Update 3/10/20. Tart cherry juice, or as Dr. Oz called it the “ultimate antioxidant”, is reputed to have several health benefits. While there are over 250 different types of tart cherries (also called sour cherries), they are all healthy to various degrees and because they are fruits, all types have some of antioxidant activity. In this tart cherry review, I want to address the 3 specific claims that Dr. Oz mentioned on his TV show. If you do your own research, remember that it’s scientific name Prunus cerasus.
Tart Cherry Juice: Ultimate Antioxidant?
Tart cherries have antioxidant properties. In one study of older adults published in the Journal of Nutrition, 12 older adults were randomly given either 16 oz of tart cherry juice (two 8 oz servings per day) for 2 weeks.
Then after a month they were given a placebo drink and followed again for another two weeks. Scientists measured oxidative damage caused by free radicals during both drinks to see if either drink had any effect.
At the end of the study, tart cherry juice was found to improve the antioxidant defenses of older adults. This was a small study (only 12 people) but it demonstrates that there is some antioxidant activity.
While this is good news, remember that claims about cherries being the ultimate antioxidant should be seen with skepticism. There's no proof they are better than other antioxidant-rich foods. Like all foods, they have their place in a healthy diet.
Tart Cherry Juice Benefits
According to Dr. Oz, tart cherry juice has the following benefits :
Let’s discuss the proof for each of these separately and see what we can figure out
Tart Cherry Juice For Pain
Some research does find that tart cherries are anti-inflammatory because they contain compounds that act somewhat similar to aspirin. Some of these compounds in tart cherries are called anthocyanins. One of the ways that aspirin works is by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (pronounced, sigh-clo-ox-a-gen-ace). This is the enzyme Dr. Oz was talking about on TV.
I did my Master’s Thesis on cyclooxygenase.
In one study, tart cherry juice was shown to reduce muscle pain after exercise. This study involved 54 runners. In that study, people drank 24 oz of tart cherry juice per day or a placebo for a week before a race. The brand used was Cherrish cherry juice. One problem with the study is runners rated their pain on a scale. The researchers did not measure antioxidant levels, muscle damage or oxidative stress.
In another investigation, researchers observed tart cherry juice reduced diabetic nephropathy in their legs. Here researchers had people drink 8 oz of cherry juice for 2 weeks. Other researchers have noted tart cherry juice reduces arthritis pain.
Tart Cherry Juice And Heart Disease
In one study, lab rats were fed a high-fat diet for 3 months. Some rats were also given tart cherries (freeze-dried tart cherry powder) while other rats were not. Rats that got the cherries had lower triglycerides and reduced abdominal fat. Cherries also have some soluble fiber which may have contributed to some of the effects on triglycerides.
Since elevated triglycerides (fats in the blood), increased weight and belly fat are associated with metabolic syndrome (which leads to type II diabetes), does this mean that tart cherries can lower our risk of type II diabetes? It’s a good question and it will be interesting to see human research on this. Right now, nobody is sure.
A 2011 study – conducted on people also appeared to show some benefits. In this study, 10 overweight men and women drank either 8 oz of tart cherry juice or a placebo for 4 weeks. Researchers noted that tart cherry juice reduced not only markers for inflammation but also triglycerides and VLDL (a type of LDL /bad cholesterol.
Sleep And Cherry Juice
The hormone melatonin is released from the pineal gland in the brain when we are in darkness. This is one of the reasons we get tired at night. Tart cherries do contain melatonin. Specifically, Montmorency tart cherries have about 13 nanograms per gram (there are 28 grams in 1 ounce). This is more melatonin than other varieties like Balaton tart cherries which have about 2 nanograms per gram.
Melatonin is also an antioxidant and probably contributes to some of the tart cherries' antioxidant power.
One study that hints that tart cherries may help sleep in older adults.
This study was funded by CherryPharm which makes the tart cherry juice used in this investigation. The study only involved 15 people who had insomnia. These older adults drank 16 oz of tart cherry juice a day for two weeks. They reported better sleep than when they drank a placebo.
As far as I can tell this study did not check to see if tart cherry juice actually raised melatonin levels in people. This is technically a problem with the study. Also, melatonin is not the only reason we get tired at night. So, just raising melatonin levels (if tart cherries really do this) may not work for everybody.
Does this mean that tart cherry juice will help younger people sleep better? Maybe or maybe not. I could not find any proof one way or another. I would caution – as Dr. Oz did – to not drink cherry juice too close to bedtime or the extra fluid may increase nighttime bathroom trips – which does nothing for sleep.
For those who are interested here is the organic brand I use.
Tart Cherry Juice And Exercise
Can tart cherry juice help you exercise better? One study says yes. This investigation involved 27 male and female marathon runners and triathletes. the people were randomly given either a placebo or a supplement that contained 480 mg of tart cherries. The runners took the supplement for 10 days prior to running a half marathon and on the race day.
The results were pretty interesting. Compared to the placebo group, those taking the tart cherry supplement:
- Ran the race 13% faster than the placebo group.
- Had higher antioxidant levels 24 hr and 48 hr after the race.
- Had a 47% reduction in inflammation markers after the race.
- Reported 34% muscle soreness (DOMS) before the race (not after).
The supplement used in this study was called CherryPURE
In a review of cherry exercise studies, researchers noted it may be beneficial if 16 to 24 oz were consumed 4- to 5-d before the an exercise event, and 2 to 3 d after to promote recovery.
Tart Cherry Juice And Blood Pressure
Thanks to a reader, I was informed that melatonin may help nocturnal hypertension, a condition where blood pressure rises at night when we are asleep. Since tart cherries contain some melatonin, it makes some sense they would help with this too.
In fact, one study has also shown that drinking 2 oz of Montmorency tart cherry concentrate reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 10 points after 2 weeks of use (that's a lot!). This study involved 15 men who had high blood pressure or pre-high blood pressure. None of the men were taking drugs for their blood pressure problems.
What About Cherry Juice Capsules?
Since writing this review a few of the people who commented have said they have had success with capsules that contain cherry juice. I'd guess that capsules would appeal to people who don't like the taste of tart cherries or tart cherry juice. I've done some looking into this and found that there are several brands out there. Just a few I saw on Amazon include:
From what I understand, if cherry juice is going to help reduce inflammation, the dose should contain the equivalent of at least 46 cherries. I would check tart cherry juice capsules to see how many cherries are in a serving size.
I would also look to see how many capsules is needed to achieve a serving as well. In other words, if a product said it had 1000 mg, is that in 1 capsule, 2 or 3 capsules? Also, compare prices. More expensive cherry supplements may not be better.
What Do I Suggest?
I think all quality brands will likely work the same. Here are two brands I like:
Tart Cherry Juice Side Effects
So far no studies have shown any ill effects. That said, there isn’t much research on people with health problems. So, if your going to try this supplement, here are some things to consider. This list is not complete
- start with less than recommended for the first week
- stop taking at least two weeks before having surgery
- if you take any medications, ask your doctor
- Pregnant or nursing moms should speak to their doctor first.
In theory, tart cherry juice may interfere with some medications. This includes blood thinner medicine. People who take blood thinner medications should speak to their doctor.
Cherries may lower blood pressure. Speak to your doctor if taking blood pressure medicine.
Do Tart Cherries Work?
Overall, I'm intrigued by what I see about tart cherry juice, and from the comments below, several people are also saying that it has an effect on a variety of issues. If you are healthy, I see no problems with taking a shot of tart cherry juice per day or a cherry supplement. It can't hurt and it just might help.
Here is the brand I like for those who are curious.
Inge M Ely says
Can I take black cherry 1000mg, while on Xaralto!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Inge, I’m not aware of any issues but I’m not a doctor or pharmacist so I’ll suggest you to ask them for more precise information.
One thing to consider asking ask is whether black cherry is a blood thinner and if yes, will it interfere with Xarelto? There may be other things they bring up when you ask.
Joe DeCeglia says
My wife is on the blood thinner XARELTO. Does Solaray cherry juice have any blood thinner in it that could affect her health??
Joe Cannon says
Hi Joe, you bring up a good question. When in doubt I often assume supplements may have blood thinner properties. While I have heard its wise to avoid grapefruit, I’m not sure if tart cherry juice interacts with Xarelto or not. I think this is a question you should ask your pharmacist. I’m curious about this too so do let us know what they tell you. Does anyone else here have thoughts on what foods /supplements to avoid while taking Xarelto?
Joe M. says
I exoerienced some mild reduction in pain but suprisingly notable effect on blood sugar. I am not diabetic but like to keep BG<125 two hrs after large meal. No change in triglycerides however I was already low to begin with. My TG/HDL is 1.4, should be below 2. Best predictor of cardiovascular events.
Maybe minor assist for sleep which is generally terrible. Full spectrum CBD has helped sleep the most, as well as restless leg.
Overall this is an interesting natural compound with potential for cardio and neuro. Thanks for all the work you do, great website!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Joe, there is some evidence tart cherry may help lower blood sugar levels and A1C levels too. Tart cherries definitely are interesting for many things. I’ve been meaning to write more on this. your Triglyceride to HDL ratio sounds great! Whatever you are doing keep it up.
So glad you have been enjoying my website too 🙂
Catherine E Avard says
My father is 87 years old and has Type II diabetes. Of course he does take insulin and I do have him on a diabetic diet. The problem, he suffers from neuropathy in his hands and feet. His hands are always cold and I don’t know what I can do to help him. We’ve tried many medications, as well as gloves and hot packs.
Pop, being the stubborn Irishman he is, does not like to wear the gloves in the house. “I can’t turn the pages when I’m reading my book.” God bless the stubborn! (At least he still reads two to three books a week)
Do you think tart cherry juice/pills might help alleviate some of the neuropathy in his hands? The hands shoved in the armpits look is getting a little old…LOL
Hi Catherine, I did some research and found this study noting tart cherry juice helped diabetic neuropathy pain
It was a small study – just 12 people and lasted only 2 weeks, but it was interesting. It did not mention anything about cold hands though.
Some tart cherry juice brands may have sugar added and that may be an issue for his diabetes. Check his blood sugar when hes taking it. Other than that I don’t see a problem with trying it.
Let me know what happens.
Your dad reads 3 books a week – wow. I wish I could read that fast 🙂
Chris S says
Joe, I can’t get the link to work showing the brand that you use. Could you please fix this?
My blood pressure is getting higher as I get older, and I’m looking for ways to avoid needing blood pressure medications.
Hi Chris, it worked fine when I clicked it. Here’s the tart cherry brand I use
Here is a list of several things shown to help blood pressure. this link goes to my personal website.
Any other questions, just ask 🙂
Pat Nelson says
I have nocturnal hypertension, I am 76 and was more or less self diagnosed because my doctor had never heard of it..??? So I did my own research and found that melatonin at 1-3 mg will work and sure enough it did. the medication my doctor gave me caused severe swelling in my feet. Then I got worried about the lab made melatonin and did more research and found tart cherry and now I use that and sleep very well and my blood pressure yesterday was 115/71.
I did find the lab made did give me a slight headache that lasted most of the day, the cherry no headache. I take no prescribed Pharmaceutical medications at all. I really hope this will help someone.
Hi Pat, thanks for sharing this. I was also not aware of nocturnal hypertension. I did some research and found yes, there is some evidence melatonin may help this condition
Since tart cherry juice contains some melatonin, it makes sense it would help too. Either way, Im glad you have found something that is helping your nocturnal hypertension. I have updated the review with this new information. I thank you for this 🙂
I have gout and high bp. I have been making a smoothie of frozen cherries a banana frozen blueberries and tart cherry juice for several years now. I do take meds for both ( alopurensl and Lysinapro) but I think the smoothie has had a beneficial effect. I have not had a gout attack in over 5 years.
Hi Leigh, I am very glad to hear your gout flair ups have been gone for so long. I also toss frozen blueberries in my smoothies 🙂