Botanical name: Prunus serotina
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
Although native to North America, wild cherry trees now grow in many other countries. The
bark of the wild cherry tree is used for medicinal preparations.
Wild cherry has been used
in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Wild cherry syrup has been used traditionally by herbalists to treat coughs and other lung problems. It has also been used
to treat diarrhea and to relieve
Wild cherry bark contains cyanogenic glycosides, particularly prunasin. These glycosides,
once broken apart in the body, act to relieve choughs by quelling spasms in the smooth muscles
lining bronchioles.2 Although wild cherry is a commonly used ingredient in cough
syrups, there are no published clinical trials in humans to support its use for this
How much is usually taken?
Wild cherry tincture or syrup, 2–4 ml three to four times per day, is sometimes
recommended for coughs.3
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Very large amounts (several times the recommended amount above) of wild cherry pose the
theoretical risk of causing cyanide poisoning, due to hydrocyanic acid.4 However,
this has not been reported in clinical practice. The safety of wild cherry during pregnancy has also not been established.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
with wild cherry.
1. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients
Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996,
2. Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal
Medicine. Middlesex, UK: Viking Arkana, 1991, 314.
3. Wren RC. Potter’s New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and
Preparations. Essex, England: CW Daniel Company, 1975, 320.
4. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products
Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 92.