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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.
Cherry Juice Eases Arthritis Pain
Cherry cherries tart cherry

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.

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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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).

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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.

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. 

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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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Citations
  • Keane KM et al, "Effects of montmorency tart cherry (L. Prunus Cerasus) consumption on nitric oxide biomarkers and exercise performance." Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, July 2018. DOI: 10.1111/sms.13088
  • Kirakosyan A et al, "The inhibitory potential of Montmorency tart cherry on key enzymes relevant to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease." Food Chemistry, June 30, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.01.084
  • Tall JM et al, "Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat." Behavioural Brain Research, Aug. 12, 2004. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2003.11.011
  • He YH et al, "Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of cherries on Freund's adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats." Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, Sept.-Oct. 2006. DOI: 10.1080/03009740600704155
  • Kelley DS et al, "A review of the health benefits of cherries." Nutrients, March 17, 2018. DOI: 10.3390/nu10030368
  • Kelley DS et al, "Consumption of Bing sweet cherries lowers circulating concentrations of inflammation markers in healthy men and women." Journal of Nutrition, March, 2013. DOI: 10.1093/jn/136.4.981
  • Kelley DS et al, "Sweet bing cherries lower circulating concentrations of markers for chronic inflammatory diseases in healthy humans." Journal of Nutrition, March, 2013. DOI: 10.3945/jn.112.171371
  • Jacob RA et al, "Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women." Journal of Nutrition, June, 2003. DOI: 10.1093/jn/133.6.1826
  • Schumacher HR et al, "Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee." Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Aug., 2013. DOI: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.05.009
  • Levers K et al, "Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on acute endurance exercise performance in aerobically trained individuals." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, online, May 26, 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s12970-016-0133-z
  • Howatson G et al, "Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality." European Journal of Nutrition, Dec., 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
  • Zhang Y et al, "Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks." Arthritis & Rheumatism, Dec., 2012. DOI: 10.1002/art.34677
  • Singh JA et al, "An internet survey of common treatments used by patients with gout including cherry extract and juice and other dietary supplements." Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, June, 2015. DOI: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000000246
  • Collins MW et al, "Is there a role for cherries in the management of gout?" Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease, May 17, 2019. DOI: 10.1177/1759720X19847018
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