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Cherries for Gout Supported by Science

Although diet advice is a mainstay of gout treatment, mostly it has focused on avoiding purines. Studies show that eating cherries for gout can help.
Cherries for Gout Supported by Science
Black cherry

Gout is a chronic condition that seems to get very little respect. Once upon a time, it was considered a rich man’s disease (although poor people and women are also vulnerable to the excruciating pain gout can cause). That is probably because a diet high in purines from meat, shellfish and beer can trigger attacks (New England Journal of Medicine, March 11, 2004). So can many fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages (JAMA, Nov. 24, 2010). On the other hand, cherries for gout actually have been studied and found helpful.

Controlling Gout Naturally:

Q. I have a history of gout which has permanently affected the big toe joint of my right foot. Theoretically, I should not be a gout victim: I weigh 140 pounds, eat a healthy vegan diet and exercise regularly. In my last few attacks my uric acid level has been measured at 6.0. What suggestions can you offer?

A. A uric acid level of 6 is considered problematic for people with gout attacks. Your doctor may need to prescribe a medicine that lowers uric acid, such as allopurinol or febuxostat, to get it into an acceptable range (American Family Physician, Dec. 15, 2014).

Another option may sound a little silly, but it has scientific support. Consider tart cherry supplements, either as juice or extract in capsules. A systematic review of six trials found that people taking tart cherry juice or extract had fewer gout flare-ups and lower uric acid (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Dec. 4, 2019).  A randomized controlled trial confirmed the effect on uric acid and found that capsules are more powerful than juice (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, Jan. 27, 2021). 

Tart Cherries for Gout Pain:

Several readers have offered testimonials on the power of tart cherries as juice or concentrate. Here is one example.

Q. I have been battling gout for the past five weeks and was on indomethacin, ibuprofen and a low purine diet. The attacks kept moving around from joint to joint, and the ordeal has been extremely painful.

I heard that tart cherries might help, so I bought tart cherry juice and a big bottle of tart cherry concentrate from the health food store.

The pain is 80 percent gone in just 48 hours! I drank 24 to 32 ounces of the juice each day and supplemented it with 2 to 4 tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate mixed with water. This is amazing, especially since I have stopped taking the medication.

The Science of Tart Cherries:

A. Readers have been telling us for years that tart cherries help ease their gout attacks. The first study on cherries for gout appeared in the medical literature in 1950 (Texas Reports on Biology and Medicine).

Although many doctors have been skeptical about the benefits of cherries, a new year-long study of 633 volunteers with gout shows that flare-ups are 35 percent less likely when a person eats cherries (Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dec., 2012). Cherries in combination with the uric-acid-lowering drug allopurinol reduced the likelihood of an attack by 75 percent. Some doctors are considering the possibility that cherries could be used as a complementary medicine for gout (Evidence-Based Medicine, Dec., 2013).

For more information about the benefits of cherries for controlling inflammation in gout and arthritis, along with other foods that can ease joint pain, we offer our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

This comment about our book comes from Sharon M (Oct. 30, 2012):

“I am so thankful to you! Your articles have taught me so much and have literally changed my life for the better! Pycnogenol for hot flashes and asthma is working beautifully and tart cherry for arthritis pain is amazing! I am making notes in your book I ordered from you of new things I am learning. It is an invaluable tool in natural healing. I wish you both the best and may God bless you richly! Love, Sharon M., reader and fan.”

We are so grateful to Sharon and the thousands of other people who continue to support our work on the radio, in print and on this website.

Joe & Terry

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Citations
  • Choi HK et al, "Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men." New England Journal of Medicine, March 11, 2004. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa035700
  • Choi HK et al, "Fructose-rich beverages and risk of gout in women." JAMA, Nov. 24, 2010. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2010.1638
  • Chen PE et al, "Effectiveness of cherries in reducing uric acid and gout: A systematic review." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Dec. 4, 2019. DOI: 10.1155/2019/9896757
  • Hillman AR & Uhranowsky K, "Acute ingestion of Montmorency tart cherry reduces serum uric acid but has no impact on high sensitivity C-reactive protein or oxidative capacity." Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, Jan. 27, 2021. DOI: 10.1007/s11130-021-00879-7
  • Zhang Y et al, "Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks." Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dec., 2012. DOI: 10.1002/art.34677
  • Terkeltaub R, "Are cherries now ripe for use as a complementary therapeutic in gout? Appraisal of the state of evidence." Evidence-Based Medicine, Dec., 2013. DOI: 10.1136/eb-2012-101211
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