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Cherry, Wild

Botanical: Prunus serotina (EHRL.)
Family: N.O. Rosaceae

---Synonyms---Virginian Prune. Black Cherry.
---Parts Used---Bark of root, trunk and branches.
---Habitat---North America generally, especially in Northern and Central States.

---Description---This tree grows from 50 to 80 feet high, and 2 to 4 feet in diameter. The bark is black and rough and separates naturally from the trunk. Wood polishes well, as it is fine-grained and compact, hence it is much used by cabinet-makers. Leaves deciduous, 3 to 5 inches long, about 2 inches wide, on petioles which have two pairs of reddish glands, they are obovate, acuminate, with incurved short teeth, thickish and smooth and glossy on upper surface; flowers bloom in May, and are white, in erect long terminal racemes, with occasional solitary flowers in the axils of the leaves. Fruit about the size of a pea, purply-black, globular drupe, edible with bitterish taste, is ripe in August and September. The tree is most abundant and grows to its full size in the south-western States. The root-bark is of most value, but that of the trunk and branches is also utilized. This bark must be freshly collected each season as its properties deteriorate greatly if kept longer than a year. It has a short friable fracture and in commerce it is found in varying lengths and widths 1 to 8 inches, slightly curved, outer bark removed, a reddish-fawn colour. These fragments easily powder. It has the odour of almonds, which almost disappears on drying, but is renewed by maceration. Its taste is aromatic, prussic, and bitter. It imparts its virtues to water or alcohol, boiling impairs its medicinal properties.

---Constituents---Starch, resin, tannin, gallic acid, fatty matter, lignin, red colouring matter, salts of calcium, potassium, and iron, also a volatile oil associated with hydrocyanic acid by distillation of water from the bark

---Medicinal Action and Uses---Astringent tonic, pectoral, sedative. It has been used in the treatment of bronchitis of various types. Is valuable in catarrh, consumption nervous cough, whooping-cough, and dyspepsia.

---Dosages---Syrup, B.P. and U.S.P., 1 to 4 drachms. Tincture, B.P., 1/2 to 1 drachm. Infusion, U.S.P., 2 oz. Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm. Prunin, 1 to 3 grains.

---Adulterant---A spurious cherry bark has been noted which may be distinguished by the fact that no hydrocyanic acid is found when macerated with water.


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Bear in mind "A Modern Herbal" was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900's. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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