If you check out the Eclectic and Physiomedicalist literature, you’ll see that Chokecherry is often recommended as a tonic and for every kind of hot/irritated chronic condition stemming from debility (King’s, Felter, Cook). From more modern usage, many of us are familiar with the common use of the syrup for acute coughs with fever and insomnia.
Wild cherry is an excellent sedative and tonic, quieting irritation of the mucosa, terminal nerves, and lessening violent cardiac action dependent upon weakness. When a tonic and sedative is desired that will not unduly excite the circulation, wild cherry is a most useful drug. As such it may be used in atonic dyspepsia, and in convalescence from fevers and inflammations, especially after pleurisy, pneumonia, and la grippe.
The tonic effects extend from the mucosa to the heart to the gut to the lungs. This seems like a big deal to me, especially coming from the previous understanding that “Chokecherry is for coughs”, period. So, I’ve been using an elixir of the recently dried bark a lot lately for anxiety with insomnia, nervous stomach and heart palpitations, works great. I’ve even tried it for IBS triggered by acute anxiety, also great. How about menopausal yin deficiency with accompanying heat, irritation, inflamed mucus membranes, hot flashes and heart palpitations? Yep.
This bark is a mild and soothing tonic, slightly astringent. It is chiefly valued for the soothing influence which accompanies its tonic action; for while it gently improves appetite, digestion, and the general strength, it quiets nervous irritability and arterial excitement.
Matt Wood talks about using Chokecherry as a general heart tonic like its close relative Hawthorn. For this, I combine it with Rose hips, another heart healing rose family member. And if there’s high blood pressure and anxiety, but with poor circulation and general coldness, combine with Ginger. For simple palpitations, it’s nice with Motherwort.
For burning, painful UTIs try it with Bidens and Bee Balm. And for viruses that tend to settle in the lungs and leave you exhausted, hot and pissed off, try it with (surprise) Elderberry. The options are endless.
It also makes a very pleasant and effective nervine for Pitta types, even children. It’s Rhiannon’s favorite “sleepy” herb for when she’s wound about ten notches too tight from overstimulation, or sick, exhausted and unable to sleep. If your child needs something a little stronger, it’s nice (if not as tasty) combined with California Poppy.
The important pattern to notice in these indications is heat, irritation and anxiety. It’s not appropriate or needed where there’s already excessive relaxation of the tissue. If someone’s already cold, sleepy and quiet, try some Wild Ginger, Osha or other spicy, stimulating herb instead.
I use an elixir made with dried Chokecherry bark as a tincture with a proportion of 1:5 with brandy, and add enough glycerin to make it about 10 percent of the mix. Some materia medicas suggest a dosage of anywhere from 20-50 drops, but I find that much smaller doses, starting from 3-4 drops to work quite well in most situations.
Note: We’ll get into that whole cyanide/prussic acid thing some other time.