3 Herb Mamas

Wednesday’s Weeds: WILD CHERRY

on May 28, 2014

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WILD CHERRY (Prunus serotina)

This lovely wild tree is in bloom now at the edge of a wooded area near our home. I start looking for the beautiful wands of flowers draping themselves and waving in the spring breezes in May. Mine usually bloom later than the cultivated cherry trees we have planted. I don’t always gather because the bark is the medicinal part used and striping the bark from a tree effectively kills it. There are alternatives, however, if you choose to use this traditional wild medicine. Wild Cherry is still included in the official U.S. Pharmacopeia and is an ingredient in many commercial cough formulas even today.

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Close-up of Wild Cherry blossoms

Wild cherry bark is a traditional remedy for a persistent cough and thus has a place in preparations for bronchitis and chest colds. The inner bark just under the woody bark is the part used and should always be dried before use. Rather than stripping the outer bark from the main trunk of the tree, young twigs can be gathered from the tips or fallen branches after storms often provide some useful medicine. The inner bark is traditionally harvested in the fall.

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The inner bark of Wild Cherry is easily harvested by peeling away the outer bark and scraping with a knife or even a finger nail.

Some herbalists recommend doing a cold water extraction of dried cherry bark while others use a traditional boiled water infusion as you would for making a cup of tea. At any rate, long simmering, as you would for making a decoction with most roots and barks, is not recommended. Wild cherry bark is an excellent ingredient for a syrup to have on hand during cold and flu season. Other ingredients to consider might include Echinacea, Elderberry, Mullein, Cinnamon, and Elecampane. Research and customize your own formula.

The basic formula for making a syrup is to place 2 ounces of dried herbal blend into a stainless steel or other non-aluminum pot along with 1 quart of water, bring to a simmer, reducing heat and simmering until the liquid is reduced by half (usually around 20 minutes). If I were including Wild Cherry bark I would personally add that after removing the simmered herbs from the heat. I would cover the pot and allow it to steep with the dried Wild Cherry bark addition for about an hour. Next strain the plant material through cheese cloth, composting the herbs. To each pint of herbal liquid add 1 cup of raw honey or natural maple syrup. Sugar can be used in equal proportion to liquid to create a more shelf stable syrup but I prefer using natural sweeteners in lower concentrations and then simply refrigerating or freezing the syrup to preserve. Both honey and maple syrup bring healing qualities to the table in their own right. Some diabetics can use maple syrup in small quantities. Research and decide on the best option for you. I’ve used refrigerated syrups for months with no signs of mold or loss of quality. I also like to freeze syrups in ice cube trays, which can be soothing and refreshing for someone suffering with an inflamed sore throat and fever. You can also use the tea or syrup to make gelatin, which children are often happy to take when they are ill.

So even though harvest time is many months away this is an excellent time to find Wild Cherry. Tie a ribbon around a limb to mark it for later use and for watching through the seasons.

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Wild Cherry fruiting

Wishing you growing blessings & abundant harvests!

~Leenie


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