If I just close my eyes, I can still smell my grandmother’s tart cherry pie. My all-time favorite when I was growing up.
But tart cherries are much more than just a pie ingredient.
Tart cherry juice is now being called the ultimate superfood juice, for a few very good reasons.
The proven benefits include:
- Muscle pain relief
- Arthritis pain relief
- Heart health
- Improved sleep
- Degenerative diseases prevention (such as Alzheimer’s)
- Diabetes prevention
What’s Hiding In Tart Cherries?
Ever been to Traverse City, Michigan?
It’s considered the Cherry Capital of the world. But Utah, Washington, New York, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are other prominent tart cherry-producing states.
Montmorency tart cherries (prunus cerasus), also called sour cherries, are known for their distinctive sour-sweet flavor and unique nutrient profile.
All cherries provide substantial quantities of antioxidants and other nutrients.
Tart cherries deliver a greater content of various anthocyanins than sweet cherries, as well as higher amounts of other phenolic compounds and other nutrients.
Sour cherries don’t contain the sugar and calories found in sweet cherries.
Turns out, the tart taste indicates the number of anthocyanins inside. These flavonoid compounds are responsible for the intense red color and health-promoting benefits of tart cherries.
What are anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are one of nature’s most potent classes of flavonoids.
These powerhouse nutrients are responsible for the deep colors in some berries, fruits, and vegetables.
But tart cherries are superior because they provide high levels of some novel anthocyanins that are absent from a number of other anthocyanin-rich foods, such as blueberries or bilberries!
For example, a 2001 study found that anthocyanins from cherries were as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen at suppressing the COX enzymes associated with inflammation.
Aside from a greater amount of anthocyanins, tart cherries also deliver a cast of supporting compounds.
Bioactive ingredients in Tart cherries inhibit certain enzymes while boosting others, switch on cancer defenses, balance sugar levels, and enhance primary antioxidants.
Tart cherries naturally include Melatonin, the “sleep hormone” and this is why it was found that it can treat insomnia and relieve sleep problems (More on that below).
7 Proven Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice
Now, let’s take a look at the scientifically proven health benefits:
1. Muscle Pain Relief
Most athletes already know about the amazing anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherry juice, and use it to prevent or relieve muscle soreness after strenuous exercise.
The effects of drinking this juice were tested in a double-blind, randomized trial of runners participating in a 24-hour relay race.
The runners drank two 355 milliliters of beverages containing either tart cherry juice or a placebo beverage daily for one week before the race and during the race.
Both groups reported pain after the race. But the runners who drank it experienced substantially less pain increase after the race. The study suggested that tart cherries produce a significant muscle-protecting benefit.
But you don’t have to be a marathon racer.
You can use it to relieve muscle soreness anywhere in your body, caused by anything – from lifting at work, at the gym, or just cooking for hours.
👉 Dosage: One study found that consuming 240 mL (8 ounces) of tart cherry juice twice daily for 7 days before and during a marathon reduced muscle damage and soreness.
2. Arthritis Relief
The amazing compounds in tart cherries make them an inflammation-busting superhero.
This includes arthritis, gout, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
In a 2007 pilot study, researchers at Baylor Research Institute gave tart cherries in pill form to patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
After 8 weeks, more than half the subjects experienced a significant improvement in pain and function.
Those who drank the juice felt a significant decrease in inflammation. It was even greater with women who had shown the highest inflammation levels at the beginning!
I just met one guy who bought this Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate claiming that all he needs are 1 teaspoon 3 times a day to eliminate his pain when he gets a flare-up.
👉 Dosage: According to studies 8-10 ounces once up to twice daily for 3-6 weeks.
See 11 more science-backed remedies for arthritis
3. Better Sleep
Here’s what researchers from Louisiana State University have found:
The researchers had 7 older adults with insomnia drink 8 ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of no juice, and then two more weeks of drinking a placebo beverage.
Melatonin helps us fall asleep faster and stay asleep. It balances our circadian rhythms and makes our sleep more restful.
Instead of taking synthetic melatonin (extracted from the pineal glands of cows…) to help with sleep problems, you can now drink sour cherry juice and get it in a natural form.
4. A 45% Reduction in Gout Attacks
Gout is another type of inflammatory arthritis, and it is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
High blood concentration of uric acid is considered its main pathway. Tart cherries seem to naturally and safely reduce uric acid levels.
👉 Dosage: One study found that consuming about 17 ounces of tart cherry juice daily for 2 days reduced the frequency and severity of gout attacks in people with recurrent gout.
5. A 17% Reduction in LDL Cholesterol
If you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, drinking 8 ounces of this juice daily can lower your levels by 17%.
This was found in a recent study measuring the effect of these cherries on serum triglycerides.
6. Diabetes and Heart Disease
According to a study from the University of Michigan, tart cherries provide the same cardiovascular benefits as a class of drugs called PPAR agonists – which help to regulate fat and glucose.
These drugs are prescribed for people suffering from metabolic syndrome linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
👉 Dosage – One study found that consuming 4 ounces of tart cherry juice concentrate daily for 8 weeks improved markers of blood sugar control, such as hemoglobin A1c and fasting blood glucose, in people with type 2 diabetes.
7. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Tart cherries, even more than sweet cherries, can protect neurons from cell-damaging oxidative stress.
The large number of phenolics, including anthocyanins, was shown to be responsible for this neuron defense. The researchers described it as “strong anti-neurodegenerative activity”.
Michigan Tart Cherries can effectively reduce symptoms of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington disease.
How Much Tart Cherry Juice Can You Drink?
Generally, you can drink either 8 ounces of Montmorency tart cherry juice or 2 tablespoons of concentrate (you can dilute it in your water or a different natural juice).
I use this Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate, and I recommend starting out with 1/2 to 1 tsp a day.
For sleep problems – try this amount 1 hour before you go to bed to sleep like a rock. I do.
For arthritis/gout pain relief – try 1 tsp. when the pain starts and add another dose after 2 hours until you feel pain relief – Up to 3 tsp.
For muscle pain relief – right after a workout – to alleviate muscle soreness and inflammation.
Keep it simple and listen to your body. It will tell you if you’re not tasking enough or taking too much.
Is Tart Cherry Juice Safe?
According to WebMD:
The fruit of the sour cherry is safe for most adults when eaten as food or used as medicine. However, it is not known if sour cherry stems or dietary supplements containing the sour cherry stems are safe.
Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women can safely eat tart cherries when eaten in normal food amounts. But safety is unknown when it comes to juice and supplements. I would avoid it in this case.
Other than that, no side effects were documented from drinking sour cherry juice and there are no known interactions with medication.
What is the Best Tart Cherry Juice?
You can get enjoy the amazing benefits of tart cherry juice by either drinking it or taking supplements.
But, cherries are among the fruits that are heavily treated with pesticides so it’s important to buy organic.
Quality tart cherry juice is organic, with no added sugars, additives, or high fructose corn syrup. Also, make sure you are buying Montmorency tart cherry juice and that it is not imported.
You can buy the juice itself or concentrate, which is also fine, as long as it’s pure.
Organic Juice in a glass bottle – Find it here
Organic juice concentrate (no additives) – Find it here
Even if you never cared for tart cherry pies, now’s the time to start loving tart cherries.
It seems that the day when your doctor says “Take 10 tart cherries and call me in the morning” may not be far off (if you have a good doctor…)
Ongoing research finds that tart cherry benefits include heart health, joint health, muscle health, and even insomnia relief.
Aside from the powerful anthocyanins (inflammation busters), tart cherries are rich in two important flavonoids – isoquercitrin and quercitrin.
Consuming all of these in your food is like unleashing an entire army of agents to neutralize harmful oxidants in your body.
Make sure you buy organic juice, without any additives, preferably in a glass bottle.
To your health and happiness,
Bell PG, Walshe IH, Davison GW, Stevenson E, Howatson G. Montmorency cherries reduce the oxidative stress and inflammatory responses to repeated days high-intensity stochastic cycling. Nutrients. 2014;6(2):829-843. Published 2014 Feb 21. doi:10.3390/nu6020829
Kuehl KS. Cherry juice targets antioxidant potential and pain relief. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:86-93. doi:10.1159/000341965
Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(8):909-916. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7:17. Published 2010 May 7. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-17
Sleigh, AE, Kuehl KS, Elliot DL. Efficacy of tart cherry juice to reduce inflammation among patients with osteoarthritis. American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting. May 30, 2012.
Khoo HE, Azlan A, Tang ST, Lim SM. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food Nutr Res. 2017 Aug 13;61(1):1361779.