Summer is cherry season. For several weeks you can get fresh cherries at your local market. The rest of the year cherry lovers rely on frozen, canned or dried cherries to satisfy their cravings.
Most people do not think of cherries as strong medicine. Nevertheless, the research continues to build that ingredients in both tart (sour) cherries and sweet cherries can have powerful biological effects.
Montmorency Cherries as Medicine:
The most recent studies demonstrate that Montmorency cherry concentrate can have an impact on athletic performance and recovery. In one trial, 16 competitive cyclists were randomly assigned to get two tablespoons of concentrate or placebo twice a day for eight days. On the fifth day they cycled hard for 109 minutes to mimic a road race.
The scientists measured cycling efficiency, cycling power, muscle soreness and inflammatory markers. They concluded: “The results of the study suggest that Montmorency cherry concentrate can be an efficacious functional food for accelerating recovery and reducing exercise-induced inflammation following strenuous cycling exercise” (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, Apr., 2015).
The other trial included 20 marathon runners competing in the 2008 London Marathon. They were randomly assigned to get a cherry juice blend or a placebo juice for eight days. The race was on the sixth day.
These researchers collected information on upper respiratory tract symptoms such as sniffles and sore throat, which are common following a marathon race. In addition, they analyzed the runners’ blood and saliva for inflammatory compounds.
The investigators concluded, “The results of this pilot study showed that a Montmorency cherry juice blend appears to protect the URT [upper respiratory tract] from inflammatory symptoms caused by infectious and non-infectious agents, by possibly reducing the exercise-induced pulmonary inflammation” (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, May 11, 2015).
Tart cherries are not just for elite athletes. Many people find that cherry juice has anti-inflammatory activity that can be helpful for easing arthritic joints.
One reader reports:
“I have debilitating arthritis in my knees. Due to a kidney disease, I can’t take any of the prescription arthritis drugs or even NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen for the pain.
“I started drinking tart cherry juice and it has definitely cut my pain in half. I’ve also started physical therapy and that is helping, too.”
Many others have also found that tart cherries or cherry juice can help ease joint pain. Scientists have an explanation. Compounds in this fruit can inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase just as prescription drugs like celecoxib (Celebrex) do (Journal of Food Science, May, 2012).
Do Not Overdose If You Have Kidney Trouble:
People with chronic kidney disease need to be careful, though. Overdosing on cherry concentrate could further damage the kidneys (American Journal of Kidney Diseases, March, 2014).
Cherries Against Gout:
Other readers have written about the benefits they have experienced eating cherries or drinking cherry juice to ease the excruciating pain of gout. Science supports their experience.
Researchers recruited gout patients online for a year-long observational study. When people consumed cherry products, they had a 35 percent lower risk of a gout flare-up (Arthritis and Rheumatism, Dec., 2012).
People have been enjoying cherries for thousands of years. Now we know that they offer health benefits in addition to delicious flavor. If you would like to know more about some of our favorite healing foods, you may be interested in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.