My husband came home from work with a bagful of chokecherries he picked so we had to figure out something to do with them. The most obvious use of chokecherry is as a syrup to be used in the winter for coughs (as well as being delicious on ice cream, pancakes, drinks or anywhere else you would use a syrup). Typically choke cherries are very bitter and astringent in taste, but these are actually very sweet; possibly because they were growing by a stream and getting more water. Chokecherries are very high in ellagic acid. Since I have been reading lately of the benefits of ellagic acid in skin care I wanted to find some use for these fruits for skin, perhaps a face mask.

Face Mask


3 tablespoons chokecherry juice

1 tablespoon bentonite clay

2 teaspoons avocado oil

Mix to a nice consistency and smear on your face. Now enjoy a cup of tea while the mask sets on your face. After 10 minutes or so use a wet washcloth to wipe the mask off your face.

Chokecherry Juice

To make a juice put chokecherries in a saucepan to fill about 2/3 full. Fill with water almost to the level of the top of the cherries. Bring water to a gentle boil for 30 minutes or so. Put cherries through some type of press such as used to make jam. I use a device used to make applesauce. Allow juice to drain into a separate bowl while skins and seeds remain behind.

Chokecherry Syrup

For chokecherry syrup I mixed 3 cups of juice with about 3 cups of sugar and simmered that for about 30 minutes. This produced a very thick syrup that would work great for pancakes. For a cough syrup I will use 3 cups of juice with 1 1/2 sugar and also add a few tablespoons of vodka to that as well. The lower amount of sugar might not be enough of a preservative. You could also freeze this until you want to use it.

The seeds however contain poisonous glycosides (hydrocyanic acid) and should not be eaten by humans or animals; unless cooked or dried first.

Chokecherries are native to much of the US and were used extensively by Native Americans for a number of health complaints. These include as a poultice to stop bleeding and to treat skin sores and burns, as a tea or infusion for stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea and dysentery. Both the fruit and the bark are used medicinally. The cherries also a a good food source for both humans and animals. Chokecherry jam and pies are quite common and chokecherries were an important ingredient of the pemmican made by many Native Americans as a dried food for winter.

The purple color of the cherries is said to make a good purple-red dye. This is something I might save some berries for to try dying some mohair. Last summer I planted quite a few chokecherry bushes so by next summer I may be loaded with cherries.

Here is a good write up on chokecherries for more information.