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Cherry Juice Eases Arthritis Pain

Studies show that the compounds in cherry juice (anthocyanins) have anti-inflammatory activity which may be helpful in combatting pain.

Whoever said “Growing older isn’t for sissies!” probably had arthritis. Although it sometimes strikes younger people, the constant ache in knees and hips can make it hard to keep moving.  Pain in the shoulders, arms and hands can interfere with important activities like cooking or playing music. Unfortunately, the drugs that doctors generally recommend for arthritis pain (NSAIDs like diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen) carry unpleasant side effects such as bleeding ulcers, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Simple remedies might be very welcome. Could you use cherry juice for your joint pain? It is quite popular with some readers.

Cherry Juice Helps Arthritic Hands:

Q. I spend summers in Michigan. A few years ago, I was developing painful hip and hand arthritis. A neighbor had arthritis so badly he could not even hold a glass of water.

The following year he was outside spreading gravel with a rake. He said drinking cherry juice daily had made all the difference. I tried it and five weeks later I was pain free.

A. A review of the scientific literature in the journal Maturitas (April, 2019) found that tart cherry juice can “slow the progression of osteoarthritis via decreased inflammation and reduced cartilage degradation.”

Montmorency Cherry Extract for Muscle Soreness:

Q. I recently read about tart cherries on your website. I began taking Montmorency tart cherry extract in 1200 mg potency gummies. The results were amazing, in that my muscle and bone soreness subsided within a few days. I hope this will also help my blood sugar levels.

A. Thanks for sharing your experience. Montmorency tart cherries have been studied for exercise performance and recovery (Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, July 2018).  These cherry supplements lower blood pressure modestly as well as improving end-sprint performance in elite athletes.

Research indicates that they may also be helpful for managing type 2 diabetes (Food Chemistry, June 30, 2018). However, gummies are often high in sugar. As a result, we don’t know if they will help lower your blood sugar or if they might be counterproductive.

Cherry Juice Testimonial for Arthritis Pain:

Another reader offered her experience with cherry juice rather than Montmorency cherry extract.

Q. My husband and I take black cherry juice concentrate for arthritis aches and pains. I buy it at the local health food store. We take a teaspoon a day, like cough syrup.

My finger joints are no longer swollen and painful. On those rare days where I still have some discomfort, I just take another dose.

A. Tart cherries, sour cherries and black cherries have all been used to combat inflammation associated with arthritis or gout. Animal studies have shown that the red compounds in cherries (anthocyanins) have anti-inflammatory activity (Behavioural Brain Research, Aug. 12, 2004Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, Sept.-Oct. 2006). A review of the health benefits of cherries, cherry juice, cherry powder or cherry concentrate found that the compounds in both sweet and sour cherries can reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, lower oxidative stress, ease arthritis pain, help control blood pressure and decrease HbA1c (Nutrients, March 17, 2018).

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Cherry Juice Reduced Need for NSAIDs:

Q. You have written often about gin-soaked raisins to ease joint pain. Recently, though, someone asked about soaking dried cherries in gin to help against arthritis pain. Let me tell you what I do.

Instead of dried cherries, I use Montmorency tart cherry concentrate. It is too tart for my taste on its own, so I use 1 tablespoon of the concentrate and 1/8 teaspoon Hershey’s syrup in 2 ounces of milk. If I’m having a lot of pain, I take it twice during the day.

Bonus: I need no more arthritis meds, no more opiates, no more braces and no cane. This has been a life saver.

A. Tart Montmorency cherries have some fascinating biological activity. Compounds in this fruit can inhibit NF-κB (Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, July, 2022).  This proinflammatory signaling pathway is important for immune responses, nervous system function, cancer and inflammation. Tart cherries also lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) that is a marker of inflammation and knee cartilage degeneration (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Aug. 2013).

A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition (June 13, 2019) reports:

“The findings of the study suggest that daily consumption of tart cherry juice results in improvement in mobility, relief of pain-related symptoms and quality of life, and selective markers of cartilage health.”

Cherries Reduce Inflammation:

A small study found that the benefits are not limited to rodents. People eating Bing sweet cherries (280 grams a day, about 10 ounces) for a month had significantly lower levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood (Journal of Nutrition, April, 2006). These compounds have been linked to chronic disease, so it is possible that people who regularly consume cherries or cherry juice might be less prone to such problems (Journal of Nutrition, March, 2013). Another study has demonstrated that eating Bing sweet cherries lowers the level of uric acid, a risk factor for gout, among healthy women (Journal of Nutrition, June, 2003).

Researchers have also compared tart cherry juice to placebo juice for 6 weeks (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Aug., 2013). The study participants all had osteoarthritis affecting their knees. The cherry juice was associated with reduced inflammation and relief of knee pain, but it was not significantly better than placebo. Although this study didn’t show great benefit using cherry juice to lessen arthritis pain, some readers find it can be very helpful.

How to Use Cherry Juice for Joint Pain:

Q. Four ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning has alleviated the arthritis pain that I used to have in my hands. I’ve been doing this for the last two years.

I’ve recommended it to many people. Some don’t experience relief from it, but many do. One friend uses cherry juice at bedtime to help her fall asleep.

Tart Cherries for Inflammation and Insomnia:

A. There is growing evidence that ingredients in tart cherries may ease both inflammation and insomnia. One study involved a placebo-controlled trial of powdered Montmorency cherries (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, online, May 26, 2016).  Athletes who consumed the powder outperformed the group on placebo. They also experienced less muscle soreness and had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their bloodstream. Montmorency cherries are rich in melatonin, which may help explain why they might help with sleep problems (European Journal of Nutrition, Dec., 2012).

Do You Use Cherry Juice for Gout?

Cherries have been studied for their ability to ease joint pain due to gout (Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dec., 2012). Patients who are surveyed online frequently report that they find cherry juice helpful (Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, June, 2015). Although doctors generally prefer to prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and medicines to lower uric acid, some physicians think that cherries may offer a nondrug treatment option (Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, May 17, 2019). They would like to see rigorous studies of cherries in combination with urate-lowering therapies such as allopurinol.

Where to Find Tart Cherries:

We sometimes hear from people who would like to know where to find cherries out of season. Some report that their local market does not carry cherry juice. There are a number of reputable online vendors who could supply cherry concentrate so you can use cherry juice to see if it helps your arthritic joints. Cherry juice concentrate is more affordable than fresh cherries or juice. It can be added to seltzer water or made into a tea.

Those who are interested in the powdered Montmorency cherries can also purchase the product used in the athlete study mentioned above. The brand is CherryPURE®. The dose was 480 mg/day. We have no affiliation with Shoreline Fruit, the makers of this cherry concentrate.

Learn About Other Options to Manage Arthritis Pain:

Cherries and cherry juice are far from the only option for people who want to control arthritis pain without heavy-duty medicines. Anyone who would like to learn more about nondrug approaches for controlling inflammation and easing joint pain may find our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis of interest. It provides details about the gin-raisin remedy, tart cherry juice and other quirky approaches to calming inflammation.

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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..
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