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Bitter-Berry (Prunus virginiana)



Areas of application:

Diarrhea, flatulence, heartburn, stomach diseases, stomach ulcers, as a basis for cough medicine, cough, bronchitis

Plant parts used:

fruits, inner bark

Collection time:


To find:

North America, such as along river and stream banks, in canyons and valleys, on cooler mountain slopes and in at least partially forested areas.


Vitamins, prunasin, tannins, essential oil


The Bitter-Berry is a deciduous shrub and rarely a tree that can reach a height of over 10 meters. It has simple, large, elliptical leaves that are 10 cm long and 6.25 cm wide. They are dark green, have a shiny upper surface and a paler underside, and are serrated along the edge. In autumn they turn yellow. Between the leaf clusters there are white, showy flowers that are about 7.5 to 15 cm long. The flowers bloom in May and June, and the fruits appear in August. The bark of the plant is brown or gray, purple or red, and the texture of the bark is smooth and thin when young. As we age, the bark becomes more uneven and wrinkled. The roughly chickpea-sized, round, initially dark red, then shiny black drupes have one stone core per fruit and relatively little pulp.

🛑 The seeds are said to have a high concentration of hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic taste. This poison can be easily recognized by its bitter taste. It is usually only present in small quantities. In large amounts it can be fatal, but in small amounts, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate breathing, improve digestion and inhibit cancer growth. Please use it carefully.

In the kitchen, the berries (without seeds) can be eaten and used in pies, jams and jellies. They taste sour and sugar softens the taste. Pemmican is made from the dried berries.

Since the fruits are very difficult to pit, the Lakota and other tribes dried the fruits like raisins and ground them with the seeds. The resulting powder was used as an ingredient in the production of pemmican*, in Lakota wasá.

*Pemmican is a nutritious and shelf-stable mixture of ground beef jerky and fat that Native Americans carried with them as travel provisions and emergency rations.

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