getting results than this is probably not the correct remedy. I peel of the bark, place it in a pot or jar, completely cover it with cold water and allow that to sit for anywhere from 4-12 hours. I find that this amount of time is adequate for extraction.
After waiting the appropriate amount of time I strain off the bark and I’m left with a wonderfully aromatic infusion which has turned a creamy yellow color. I then mix the wild cherry infusion with half that amount of honey and several tablespoons of pure black cherry extract . It is not necessary to add the black cherry extract, but it really does enhance the flavor and probably adds additional nutrients and antioxidants to the mixture. Keep the mixture in the refrigerator for preservation.
I had some of the infusion left over so I will pour that into an ice tray and freeze this so that when I need a quick infusion I can just thaw out a few cubes. I’m also going to be making a Wild Cherry elixir and tincture, but will save those recipes for another time.
I don’t want to be remiss by not mentioning that the leaves should not be used when wilted or rotten as they are said to be toxic. I would also not use Wild Cherry for an extended period of time or in large doses such as a daily tea.
And finally, although Wild Cherry has been pigeon holed as a cough remedy it a remarkable plant indicated for a variety of conditions where there is heat, irritation, agitation and restlessness. However, I will save that detailed discussion for some other time.
This post was shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday at Mind Body and Sole.