As far as I can tell the stuff works. It both soothes your chest and makes your cough productive - without making you cough your head off.
Here's how you make it:
Gather some chokecherry or wild cherry branches. Peel the bark off (Cree and I used knives to whittle it off). Once you've got about 1-1.5 ounces of bark, put it in a quart jar and pour boiling water over it. Put a lid on it and set aside for 8-10 hrs. This will serve as the initial infusion.
After 8-10 hrs, strain the liquid through a coffee filter and pour the infusion into a pan and heat on the stove over low heat. Reduce the amount of liquid by half, producing a decoction.
That's basically it. I added 2 TBSPs of honey, but you don't have to, the syrup doesn't taste bad on its own. It's just kind of thin. Since both of the kids have this same cold I had them take the medicine too before they went to bed. So far it seems to have not killed any of us! And I really do feel a lot better than what I did yesterday.
One last footnote: When gathering anything for use in an herbal remedy always make sure that you can properly identify the plants. Otherwise, you can inadvertently poison yourself and others, which is never any fun. I have a cousin, Jimmy, who ended up hospitalized after picking mushrooms that he was sure were edible, but then not so much. Chokecherry trees are pretty easy to identify, you can either pick up a book or check it out on line. The bark is distinctive, as are the leaves and tiny little black/red fruit. Still, it's always best to be sure of what you're doing.