Wild Black Cherry

There are over 200 species of deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs in this genus, which occurs throughout northern temperate regions, the Andes of S America, and SE Asia. It includes many economically important fruit and nut trees, and numerous ornamentals that are grown mainly for their blossom. Both P. armeniaca and P. persica are probably Chinese in origin; the former reached Italy in Roman times and the latter, which has been cultivated in China for over 2500 years, was recorded in Greece as early as the fourth century BCE. Prunus dulcis is the world's most widely grown nut tree. Prunes are dried plums from cultivars of P. domestica subsp. domestica; they have large, oval, black-skinned fruits, a rich flavor, and a high sugar and finer content that allows drying without fermentation or loss of flavor. Prunes were apparently brought to France by crusaders returning from Syria; in 1856 they were taken to California, where 70 percent of the world's crop is now produced. Prunus laurocerasus, a shade-tolerant species, is extensively grown for hedging and screening. Its many cultivars include low, spreading variants that make excellent groundcovers. Prunus mume is the classic winter flowering "plum blossom", used for Japanese bonsai. Many species are used medicinally, yielding a range of therapeutic products, from emollient oils to cough cures and laxatives. The Chinese species ahve a particularly long history of use: P. armeniaca and P.mume were first mentioned in medical literature c.CE500, and references to P. japonica date back to the Han dynasty (206BCE-CE23). Most of the medicinal properties result frmo the presence of amygdalin and prunasin, which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide). In small amounts, the exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion, and gives a sense of wellbeing. Also present is benzaldehyde, which gives the typical almond scent. This is now synthesized as a substitute for bitter almond oil in food flavoring. Prunus africana (African Cherry, red stinkwood), a montane forest species, entered international trade in the 1960s, when it was found to contain a liposoluble complex, whcih has proved effective in treating prostate glad enlargement. The bark has long been used by traditional healers, but large-scale demand and destructive harvesting have led to serious depletion of wild populations, especially in Cameroon. Prunus africana received international protection as an endangered species in 1997; plantations have been established in Kenya to provide material for the pharmaceutical industry, and the propagation technique of marcotting has been used successfully to increase stocks. The fruit stalks of P. avium (wild cherry, gean) and P. cerasus (sour cherry) are infused to make a diuretic astringent remedy for cystitis, edema, and diarrhea. Prunus serotina was used by the Cherokee people to relieve labor pains, and first listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1820 as a sedative and anti-tussive. It is still widely used, in the form of wild cherry syrup, in cough remedies.

The wild cherry tree, which grows mostly in North America and Canada, is also known as the black cherry, because the bark of older trees is so dark it is nearly black. The bark of young trees contains prussic acid, a substance that calms the coughing reflex. Wild cherry was used by Native Americans to treat respiratory complaints and by early North American settlers as a cough syrup and poultice. It is still used today as a cough suppressant in certain cough medicines and lozenges.

Deciduous tree with shiny, narrowly ovate, finely toothed leaves, about 8cm (3in) long, which turn yellow or red in autumn. Fragrant white flowers, 1.5cm (½in) across, are borne in racemes to 15cm (6in) long in late spring and early summer, followed by small black fruits, 1cm (⅜in) in diameter.

Common Name:
Wild Black Cherry
Other Names:
Black Choke, Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Choke Cherry, Wild Cherry
Botanical Name:
Prunus serotina
By seed sown in autumn (species only); by greenwood cuttings in early summer (deciduous species); by semi-ripe cuttings in summer (P. laurocerasus). Cultivars are budded in summer or grafted in early spring.
Well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil in sun. Prunus laurocerasus tolerates shade. Prunus spinosa (blackthorn) is a useful plant for hedging in cold, exposed, or coastal ares. Prune fruiting specimens in summer to restrict growth and encourage formation of fruit buds. Trim P. laurocerasus in spring. Leaves and young shoots are often attacked by aphids and caterpillars. Likely diseases and disorders include peach leaf curl, bacterial canker, chlorosis, witches' broom, and honey fungus. Many Prunus species are relatively short-lived. P. laurocerasus may be affected by leafspot and powdery mildew. Most Prunus species are shallow-rooted and will sucker if roots are damaged. Early-flowering species are prone to frost damage.
Leaves (P. persica) are picked in summer and dried for infusions, or (P. laurocerasus) distilled for aqueous extract (cherry laurel water). Bark (P. africana, P. persica, P. serotina) is stripped in autumn and winter and dried for infusions, liquid extracts, powders, syrups, and tinctures; bark of P. africana is also processed for pharmaceutical extracts. Flowers (P. persica) are gathered in spring, and unripe fruits (P. armeniaca, P. domestica, P. mume, P. persica) in summer, and dried for decoctions. Fruits are picked ripe or unripe, depending on use; prunes (cultivars of P. domestica) are often left on the trees to dry. Seeds from ripe fruits are dried for decoctions (P. japonica) or crushed for oil (P. armeniaca, P. dulcis, P. persica).
Native Location:
N America
18-30m (60-100ft)
10-25m (30-80ft)
Parts Used:
Bark, Fruits
A bitter, astringent, warming herb that controls coughing, increases perspiration rate, improves digestion, and has sedative, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral effects.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for chronic and dry coughs, whooping cough, bronchitis, nervous dyspepsia, poor digestion, gastritis, diarrhea, and convalescent debility.
To treat cough, whooping cough, diarrhea, and bronchitis.
Possible Side Effects:
Wild cherry's side effects include headache, constipation, and ulcers.
Drug Interactions:
Taking wild cherry with these drugs may increase blood levels of the drug:
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Amlodipine, (Norvasc)
Atorvastatin, (Lipitor)
Bepridil, (Vascor)
Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
Buspirone, (BuSpar, Nu-Buspirone)
Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Libruim)
Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Cyclosporine, (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Cyproterone and Ethinyl Estradiol, (Diane-35)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Estazolam, (ProSom)
Estradiol, (Climara, Estrace)
Estradiol and Norethindrone, (Activella, CombiPatch)
Estradiol and Testosterone, (Climacteron)
Estrogens, Conjugated A/Synthetic, (Cenestin)
Estrogens, Conjugated/Equine, (Congest, Premarin)
Estrogens, Conjugated/Equine and Medroxyprogesterone, (Premphase, Prempro)
Estrogens (Esterified), (Estratab, Menest)
Estrogens (Esterified) and Methyltestosterone, (Estratest, Estratest HS)
Estropipate, (Ogen, OrthoEst)
Ethinyl Estradiol, (Estinyl)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Desogestrel, (Cyclessa, Ortho-Cept)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Ethynodiol Diacetate, (Demulen, Zovia)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Etonogestrel, (NuvaRing)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Levonorgestrel, (Alesse, Triphasil)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norelgestromin, (Evra, Ortho Evra)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norethindrone, (Brevicon, Ortho-Novum)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestimate, (Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestrel, (Cryselle, Ovral)
Felodipine, (Plendil, Renedil)
Fexofenadine, (Allegra)
Fluconazole, (Apo-Fluconazole, Diflucan)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Fluvastatin, (Lescol)
Isradipine, (DynaCirc)
Itraconazole, (Sporanox)
Ketoconazole, (Apo-Ketoconazole, Nizoral)
Lacidipine, (Aponil, Caldine)
Lercanidipine, (Cardiovasc, Carmen)
Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Lovastatin, (Altocor, Mevacor)
Manidipine, (Calslot, Iperten)
Mestranol and Norethindrone, (Necon 1/50, Ortho-Novum 1/50)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Nicardipine, (Cardene)
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Nilvadipine, (Nilvadipine)
Nimodipine, (Nimotop)
Nisoldipine, (Sular)
Nitrendipine, (Nitrendipine)
Pinaverium, (Dicetel)
Polyestradiol, (Polyestradiol)
Pravastatin, (Novo-Pravastatin, Pravachol)
Prazepam, (Prazepam)
Quazepam, (Doral)
Rosuvastatin, (Crestor)
Simvastatin, (Apo-Simvastatin, Zocor)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Voriconazole, (VFEND)
Culinary Uses:
Fruits are eaten fresh or stewed, made into pies and jellies, and used to flavor spirits and liqueurs.
Economic Uses:
Bark extract is used in commercial food flavoring.
All parts of P. laurocerasus, notably the leaves and seeds, are harmful if eaten. Bitter-tasting kernels of Prunus species may be fatally toxic in excess.
Encyclopedia or Herbs ~ Deni Brown ~ copyright ©2005 Dorling Kimbersley Limited. ~ pps 331 - 334.
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.487-489