Tart Cherries: a Superfood for Inflammation, Pain, and Sleep

“Anti-inflammatory life is a bowl full of cherries.”

Michael Greger, M.D.


Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, of which I participate. Read my full disclosure in terms and conditions if you need more info.


Life as a Bowl of Cherries

Lately I have been consumed in my own little world. Do you ever feel like that? When time passes by so quickly all you do during the day is try to get things checked off the to do list. Usually summer slows down for us, but this summer seems to be moving at a rapid pace. Thankfully, my kids don’t return to school until after Labor Day. We recently had extended family staying with us from out of town and it took me by surprise how much I was operating full force with my head down trying to get through the week.

It’s ok to come up for a breath; in fact it’s necessary. Breathing is essential for the quality and quantity of life.  I am hereby committing, planning, and dedicating the month of August to slowing down and enjoying the simple things of life a bit more. Most of life is not a bowl of cherries. Although what does that saying mean anyway? Is it the easy life? Is it a pain free life? As I get older life shows me that it is more about enjoying relationships than accomplishing tasks, which is hard for me to learn, since I am very good at being a task oriented person.

One of the things I love about my profession as a Physical Therapist and Health Coach is the relationships made and conversations had with people from all walks of life.  Another thing I love is facilitating the healing process to be able to restore one’s function and improve their overall health.  It gives me energy to connect with people and create change.

“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity. ”
― Hippocrates

One health remedy that I have been recommending to my patients/clients is Tart Cherry Juice as a natural relief from pain and inflammation. Tart Cherry Juice is the concentrated juice from cherries with no extra additives. It is heralded as a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain remedy due to its high amount of antioxidants found in a flavonoid called Anthocyanin. So even if you find life isn’t a bowl of cherries, there is a reason you should be eating the bowl of cherries.


What is Anthocyanin?

Anthocyanins are the colorants that produce the vibrant red, purple, and blue hues in plants. Herbal medicine doctors have been incorporating them into herbal remedies for centuries. In the last decade they have become more researched for their medicinal and pharmacological uses as health benefits in the West.

Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that help boost the immune system. Berries contain similar antioxidants, but the most concentrated form of anthocyanins are in tart cherries. Anthocyanins block inflammation as effectively as NSAID’s like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, or Aspirin.

I wrote in my last post how boosting the immune system can help reduce chronic inflammation. This week we will look at this specific antioxidant, its anti-inflammatory properties, and its immune boosting benefits.


Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice

In 2006, tart cherries were ranked number 14 among the top 50 antioxidant foods. They were listed right along with spices and berries and actually surpassed red wine and dark chocolate.  So when should you consider including this antioxidant super food into your diet?

Joint Inflammation

Anti-inflammatory meds are widely prescribed as the first option for combatting chronic pain and the most commonly used pain reliever for Arthritis. In 2013, the American Pain Society reported the number of chronic pain sufferers in America is estimated at 100 million and  NSAID use was surprisingly high with rates of 97 to 99 percent in all chronic pain types studied.  NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) whether prescribed or over the counter are considered so common today because they can help relieve pain, but unfortunately we tend to neglect their high degrees of association with cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks.

Chronic inflammation and decreased immunity play a significant role in the health of the GI tract.  I have written quite a bit about the connection between gut health and overall health. You can read some of those posts here and here.  Approximately 70% of people who suffer from inflamed joints (OA & RA) tend to have a higher percentage of GI issues.  The NSAID’s and medications prescribed tend to exacerbate these GI issues. If you knew of a natural, healthy alternative that has no heart or GI risks, would you take it? I understand the skepticism in natural healing remedies, but maybe that’s where our thinking needs to shift.

Tart cherries have been found to reduce a specific inflammatory marker called C-Reactive protein and eliminate the need for NSAID’s.  In 2012, Oregon Health and Science university scientists concluded,

“Subjects on the tart cherry juice showed a statistically significant reduction in the serum biomarker CRP (p<0.05).  Tart cherry juice may reduce inflammation as measured by certain serum inflammatory biomarkers among women with OA.”

Gout is another inflammatory disease.  It causes pain and inflammation in the big toe. Many doctors today are making their patients more aware of tart cherry juice to remedy one’s Gout. This study found in 633 individuals with gout that cherry intake over a 2-day period was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared with no intake.

It is difficult to know the specific amount one needs to take to reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation. The studies range from having their subjects take capsules, eating cherries, to drinking tart cherry juice like Montmorency.  Researchers agree tart cherry juice is more potent than eating a bowl full of cherries so if you wanted to include it into your diet, then you can start with drinking 2 TBS a day.


Muscle Pain

Fibromyalgia sufferers have intense muscle pain. Athletes are another group of people with muscle pain, albeit for different reasons than Fibromyalgia.  NSAID’s are again the most common drugs taken by Fibromyalgia and Athletes for their muscle pain. Tart cherry juice is a Cox-2 inhibitor in much the same way NSAIDS’s work to help relieve pain.  Tart cherry juice also helps to fight against oxidative stress.  In one study, women with fibromyalgia who drank 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for 10 days had less pain.

Tart cherry juice has been studied extensively in athletes and found to reduce muscle damage following exercise, reduce muscle pain during running, speed recovery after long distance running, and improve recovery from exercise.

One study concluded  the administration of tart cherry juice for eight days reduced symptoms of exercise-induced muscle pain among runners participating in a vigorous endurance event.

Another study on runners found there was clearly a preservation of muscle function attributable to the cherry juice.

The more nutrient dense your diet, the better your body will be able to respond during and after exercise. In the same way, if you are in chronic pain, eating a nutrient dense diet can improve your inflammation and immune system. Tart cherry juice is not the only thing you need for muscle recovery.  Running.Competitor.com calls it an endurance superfood as it may reduce the inflammatory response of the body and elevate the antioxidant capacity which can allow for quicker recovery with no strength loss after exercise. One ounce of concentrated tart cherry juice is the recommended by Univ. Of Mich. Health, but may vary depending on the person, their pain, and their exercise of choice.


Sleep Deprivation/Insomnia

Do you know many who are not sleep-deprived? People with chronic pain such as those I have mentioned above: OA, RA, and Fibromyalgia usually suffer from sleep deprivation. Melatonin supplements are used as a natural sleep aide. Did you know that tart cherries contain Melatonin?

There are many aspects involved in poor sleep patterns. Melatonin is a chemical that our brain secretes to control sleep and wake cycles. Studies have been done on Melatonin and sleep enhancement in Fibromyalgia patients.

Tart cherry juice has also been reported to improve insomnia when subjects drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day.

Here is a study where cherry juice supplements significantly increased time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency, although they say there was no difference in the timing of the melatonin release. Another study concludes tart cherry juice consumption increased sleep time by 85 ± 17 minutes compared to placebo.

As far as dosage, it is difficult to determine. Some of these studies used a tart cherry juice blend and some used concentrated tart cherry juice. Most of what I have found suggests 8oz of the blend or 2Tbs of concentrated cherry juice 30-90 minutes before bedtime.

In conclusion, I will continue to use concentrated Tart Cherry Juice and speak of the benefits to my patients and clients to improve pain, inflammation, muscle recovery, joint stiffness, and sleep.  If you have remedy stories about tart cherry juice helping you, I would love to hear.

Wishing you time to be able to slow down, breath and enjoy life this week.

Please comment below.


Need more inspiration?

  1. 8 Benefits of Cherries by Dr. Axe
  2. Read the article, Tart Cherries an Endurance Superfood 
  3. Dr Michael Greger’s video on Cherries


Caution* Consuming concentrated Tart Cherry Juice of any kind may act as a natural blood thinner. It is wise to avoid if you are unsure of any reactions with your medication or if you take prescription blood thinners. Please consult with your doctor before consuming.



This post is designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical cures, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. It is written as advice and information only and is not to be misconstrued for medical advice of any kind.





  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1082903/
  2. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/anti-inflammatory-life-is-a-bowl-of-cherries/
  3. http://www.choosecherries.com/health-and-nutrition/arthritis-gout/
  4. http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=18352
  5. http://americanpainsociety.org/about-us/press-room/nsaids-chronic-pain-treatment
  6. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/articles/gastrointestinal-problems-rheumatoid-arthritis.php
  7. http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2013/6/Anti-Inflammatory-Properties-of-Tart-Cherry/Page-02
  8. https://runnersconnect.net/running-nutrition-articles/tart-cherry-juice-for-body-pain-in-runners/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133468/
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497

Share this post