Can something as simple and natural as tart cherry juice help support your health? This superfruit is anything but basic. Tart cherries are one of nature's best sources of powerful, health-promoting flavonoids that support joint health1 and provide valuable free radical protection for the whole body. Substances in tart cherry may also help support healthy collagen structures,2 and tart cherry might even help you sleep better!3
Until recently, tart cherries were used most often in baked goods and flavorings, but since they are loaded with healthy vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients, tart cherries have gained popularity for their numerous potential health benefits.
What is Tart Cherry?
Tart cherries, also known as sour cherries, come from hundreds of varieties of sour cherry trees grown worldwide. Three of the most common types are Montmorency, Richmond and English Morello cherries.3 Tart cherries are used as a health tonic, as well as in foods, fruit syrups and flavorings. And as you might expect, they have a tart flavor, which many people love! Tart cherries are among nature’s most potent sources of flavonoids, including anthocyanins, which are known to have substantial antioxidant activity.1 Tart cherry is also a natural source of melatonin,3 which may help regulate sleep patterns.
Many of the positive benefits of tart cherries are due to the anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are the plant pigments that give the berries their color. There are a lot of other dark-colored fruits and vegetables that also contain them, but cherries (and tart cherries in particular) contain high levels of anthocyanins with potent antioxidant properties.4 Tart cherries also provide your body with high amounts of total phenolic compounds and other phytonutrients that may promote health.5
Tart Cherry Juice for Joints
Tart cherry juice may benefit your joints in several ways. The flavonoids found in tart cherries work as antioxidants to help protect joint tissues against free-radical damage. And the anthocyanins may help metabolize uric acid to keep it at a comfortable level.6 Healthy uric acid levels play a role in the health and comfort of our joints.
Research suggests that drinking tart cherry juice twice a day may help support healthy joints, and that tart cherries may offer more joint-supporting properties than any other food.7 Tart cherry may also promote joint health by helping strengthen collagen structures in connective tissues.2
Summary of Tart Cherry Joint Benefits
- Provides powerful antioxidant support to the entire body
- May help metabolize uric acid to keep it at a comfortable level
- May benefit joint health by strengthening collagen structures in connective tissues
Tart Cherry Juice and Collagen
Collagen is a structural protein found in connective tissues throughout your body. It helps gives your bones, skin, muscles and blood vessels their structure and flexibility. Collagen also plays a role in the structure of joint cartilage. The anthocyanins in tart cherries may help protect the collagen in your body, providing antioxidant support against environmental damage and helping strengthen collagen structures in connective tissues.2 Tart cherry also contains vitamin C, which may help support collagen formation.8
Summary of Tart Cherry Collagen Benefits
- Anthocyanins in tart cherry may help strengthen collagen structures
- Provides antioxidant support to help protect collagen
- Contains vitamin C, supporting collagen formation
Tart Cherry Juice and Sleep
Tart cherries contain melatonin, which might help promote sleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles so you can get the rest you need, and it’s one of the most popular natural sleep aids. Tart cherry also contains small amounts of tryptophan, and studies suggest it may increase tryptophan bioavailability9 for serotonin synthesis. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness, and it’s a precursor to melatonin.10 In one study, people who drank tart cherry juice twice per day (in the morning and at night) slept longer and got more efficient sleep.9
Summary of Tart Cherry Sleep Benefits
- Contains melatonin, which may help you sleep better
- Provides small amounts of tryptophan
- May increase bioavailability of tryptophan for serotonin synthesis
Tart Cherry Cardiovascular Benefits
Additional studies and clinical trials have shown that tart cherry juice may also help support heart health by promoting vascular function, supporting healthy blood pressure and promoting the health of blood vessel linings – a benefit that researchers believe may be linked to phenolic acids.11,12
Anthocyanins from various sources have been the focus of many studies related to vascular function and health because of their antioxidative and vasodilatory properties.13 Researchers say anthocyanins may improve vascular health significantly, but that more studies should be conducted that are dose-specific and that focus on specific populations with varied health concerns to assist with developing dosage recommendations and to explore effects on vascular regions more thoroughly.13
Summary of Tart Cherry Cardiovascular Benefits
- Tart cherries may promote healthy blood pressure
- Phenolic acids in tart cherries may support the lining of blood vessels
- Anthocyanins in tart cherries may have antioxidative and vasodilatory properties
How Much Tart Cherry Juice to Drink?
Drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice per day is a common approach, but your needs may vary. Tart cherry juice concentrate may be a more convenient option than regular cherry juice. You can add it to your water or to other juices or smoothies. Tart cherry concentrate gives you the benefits of tart cherry juice every day without keeping gallons of it on hand.
Tart Cherry Capsules
Tart cherry capsules are probably the most convenient way to take tart cherry. Capsules are super-concentrated and a great way to get the benefits of tart cherry without the calories and sugar that juice contains. Standard tart cherry juice can have over 100 calories in an 8 ounces serving and more than 20 grams of sugar. That’s over 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving!
Tart Cherry Dosage
More research needs to be conducted to determine dosage recommendations for specific health concerns, but the following intakes have been used successfully in studies.
Tart Cherry Dosage for Joint Health
As little as 30 mL - 60 mL (1 - 2 ounces) may have a positive impact on uric acid levels.6 Several studies have used 80 mg of anthocyanin for joint health, which is equivalent to between 16 - 24 ounces of tart cherry juice blend, 1 ounce of liquid tart cherry juice concentrate, or 400 mg of concentrated tart cherry in tablets or capsules.1
Tart Cherry Dosage for Sleep
In a double-blind trial involving healthy individuals, sleep-seeking participants drank between 1 - 8 ounces of tart cherry juice up to twice daily to support sleep quality.1
Tart Cherry Capsules Dosage
Swanson Health’s Tart Cherry Capsules contain 500 mg of tart cherry in each capsule. You can take up to two capsules twice per day.
Tart Cherry Juice Side Effects
When consumed in normal food amounts, tart cherry is safe for most adults.3 But just as eating too many cherries might upset your stomach, consuming large amounts of tart cherry juice may cause some digestive discomfort, which experts attribute to its high sorbitol content.14 Also, keep an eye on your overall calorie intake from tart cherry juice because the calories can add up and cause some weight gain side effects if you aren’t careful, or you can opt for tart cherry supplements instead.
Where to Buy Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice is becoming easier to find on store shelves, but don’t take the labels at face value. Read the ingredients to make sure the product you are getting is 100% tart cherry juice and not a blend of other juices that is just flavored with tart cherry.
Health Benefits of Tart Cherries
As a health tonic, tart cherry is often used to support joints, boost collagen, promote sleep and provide antioxidant support for the cardiovascular system and the entire body. Do you use tart cherry to support your health? If so, do you prefer it in concentrate form, tart cherry supplements, or 100% tart cherry juice? Tell us how you use tart cherry in the comments below!
And if you are thinking of taking tart cherry to support healthy joints, you might want to learn about MSM Benefits: Joint Health and Beyond, or if you are considering tart cherry to help you sleep, check out How Much Melatonin Should You Really Be Taking?
1 Tart Cherry. Michigan Medicine. University of Michigan. http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-10009962 (Accessed 2/16/2018)
2 Bioactive Heterocycles VI: Flavonoids and Anthocyanins in Plants, and Latest Bioactive Heterocycles I. Springer. Edited by Noboru Motohashi. https://books.google.com/books?id=1j1uCQAAQBAJ (Accessed 2/19/2018)
3 Sour Cherry. WebMD.https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-771-sour cherry.aspx?activeingredientid=771&activeingredientname=sour cherry(Accessed 2/16/2018)
4 Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus L) Anthocyanins as Ingredients for Functional Foods. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1082898/ (Accessed 2/16/2018)
5 Phenolics and Human Health. International Journal of Chemical Engineering and Applications. http://www.ijcea.org/papers/416-N0002.pdf(Accessed 2/16/2018)
6 Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) concentrate lowers uric acid, independent of plasma cyanidin-3-O-glucosiderutinoside. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464614002886 (Accessed 2/16/2018)
7 Osteoarthritis Patients May Benefit From Drinking Tart Cherry Juice. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/246114.php (Accessed 2/16/2018)
8 Collagen. Protein Data Bank. http://pdb101.rcsb.org/motm/4 (Accessed 2/19/2018)
9 Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28901958 (Accessed 2/18/2018)
10 What is serotonin and what does it do? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248 (Accessed 8/26/2020)
11 Montmorency Tart cherries (Prunus cerasus L.) modulate vascular function acutely, in the absence of improvement in cognitive performance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27989253 (Accessed 2/19/2018)
12 Effects of Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus Cerasus L.) consumption on vascular function in men with early hypertension. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27146650 (Accessed 2/16/2018)
13 The Effect of Anthocyanin-Rich Foods or Extracts on Vascular Function in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579701/ (Accessed 2/19/2018)
14 Tart Cherry Juice Pain Relief. ABC News. http://abc30.com/health/tart-cherry-juice-pain-relief/1143780/ (Accessed 2/19/2018)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.