Black Cherry will help with that niggling cough. You know the kind. You’ve been fine all day. You’re getting over the virus and you feel fine, just a little tired. That is until you lie down to sleep. That’s when it starts. It begins with a tickle. You cough. Then you cough again. Before you know it you’re sitting up with a cup of tea trying to calm the cough for another night. You just can’t seem to shake it. This natural remedy is for those nights.
Black cherry bark is a natural cough suppressant. While normally you want to encourage the body to expel excess mucus through coughing, especially if the cough is a productive cough, there IS a time to calm the coughing reflex. When you need to get some sleep, when the cough is hard and unproductive, when the cough is just a tickle that won’t go away, black cherry bark offers relief.
Black cherry bark comes from the black cherry tree (Prunus serotina), a North American native or the chokecherry tree (Prunus virginiana L. var. demissa). (That should be easy to remember! “Chokecherry bark for cough”) It’s the inner bark, gathered in the fall that is used for herbal remedies. The tree grows wild all over North America. Learn how to harvest black cherry bark here.
The bark has cyanogenic glycosides that have a powerful sedative effect on the coughing reflex.
Black cherry bark is:
- Circulatory tonic
- Cough suppressant
- Heart tonic similar to hawthorn
- Digestive bitters
- Digestive tonic
When to use black cherry cough drops
Use these cough drops to stop the barking of bronchitis, the whoop of whooping cough, and the irritating cough that hangs on at the end of the flu. Black cherry cough drops will suppress the cough while helping the cougher get much-needed sleep.
Remember though, the infection will still need to be treated. The cough is a symptom.
These cough drops are cherry flavoured with cherry liqueur or cherry extract. Use natural flavoured extracts rather than artificially flavoured, as artificial flavours can add another layer of health issues in susceptible children.
If you plan to use these cough drops with children under five they can be put in a sucker mould and supported with a sucker stick. Due to the choking hazard, children under five should not be given cough drops.
Dried black cherry bark has a shelf life of one year. When the cherry bark is turned into syrup or cough drops the shelf life is extended. Black Cherry Bark tincture will last indefinitely.
The elderberries in this recipe add a layer of immune support. They also add to the flavour.
Black Cherry Cough Drops
Yield: 64 — 5ml cough drops (12 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon butter (divided)
- 1 cup black cherry bark, powdered
- ½ cup elderberries, dried
- 3 cups of filtered water
- 1 cup honey
- ½ cup of organic sugar
- ¼ cup cherry liquor (or 1 tablespoon natural cherry extract)
- 2 silicone candy moulds rated for high temperatures.
- Candy thermometer
(Notes: The moulds I used for my photos held 2 teaspoons of candy per cavity. I think they are a little large for cough drops. Try a mould that holds 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of candy per mould for a moderate size cough drop. )
- Prepare silicone candy moulds by buttering the inside of the mould. Set aside.
- In a 1 ½ quart saucepan place cherry bark, elderberries, and filtered water. Cover the saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Shut off the heat and allow the pan to come to room temperature naturally. Strain the herbs out of the decoction. Return the liquid to a saucepan.
- Simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced to 2 cups.
- Stir in honey and sugar. Cover the saucepan. Bring the pan to a boil. Stir to fully dissolve the sugar. If any sugar is clinging to the sides of the pan, continue boiling with the lid on until there are no more sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan.
- Remove lid. Add ½ teaspoon butter to the syrup to decrease foaming. Boil over medium heat, without stirring, until the liquid reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer or the hard crack stage for your elevation. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the cherry flavouring or cherry liqueur. The mixture will bubble up as the alcohol evaporates. This is normal. The pan is hot, be careful that you don’t get burned.
- Use a ladle to ladle the candy into the prepared moulds. Allow the moulds to cool naturally. This could take an hour or two.
- Remove the cough drops from the mould. Wrap individually with parchment paper and tape. Place in a glass jar and cap tightly.
- Store in a cool, dry place, protected from light and heat. Cherry cough drops should last for 2 years.
Cherry bark should only be used for 10 to 14 days. There is a risk of toxicity with long term use due to the cyanide alkaloids present in cherry bark and seeds. This is the almond flavour.
Pregnant and nursing mothers should not use cherry bark without consulting with their doctor. Cough drops are a choking hazard for young children, so avoid the choking hazard by making these candies into suckers. For children 1 years of age and over only.
The place of cough drops in your DIY Apothecary
Cough drops or lozenges are soothing and calm coughs and scratchy throats. The honey in the cough drops is a good part of the therapeutic benefit. Herbs are added to increase the soothing actions but a spoonful of honey can often be as therapeutic as an herbal cough drop.
Certain medicinal herbs are known for their cough calming actions. Traditional cough drop herbs include licorice, lemon, hawthorn, eucalyptus, as well as black cherry. Menthol or peppermint essential oil is often added to commercial cough drops to reduce nasal congestion or open airways.
Learning to make cough drops can free you from purchasing the ready-made versions. Commercial cough drops are more or less just candy with flavours reminiscent of real medicinal herbs. They also include GMO beet sugar and GMO corn syrup in their ingredient lists, which many DIYers hope to avoid. Plus the usual package of cough drops is a mere 10 to 20 cough drops. The average consumer purchases several packages a year. When you make your own, one batch can be enough for a year or more.
Cough drops are more convenient to carry with you when travelling. They contain no liquids to spill as syrups and tinctures due.
While some people may need to avoid sugar and would therefore benefit from the same herbs in tincture form, for those who can tolerate honey, cough drops are a convenient form of herbal remedy that can be carried with you throughout the day.
Finally, making your own cough drops reduces the packaging found in commercial cough drops, where not only is the outer package plasticized but each candy is also individually wrapped in plastic for biosecurity.
Kiva Rose. Bear Medicine Herbals, “Notes on the Cherry-Heart Connection”.
Learn more about using herbs for health and wellness from my Book
Homegrown Healing From Seed to Apothecary
My book Homegrown Healing From Seed to Apothecary will help you grow healing herbs in your own garden. Focusing on the easiest plants for beginners to grow, Homegrown Healing From Seed to Apothecary covers 30 plants, recommended by professional herbalists, that can be grown in the temperate zone. Initial garden preparation, garden design and harvesting tips lead the novice herbalist into early success. Choose which herbs to grow, learn how to use these herbs for your family’s health and wellness using the guidance in my book . You can find out more about this useful guide to growing more herbs and using them strategically here.