Posts Tagged ‘dry cough’

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.


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I found myself under the weather about a month ago intially dealing with a sore throat and then having it move into my chest presenting with an irritable dry cough.  Depsite the fact that I try to keep my immune system strong there are occassions when even herbalists become their own patients.

When I encounter a dry and irritable cough I know that its time to reach for a demulcent.  A demulcent helps to soothe irritated tissue and moisten the mucus membranes.   A demulcent is indicated when there is a dry irritable cough with little expectoration.  I was also looking for an herbal expectorant.  Expectorants  increase the flow of mucus and help expel thick excess mucus from the lungs.   The last thing I want to do is suppress a cough and have it move into a more severe condition. 

I love using remedies that are inexpensive and readily available.  A wonderful demulcent that quite a few people might already have at the house are flaxseeds.  Flaxseeds not only fit the bill as a wonderful demulcent, but they are also an expectorant.  So for my cough I prepared myself a tea using 2 tbsp of flaxseed to one cup of water.  I boiled the water and poured it over the flax and let it sit for about 10-15 mins or until it got real slimy and thick.  I then strained off the seeds and for an extra boost I added some elderberry syrup.  The elderberry syrup added a nice flavor as well as an immune boost.  If you don’t have elderberry syrup around you can add some fresh lemon juice and honey.  I took a tablespoon of the mixture as often as I felt like I needed.  It really helped with both the sore throat and the irritable cough.  By helping to relax and soothe the underlying reflex without completely suppressing the cough it allowed my body to get some rest from the irritation of the cough.

Demulcents help to lubricate or moisten all mucus membranes to include those of the bowels.  Because of their moistening effect Flaxseeds can also be a wonderful aid for constipation and Irritable bowel conditions.    Some other benefits of Flaxseeds is that they are high in the good Omega-3 fatty acids, high in fiber and manganese.  Flaxseeds are also a good source of magnesium as well as antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals.  

Besides making them into a tea Flaxseeds can be ground up and sprinkled on food or used when cooking muffins or breads.  Flax seeds can be found at most grocery stores or health foods stores and are an inexpensive and a beneficial addition to any medicine/kitchen cabinet.

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A number of people around me have had some sort of crud which starts in the upper respiratory system and moves down into the lungs developing into a cough. Because of the severity of the coughs and congestion they have experienced I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about some of the herbs that are used for the respiratory system.

Pleurisy Root (Asclepia tuberosa) – Is considered a lung tonic which has been traditionally used for conditions such as bronchitis, pleurisy, fevers, dry cough, pneumonia and asthma. Pleurisy root is considered and expectorant and helps to break up phlegm and reduces inflammation.

Marshmallow Root (Althea officinalis)- Traditionally used for dry irritable coughs, pleurisy, bronchial asthma, whooping-cough and congestion.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) – Mullein was traditionally smoked as an aid in certain respiratory conditions. Indicated for use when there is a dry irritable cough as it will help to moisten and lubricate. May also be beneficial for conditions including asthma, pleurisy, croup, emphysema and bronchitis which often reoccurs.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – Coltsfoot is also an herb that has been traditionally smoked to help reduce respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, general congestion and spastic coughs.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – This is an herb which is commonly found in most peoples spice cabinets. Thyme is a great herb to have around the house. Not only does it have antiseptic properties, but Thyme is also an antispasmodic and an expectorant making it beneficial for breaking up mucous and clearing congestion.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) – Elecampane is indicated for asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, pneumonia and helps to increase expectoration as opposed to suppressing the cough.

There are a number of other fabulous herbs for the respiratory system which have not been covered here. However, being familiar with some of the herbs listed here that can benefit your family and help relieve their respiratory issues is indispensable.

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