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The bark of the wild cherry tree is a traditional Native American remedy for two seemingly unrelated conditions: respiratory infections and anxiety. European settlers quickly adopted the herb for similar purposes.
Over time, wild cherry has come to be used primarily as a component of cough syrups. It is tempting to connect the two traditional uses of wild cherry by imagining that it functions like codeine to affect both the mind and the cough reflex. However, this is just speculation, as there has been very little scientific evaluation of this herb.
Wild cherry is generally regarded as safe when used at recommended dosages. However, since it contains small amounts of cyanide, it should not be taken to excess. It is not recommended for use by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease. Some evidence suggests that wild cherry might interact with various medications by affecting their metabolism in the liver, but the extent of this effect has not been fully determined. 1