I was surprised to find no reference to Cheracol, the cough syrup of choice in my childhood abode. I always assumed that it was named that because of its cherry flavor (minus on “r”). I checked their website but couldn’t find any explanation of the name. If anyone knows if I’m right please let me know.
I’m inclined to think probably not. According to this site, wild cherry bark is also used for its astringent and digestive bitter properties. In this regard, I guess it’s similar to Angostura Bitters, which also come from tree bark, just from the cinchona tree, not the wild cherry.
jblayne, I couldn’t find any reference of commercial cough syrup containing wild cherry bark extract. Every drug I found had codeine or some other opium derivative. Besides, wild cherry bark is at least mildly poisonous, and the first rule of patent medicines is “don’t kill your customers.”
Could the ubiquity of cherry flavoring in medicines date back to the old drug stores that, in addition to selling medicines, had soda fountains where they kept cherry syrup on hand for adding to Coca-cola to make cherry Coke?
I doubt it. Dr. Swayne’s cough medicine dates at least from 1858, which predates Coke by about a quarter-century or so. Most patent medicines weren’t produced locally anyway; you bought them like you’d buy any other over-the-counter medicine today. I’m sure that local pharmacists used cherry syrup to flavor medicines they made themselves, so your post isn’t off base.
When you think about it, cherry is a pretty common flavoring, as these things go. Sweet cherries easily lend themselves to being made into syrups; all you really need are cherries, water and sugar, so it’s not farfetched to assume that drug manufacturers were just taking advantage of what they had. In the age of synthetic flavorings, cherry is one of the easiest to make and one of the most palatable. People who don’t particularly like whole cherries are still OK with cherry-flavored candy and drinks.
There are other flavors out there. Tylenol’s Simply Stuffy and Children’s Motrin are both berry-flavored, for example. Dimetapp is grape-flavored. Of course, children can’t (or won’t) just suck it up and take one for the team, so their stuff tends to be a lot sweeter than stuff for grownups. I once took a taste of some liquid Tylenol and that stuff hurt my teeth, it was that sweet.