The cherry tree is native to modern day Turkey. Roman soldiers were first to notice the benefits of the cherry fruit for tired muscles and joints. They planted cherry trees along their marching routes to eat while they were travelling. Soon, cherry trees
and their fruit were spread all over Europe. Even today, in many Eastern European countries, cherry trees are the most common tree planted along the roads between towns and villages. The common fruit has many health benefits including the treatment of gout, arthritis and muscle pain. It also assists with heart health, cancer and sleep disorders.
Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in our blood. This excess causes crystals of uric acid to form in the joints. This inflammation causes painful swelling in affected areas.
The University of California's ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Centre has found that the consumption of cherries can lower levels of uric acid in the blood, therefore reducing the pain and infl ammation associated with gout. The study involved healthy women 20-44 years of age to eat a bowlful of cherries for breakfast. Blood urate levels are a biological marker of excess uric acid. Blood and urine samples were taken from the participants before consuming the cherries and at hour intervals after consumption. The blood urate levels significantly decreased 5 hours after consumption of cherries. In addition, the level of uric acid removed through urine increased. Therefore, the cherry breakfast reduced the amount of uric acid in the body, thus avoiding the painful symptoms of gout. In a study conducted at the Boston University School of Medicine1, researchers found that consuming cherry extract, such as Cherry Juice Concentrate, prevented future gout flare-ups. The consumption of cherry extract was associated with a 40% reduction in gout symptoms in 48 hours.
ARTHRITIS AND PAIN RELIEF
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints at the point where two bones meet. This inflammation leads to stiffness and pain. Anthocyanins, which is the substance that gives cherries their colour, has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, which help to alleviate the pain. Anthocyanins found in cherries help relieve pain by inhibiting enzymes associated with pain. The pain signals are blocked and do not reach the brain, therefore aren't processed and pain is not felt. Cherry juice can be used as a natural pain relief for conditions such as arthritis and vascular headaches.
Consuming cherries or cherry juice concentrate reduce levels of muscle pain during intense physical exercise. In addition, it prevents exhaustion and fatigue during and after physical activity. A study conducted at the Human Performance Laboratory and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found cherry juice decreases muscle damage2. Participants took either a cherry juice blend or placebo twice a day for 8 days.
They then did a set of strenuous exercises such as eccentric elbow flexion contractions. Pain, fl exion strength, relaxed elbow angle and muscle tenderness were recorded before exercise and for the 4 days after exercise. The results show that those participants who consumed the cherry juice blend had significantly lower pain and strength loss recordings compared to the placebo group. In another study, the benefits of cherry juice for muscle pain in long distance runners were examined. Research from Oregon Health and Science University involved 60 healthy participants who consumed cherry juice twice a day for 7 days before a exercising in long distance running3. Another group of runners consumed fruit juice as a placebo. Those who had cherry juice reported significantly less muscle pain. On a pain scale ranging from 0-10, the cherry group scored points lower. These results indicate that the use of cherry juice could become a standard post-exercise treatment to protect against muscle pain. This pain is often indicative of muscle damage or injuries that can have debilitating effects on future performance.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan has found cherries contribute to heart health. The study found that diets including cherries might lead to a lower risk of heart disease by lowering body fat, chronic infl ammation and cholesterol levels. The risk of heart disease is primarily reduced due to the cherrys ability to remove excess body fat. As obesity is a major health issue around the world, the positive effects of the cherry in reducing disease risk is an important health matter. The Journal of Natural Produce analysed the micronutrients anthocyanins and cyanidins found in tart cherries4. Their results show that these nutrients have antioxidant activity similar to commercial antioxidants. Additionally, the researchers conclude that cherries could be used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease due to the anti-inflammatory benefits of anthocyanins and cyanidins.
PREVENTS OXIDATIVE DAMAGE
Cherry juice is also beneficial in preventing oxidative damage associated with ischemia. Ischemia occurs when there is a lack of bloodflow to cells. This causes damage and increases the likelihood of infections, and increases susceptibility to diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis. Anthocyanins found in cherry juice protect against oxidative damage. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of tart cherry juice enhances antioxidant defenses in older adults5. 12 participants were involved in the study, with half consuming cherry juice and the others taking a placebo. The blood samples for the group who consumed cherry juice indicated they had a higher capacity to resist oxidative damage.
Michigan State Universitys Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition conducted a study that found that anthocyanins and cyanidins found in tart cherries may reduce the risk of colon cancer6. They found that the anthocyanins and cyanidins reduced the growth of human colon cancer cells.
Cherries are a rich source of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that is essential for regulating sleep patterns. Consuming cherry concentrate is very beneficial in improving quality and depth of sleep, ensuring the body can rejuvenate and repair. Cherry juice has been used to help reduce insomnia. The Sleep and Neurophysiology Research Laboratory at the University of Rochester Medical Center conducted a study looking at the effects of tart cherry juice on sleep7. The participants were 15 older adults with chronic insomnia.
The results show cherry juice lead to statistically significant improvements. In particular, the cherry juice reduced insomnia severity when compared to the placebo.
Cherries can help slow the natural aging process. Melatonin and antioxidants found in cherries and cherry juice concentrate has been shown to slow the effects of aging. Melatonin allows for restful sleep. Antioxidants remove free radicals which circulate the body and cause damage to healthy cells.
Some of the compounds in cherry juice have been found to help with the control of diabetes and insulin resistant metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes). In addition, cherry juice helps reduce the complications associated with diabetes. The cherry juice aids weight loss, reducing the risk and severity of Type Two Diabetes.
1. Yuqing Zhang,MD, American College of Rheumatology 2010 Annual
Scientifi c Meeting, Atlanta, Nov. 6-11, 2010, Boston University School of
2. Connolly, D. A., McHugh, M. P., Padilla-Zakour, O. I., Carlson, L., & Sayers, S. P. (2006). Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, 679-683.
3. Kuehl, K. S., Chestnutt J., Elliot, D. L., Lilley C. (2009). Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain after strenuous exercise. American
College of Sports Medicine. 851.
4. Wang, H., Nair, M. G., Strasburg, G. M., Chang, Y., Booren, A. M., Gray,
J. I., & DeWitt, D. L. (1999). Antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities of anthocyanins and their aglycon, cyanin from tart cherries. Journal of Natural Produce, 61, 294-296.
5. Traustadottir, T., Davies, S. S., Stock, A. A., Su, Y., Heward, C. B., Roberts, L. J., & Harman, S. M. (2009). Tart cherry juice decreases oxidative stress in healthy older men and women. The Journal of Nutrition, 1896-1900.
6. Kang, S. Y., Serram, N. P., Nair, M. G., & Bourquin, L. D. Tart cherry anthocyanins inhibit tumor development in Apc(Min) mice and reduce proliferation of human colon cancer cells. Cancer Letters, 194, 13-19.
7. Pigeon, W. R., Carr, M., Gorman, C., & Perlis, M. L. (2010). Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. Journal of Medicinal Food, 13, 579-583.