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Wild Cherry

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):

Science Ratings Health Concerns

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

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 pain.1

Active constituents

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 indication.

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, 155–6.

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.

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