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 Herbal Materia Medica: Wild Cherry Bark 
Prunus serotina


Names: Virginia Prune Bark.

Habitat: Widely distributed throughout Canada and the USA.

Collection: The bark is gathered from young plants in the autumn, when it is most active. The outer bark is stripped off and the inner bark is carefully dried in the shade. It must be stored in an air tight container and protected from light.

Part Used: Dried bark.


  • Prunasin, a cyanogenetic glycoside. The pharmacologists main interest in Wild Cherry Bark is due to the presence of the cyanogenetic glycoside prunasin.
  • Benzaldehyde
  • Miscellaneous; 3, 4, 5-trimethoxybenzoic acid (= eudesmic acid), p-coumaric acid, scopoletin (a coumarin derivative), tannins, sugars.
Actions: Anti-tussive, expectorant, astringent, nervine, anti-spasmodic.

Indications: Due to its powerful sedative action on the cough reflex, Wild Cherry Bark finds its main use in the treatment of irritating coughs and thus has a role in the treatment of bronchitis and whooping cough. It can be used with other herbs in the control of asthma. It must be remembered, however, that the inhibition of a cough does not equate with the healing of a chest infection, which will still need to be treated. It may also be used as a bitter where digestion is sluggish. The cold infusion of the bark may be helpful as a wash in cases of inflammation of the eyes.

Priest & Priest say it is a "mild, soothing, stimulating astringent: tonic expectorant for acute irritable coughs, quietens nervous irritability and relieves arterial excitement. Sedative for conditions of prolonged irritation." They give the following specific indications: chronicbronchitis with debility. Catarrhal dyspepsia, weak digestion in the elderly. Chronic diarrhoea. Weak throat. Ophthalmia.

Ellingwood recommends it for: chronic coughs, phthisis, palpitations & dyspepsia.

To quote King's at length: "Wild Cherry Bark has a tonic and stimulating influence on the digestive apparatus, and a simultaneous sedative action on the nervous system and circulation. It is, therefore, valuable in all those cases where it is desirable to give tone and strength to the system, without, at the same time, causing too great an action of the heart and blood vessels, as, during convalescence from pleurisy, pneumonia, acutehepatitis, and other inflammatory and febrile diseases. Its chief property is its power of relieving irritation of the mucous surfaces, making it an admirable remedy in many gastro-intestinal, pulmonic, and urinary troubles. Like Lycopus, it lessens vascular excitement, though it does not control hemorrhages like that agent. It is best adapted to chronic troubles. It is also useful in hectic fever, cough, colliquative diarrhoea, some forms of irritative dyspepsia, whooping-cough, irritability of the nervous system, etc., and has been found an excellent palliative in phthisis, the syrup being employed to moderate the cough, lessen the fever, and sustain the patient's strength. It has likewise been of service in scrofula and other disease attended with much debility and hecticfever. Wild cherry is an excellent sedative in cardiac palpitation, not due to structural wrongs. It is particularly useful in this disorder when there is nervous fever, tuberculosis or the debility consequent upon irritative dyspepia, anemia, chlorosis, or nervous diseases. Externally, it has been found useful, in decoction, as a wash to ill conditioned ulcers and acute ophthalmia. Specific Indications and Uses. Rapid, weak circulation; continual irritative cough, with profuse muco-purulent expectoration; cardiac palpitation, from debility; dyspnoea; pyrexia; loss of appetite; and cardiac pain."

Combinations: May be used widely with many different herbs.

Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto l teaspoonful of the dried bark and leave to infuse for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take l-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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