Organic Emily

Medicinal Herb – Wild Choke Cherry with Wild Cherry Cough Syrup

chooke cherry shrub

Medicinal Herb Post #41 Wild Choke Cherry – Prunus virginiana and other species

Along a wild path that is now a dry creek near my home, leading up into the mountains several miles away, there are a several wild choke cherry shrub like trees. Choke cherries grow everywhere from the Rocky Mountains to California, N. Arizona and up through Washington. They tend to grow near river banks and canyon bottoms. Choke Cherries flower in the spring and produce dark purple berries in the fall.  The fruit is quite astringent leaving the mouth to pucker when eaten raw.  Once they are cooked they have a much sweeter taste. Although the fruit contains antioxidants, are nutritious and can help with digestions and bouts of diarrhea, the medicine lies within the inner bark of the plant.  This plant contains cyanide so it’s important to harvest the inner bark in the fall after the berries have ripened indicating the cyanide is in the seeds. Don’t worry, after they are cooked there is no cyanide left. Besides you won’t be using the seeds when making a syrup.

The inner bark is fabulous for dry hacking coughs that aren’t productive and serve no purpose. It is really good for protecting the cilia found within the bronchi as a cough suppressant for dry mucous membranes, pertussis, irritable coughs, bronchitis and even lung cancer.  Combine wild choke cherries and the inner bark with elderberries for a powerful antiviral, immune-enhancing medicine. Or combine it with elecampane root and pleurisy root for deep bronchial infections that won’t go away. Use with mullein leaf and marshmallow root for irritated inflamed tissues within the respiratory tract. It’s is also known to reduce aches and pains caused by fevers. As you can gather it is a great herb for colds and the flu. It has also been known to help break up stones in the kidneys.

This fall I harvested several pounds of choke cherries just outside my door and made a delicious wild cherry bark syrup with the berries for flavor and depth.

4 cups choke cherries
4 cups water or more if needed
1 cup wild cherry bark
1 cup raw honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Make a decoction by simmering the choke cherries, water, and wild cherry bark until cooked down to 1 cup strong liquid. Strain and press out remaining juice from the cherries.

cooked choke cherry


Add the honey and almond extract. Stir and place in pint jar. Keep in the fridge for up to 6 months. You can add 1/4 cup brandy to extend the shelf life if you like.

choke cherry syrup


For young children take anywhere from 1-2 teaspoons every few hours as needed. For adults take 1 tablespoon 3-4x a day.

Emily Saddler

Emily is first a wife to her best friend Ryan, homeschool mom of 7 awesome kids, Holistic Health Practitioner in the state of Utah and Traditional Naturopath outside of the state of Utah, master gardener, yoga/pilates instructor, certified clinical and master herbalist, licensed massage therapist, and doula. She is a very passionate advocate of all things Mother Nature! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients, herbal and natural home care product recipes and loves teaching classes on gardening, plant identification and herbal remedy workshops. Check out the events and classes page for more info.


  1. Elizabeth Zupke says:

    Can I make this without the bark?

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