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Tart Cherries Fight Pain and Inflammation Naturally

Sour or tart cherries (also known as pie cherries) can reduce inflammation. There is actual scientific evidence that tart cherries fight pain.

When most people experience pain they take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Physicians prescribe medications like celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), meloxicam (Mobic), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn) or piroxicam (Feldene). People often take over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc) or naproxen (Aleve) to relieve pain. But NSAIDs can cause serious side effects including high blood pressure, fluid retention and swollen feet, heart attacks, strokes, irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation), heart failure and dangerous digestive distress (bleeding ulcers). Can tart cherries fight pain without such scary side effects?

How Well Do Tart Cherries Fight Pain?

Q. My 54-year-old husband has severe pain and swelling in his feet and legs after a long day at work. This morning I gave him a 4-ounce glass of tart cherry juice with his breakfast.

When he got home from work, he was in a great mood and told me he felt great and nothing hurt. When I told him it was the cherry juice he was amazed. Now he wants it every day.

A. Tart cherry juice contains natural compounds that have anti-inflammatory activity and can ease pain (Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Aug. 2013). Other readers have reported similar benefit.

One wrote:

“I used tart cherries to cure a gout attack and it worked. The real news is that the pain from osteoarthritis of the hip joint also diminished.

“I’ve been able to reduce my use of Celebrex by half and still have less pain.”

Anyone who would like to learn more details about cherries and other natural approaches for gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia or plantar fasciitis may be interested in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

Other Readers Agree on the Benefits of Cherries:

Here is what some other readers report:

Rick B shared this:

“I am a believer in cherry concentrate syrup. I take it on a regular basis to prevent the gout. Cherries and cranberries have always done a good job of keeping my uric acid lower. Thus, whole cranberries and cherries are a regular addition to my diet. I suffered from the gout for many years before I learned about these two.”

Anne offered a similar story:

“Two or three weeks ago I wrote and asked if tart cherry juice would help pseudogout. I’ve been drinking an ounce or two 3-4 times a day for the past couple of weeks and have had greatly diminished pain. My left knee and toe had been affected for a long time.”

Cindy and her painful heel:

“Not long ago I developed a painful heel on the left side. I have no idea why, nor had it ever happened before. It got so bad I was literally hobbling at times. I bought some tart cherry extract and began using it (1-2 T each night, in a little water), and the pain almost immediately disappeared. I used the cherry juice for about a month, then ran out… and I noticed that the pain DIDN’T return, so I haven’t even bought any more. THANK GOD for the cherry juice!”

Tap Dancing Again After Cherries:

 Q. I was on Celebrex but experienced side effects. A friend recommended that I try Brownwood Acres tart cherry juice. It took four weeks to kick in, but at the ripe old age of 79 I’m tap dancing again. It worked for me.

A. We are more than a little impressed that you are still tap dancing at the age of 79. A lot of people would just like to be walking comfortably without pain at that age.

We’ve heard from others that tart or sour cherries or cherry juice might ease joint pain from gout. Your testimonial is terrific, and we suspect others will want to try cherry juice for arthritis as well. The brand you mention is available at www.brownwoodacres.com or (877) 591-3101.

How Much Cherry Juice is Enough?

The research protocol in the study mentioned above used a dose of two 8-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice daily. Some readers find Montmorency cherry juice concentrate is more economical. That way you can add the juice to sparking water for a pleasant fizzy drink.

An interesting article in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (June, 2014) noted:

“Recently, cherries and cherry products have received growing attention within the literature with regard to their application in both exercise and clinical paradigms. Reported to be high in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative capacity, cherries and their constituents are proposed to provide a similar but natural alternative akin to over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or analgesics.”

A study of elite cyclists revealed that 30 ml (1 oz.) of tart cherry juice extract twice a day produced favorable outcomes (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, April, 2015).

The investigators 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.”

Gin-Soaked Cherries?

A reader recently broached an unusual idea. Would tart cherries fight pain better if they were drenched in gin?

Q. I have a question about the gin-raisin remedy for arthritis. If tart cherries also help ease joint pain, would it work to soak dried tart cherries in gin instead of raisins?

I’m not in the habit of drinking sweet beverages or fruit juice, so I often forget to drink the tart cherry juice I buy. I’ve found it easier to eat dried cherries. Would soaking them in gin up the ante?

A. You raise an intriguing idea. Although there are no studies of gin-soaked raisins for arthritis, scientists have studied tart cherries. Several trials show that tart cherries or cherry juice can reduce inflammation from gout (Arthritis Research & Therapy, Sep. 7, 2023).

A review found that tart cherries ease inflammation broadly (Ageing Research Reviews, March 2021).  There is no research on gin-soaked cherries, but it might be an experiment worth trying. If you try gin-soaked tart cherries, please let us know the outcome. That is the way we learn about new strategies for treating arthritis.

Learn More:

To learn more about a variety of non-drug approaches to easing inflammation and joint pain you may wish to consult our extensive online resource Guide to Alternative Treatments for Arthritis. In it you will learn more about cherries, apitherapy (bee stings), acupuncture, ashwagandha, boswellia, gelatin, gin-soaked raisins, grape juice and Certo, pineapple, ginger, turmeric and stinging nettle. The guide provides scientific evidence for the anti-inflammatory activity of tart cherries and many other natural remedies.

You will learn about some other non-drug approaches against inflammation including Knox Gelatine and Certo and grape juice. Such remedies, though unstudied, appear less risky than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Share your own cherry story below or other strategies you have used to ease inflammation or arthritis pain.

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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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  • Wang C et al, "Efficacy and safety of tart cherry supplementary citrate mixture on gout patients: a prospective, randomized, controlled study." Arthritis Research & Therapy, Sep. 7, 2023. DOI: 10.1186/s13075-023-03152-1
  • Mansoori S et al, "Effects of tart cherry and its metabolites on aging and inflammatory conditions: Efficacy and possible mechanisms." Ageing Research Reviews, March 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.arr.2021.101254
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