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.
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
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Wild cherry bark is used traditionally to promote mucus discharge.
Mullein is classified in the herbal literature as both an expectorant, to promote the discharge of mucus, and a demulcent, to soothe and protect mucous membranes. Historically, mullein has been used as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion.2 Other herbs commonly used as expectorants in traditional medicine include elecampane, lobelia, yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), wild cherry bark, gumweed (Grindelia robusta), anise(Pimpinella anisum), and eucalyptus. Animal studies have suggested that some of these herbs increase discharge of mucus.3 However, none have been studied for efficacy in humans.
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There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs.
The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot, catnip, comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound, elecampane, mullein, lobelia, hyssop, licorice, mallow, (Malvia sylvestris), red clover, ivy leaf, pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion, (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.
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.4 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.
Wild cherry tincture or syrup, 2–4 ml three to four times per day, is sometimes recommended for coughs.5
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. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 67.
3. Boyd EM. Expectorants and respiratory tract fluid. Pharmacol Rev 1954;6:521-42 [review].
4. Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Middlesex, UK: Viking Arkana, 1991, 314.
5. Wren RC. Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex, England: CW Daniel Company, 1975, 320.
Last Review: 07-08-2014
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