You can find our December herb of the month, Wild Cherry bark (or Prunus serotina), in many popular herbal cough formulas. We partner with this tree during the darkest time of the year, when winter may bring seasonal discomforts to our respiratory systems.
Wild Cherry (also known as Black Cherry) belongs to the Rosaceae family, commonly known as the Rose family. It's specifically in the Rose sub-family Drupaceae.
Typical Rose family characteristics include serrated leaves, five separate sepals, five separate petals, and numerous stamens and styles. Like most Rose family trees, Wild Cherry shows off its beautiful white-pinkish aromatic blossoms in springtime. It can grow between 60-90 feet tall! The leaves are oval shaped with a slight serrated edge, and they vibrate yellow-gold to red in fall.
The Wild Cherry tree is native to American forests and is valued amongst wood workers for its beautiful red-wood finish. Herbalists and plant lovers alike value the tree's inner bark for medicinal use.
Medicinal Uses of Wild Cherry Bark
Wild birds such as American robins, northern mockingbirds, blue jays, and northern cardinals share this beautiful tree with us, despite the leaves and young twigs containing hydrocyanic acid, which is highly toxic in large amounts.
Birds and other wild animals cherish summer-ripe Wild Cherries, and we use the inner mature tree bark for medicinal needs. These parts are non-toxic.
Drying wet coughs
Inner Wild Cherry bark's Almond-like aromatics have astringent properties that support a healthy inflammation response in the upper respiratory tract. The constituents or plant compounds found in the inner bark may have a drying effect on tissue, which is useful for boggy wet coughs. However, we don't want herbs drying out our respiratory systems, therefore Marshmallow root or other demulcent herbs pair nicely with Wild Cherry bark to avoid over drying tissue.
Wild Cherry bark also has medicinal expectorant qualities required for moving built up phlegm up and out! It may feel uncomfortable to cough up gross mucus, but it's necessary for happy, healthy lung function.
Moving annoying mucus along is important because a buildup could cause blocked airways, yet we need that mucus to protect epithelial tissue within our respiratory systems. A bit complicated, right? Welp, the body produces mucus in order to protect against foreign particles or pesky seasonal bugs. But when there's too much of it, expectorants are helpful because they assist in moving the mucus up and out with a productive cough.
You can experience this type of blend in WishGarden's Serious AM and Serious PM Cough Syrups. Both taste great and support healthy mucous glands when there are discomforts in the throat and upper respiratory tract.
Immune and Respiratory Support
Get Over It! herbal formula pairs Wild Cherry bark and Yerba Mansa together for a classic mucous-membrane power duo! It goes deep to support our immune and respiratory systems, and the Goldenseal root helps maintain a healthy microbial balance. If a stubborn bug just won't let you go, Get Over It! may get the job done.
Gentle enough for children, Wild Cherry bark is included in most pediatric cough formulas. Kick-It Cough Soothing & Quieting For Kids, our natural cough suppressant for kids, helps your little ones calm their coughs and soothe their sore throats. Adding this formula to a little hot water with lemon and local honey can go far with a fussy kiddo.
Soothing Gastrointestinal Discomforts
I especially like Wild Cherry bark for easing gastrointestinal discomforts. You can make a cold- or hot-water infusion with the inner dry bark from Wild Cherry paired with Marshmallow root. Water extracts the plant's polysaccharides or plant starches, which are great for your gut health!
The Prunus family is well known for its toxic tree branches. Unfortunately, livestock have eaten many young branches or seeds in excessive amounts and learned this the hard way. It's important to identify any medicinal tree properly and know which parts are non-toxic.
The non-toxic part of Wild Cherry bark is traditionally used for children and adult herbal formulas, However, it is not recommended for the delicate stages of pregnancy because of the teratogenic cyanogenic glycoside plant compound, which could cause complications.
Be sure to check in with your practitioner before considering any herbal formulas!
Native Americans and Wild Cherry
Like most popular plant allies, we can thank Native Americans for their long history of discovering medicinal native plants. Cherokee people have used Wild Cherry bark for more than 400 years. They preferred long water infusions during seasonal discomforts.
Wild or Black Cherries are seldomly harvested in today's world, yet they were cherished by Native tribes in the past. They grow abundantly in the wild as they did many years ago, so find a berry next summer and see for yourself why they are treasured!
Lauren Ann Nichols-Sheffler attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Blue Yarrow Herbs aka Herbal Vice, an herbal product company practicing bioregional herbalism by cultivating plants and sourcing locally. Lauren loves educating and advocating for plant sustainability. She is the sourcing and Purchasing manager for WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.