Cherries and their juice have a long history of use in food and cooking all over the world. Mention of cherries can be found in the literature of the ancient Chinese, Greeks and South Asians.
Medicinally, they have been used for a variety of pain-related conditions, including arthritis, gout, back pain and tendon injuries. It is often said that tart cherries have more medicinal value than sweet cherries.
What Are Cherries Used for Today?
Tart cherries contain relatively high levels of substances known as anthocynanins, also found in
and other foods. Anthocyanins are
, and most health claims for cherries are based on this fact. However, the case that antioxidants provide health benefits has become weaker rather than stronger in recent years, and, therefore, merely finding antioxidant content in cherries is inadequate to show benefit. Only
double-blind, placebo-controlled studies
can actually provide evidence of efficacy, and for cherries, only one smal study of this type has been reported.
In this study, fourteen male athletes were given either tart cherry juice (12 oz) or placebo twice daily, and then performed intensive arm exercises.
The results of this trial indicated that use of cherry juice reduced pain and strength loss caused by the excessive exercise. Based on this, it has been suggested that cherry juice might be helpful for athletes in training by
from heavy exercise, due to its antioxidant actions. However, this was a very small study, and more research would be necessary to actually document benefit. Note that other antioxidants have failed to prove helpful for this purpose.
Cherries are also claimed to be helpful for
, based primarily on a single "scientific" study performed in the 1950s.
In fact, however, this study was far too poorly designed to prove anything at all, because it did not utilize a
group. (For information on why a placebo group is essential, see
Why Does This Database Rely on Double-Blind Studies?
) A much more recent study did find some evidence that cherry consumption might lower levels of urate in the blood.
Since high levels of urate are associated with gout, this finding does provide some suggestive evidence that cherries might be helpful. However, this study was small, preliminary and somewhat poorly designed. Furthermore, it does not directly show benefit: many substances reduce urate levels but do not help gout, and many cases of gout are not associated with elevated urate.
hints that the anthocyanins in tart cherries may have
pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
For use in reducing pain after intensive excercise, a dose of 12 ounces of cherry juice twice daily has been tested in the tiny study noted earlier.
A typical dosage recommendation for gout is a 1/2 pound of whole cherries daily.
As a widely consumed food, cherries are presumed to have a high level of safety. However, maximum safe doses in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined.
Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI et al. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage.
Br J Sports Med
. 2006;40:679-83; discussion 683.
Cherry diet control for gout and arthritis
. Tex Rep Biol Med. 1950;8:309–311
Jacob RA, Spinozzi GM, Simon VA, et al.
Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women.
J Nutr. 2003;133:1826-9.
Tall JM, Seeram NP, Zhao C, et al. Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat.
Behav Brain Res
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a