In 1833, Botanist Michaux claims he saw, on the banks of the Ohio, wild cherry trees from 80′ to 100′ high with trunks 12′ to 15′ in circumference and undivided to the height of 25′ to 30′. However, the tree, as we know it, is usually of much smaller dimensions.
This tree grows throughout the U.S. It is highly valued by cabinet-makers for its wood, which is compact, fine-grained, susceptible of polish, and of a light red tint which deepens with age.
The fruit has a sweetish, astringent, bitter taste, and is much employed in some parts of the country to impart flavor to liquors.
The inner BARK is the part employed in medicine and is obtained indiscriminately from all parts of the tree, although that of the roots is most active. The young thin bark is the best. It is preferred recently dried, as it deteriorates by keeping.
In the fresh state, or when boiled in water, it emits an odor resembling that of peach leaves. Its taste is agreeably bitter and aromatic, with the peculiar flavor of the bitter almond. It imparts its medicinal properties to water, either cold or hot, producing a clear reddish infusion closely resembling Madeira wine in appearance. Its peculiar flavor is injured by boiling in consequence of the vocalization of the principle upon which it depends.
This bark is among the most valuable of the botanic remedies and long an old home remedy for cough syrup.
It is a mild, soothing, astringent tonic to the mucous membrane, especially of the respiratory organs, the pelvic, and the alvine canal.
As a tonic and expectorant, it is considered of the highest value in catarrhal affections, nervous excitement in consumption, consumption, in acute, irritable, and nervous coughs, whooping cough, bronchitis, diseases of the chest and lungs, and in fact, in all diseases of the respiratory organs; it quiets nervous irritability and relieves arterial excitement.
When largely taken, it is said to diminish the action of the heart. If a good portion of the cold infusion is taken several times a day and continued for nearly 2 weeks, it should reduce the pulse from 75 to 50 strokes in the minute.
It is a favorite remedy and highly useful in the hectic fever of scrofula and consumption and as a tonic in the convalescence from fevers.
It has been used successfully in intermittent fever, but in this complaint is considered inferior to Peruvian Bark.
In the general debility which often succeeds inflammatory diseases, it has also been found advantageous and is well adapted to many cases of dyspepsia. It is equally valuable in gastritis and atonic conditions of the digestive organs.
A fine powder inhaled as snuff will benefit a moist catarrh and also the lungs.
The fresh bark is preferred. Ground and in fine powder put into a self-sealing jar, pour boiling hot syrup over it and seal. Let stand a few days. This makes an excellent syrup of prunus.
Wild cherry bark may be used in powder or infusion. The dose of the powder is from 30 gr. to 1 Dr. The simple infusion is prepared with 1 t. inner bark to 1 C. boiling water. Drink cold 1 or 2 C. daily.