By Jan de Vries, originally published Winter 2008
As fruits go, cherries must be one of the most expensive but when they appear in shops stocks don’t last long.
Despite the cost, cherries are always popular. With their single relatively large stone, cherries belong to the same group of fruits as apricots and plums and come in two main varieties; the edible cherry (Prunus avium) and the rather sour cooking cherry (Prunus cerasus). Cherries are expensive fruits to grow and are very prone to damage and bruising, even by a heavy fall of rain! However, there is a growing demand for the, spurred along by their flavour and health benefits.
With research indicating that coloured fruits and berries carry special health benefits due to their high flavonoid content, cherries have become rather sought after. Other dark red-blue berries (blueberries, hawthorn berries, and others) also provide many of the same valuable, anti-inflammatory flavonoid compounds as well but cherries appear to offer something extra, especially for those with aching joints.
The flavonoids (specifically, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins) found in cherries act as antioxidants in the body, scavenging for and destroying altered oxygen compounds called free radicals. Many degenerative diseases have been associated with the tissue damage caused by free radicals, including cataracts, Parkinson’s disease and arteriosclerosis.
Cherries and Gout
Cherries come into their own in cases of gout. This is perhaps the best-known use for the fruit. The benefits look to be twofold: The flavonoids help to reduce the high uric acid levels in the blood that are responsible for the development of gout itself and at the same time flavonoids block the inflammation – causing substances released in the joint when the uric acid crystals start to accumulate.
The typical intake of cherries needed to drop uric acid levels to normal is in the region of 500 grams of fresh fruit per day. Those who have tried the cherry-treatment have also commented that their small joints felt less stiff. Ongoing work has suggested that consuming 20 cherries a day provides up to 25 mg of the active flavonoid compounds (anthocyanins) that can significantly lessen free-radical damage and ease inflammation.
Consuming this amount of cherries daily reportedly offers pain relief similar to aspirin and other painkillers by inhibiting inflammation-causing compounds in the body.
Other Health Benefits of Cherries
The key flavonoid compounds responsible for cherries health effects express their natural anti-inflammatory action by preventing both the synthesis and the release of inflammation promoting substances such as histamine.
There’s also more evidence in recent years linking cherries to sleep! Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating your sleep pattern!
In this respect, the effect of flavonoids in the body is similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like aspirin or ibruprofen), antihistamines. This has made flavonoids a favourite among naturopaths for the treatment of allergies, arthritis and many other conditions in which chronic inflammation is present.
In addition to this, flavonoids also help to strengthen the collagen contained within connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons. This in turn reinforces the web of connective tissue and other key structural elements giving extra support to the skeletal system and taking the strain away from degenerated joints.
Even varicose veins may benefit from the anthocyanidins in cherries because it helps strengthen the collagen fibres that form in the vein wall. Extracts of cherries and blueberries are used frequently in Europe for treatment of varicose veins along with horse chestnut extract.
Supplement your diet
When cherries are hard to come by or their price makes them simply too expensive to take every day consider using a supplement containing cherry fruit extract. For some this may be the preferred form since per typical serving the supplement extract contains less than half a gram of sugar compared to 20 grams in the fresh juice.
A good supplement should contain very pure concentrated extracts, in the region of a 10:1 concentration. This means that 10lb of cherries are used to make 1lb of cherry extract. Supplements of this type deliver doses of around 500mg of Cherry Fruit extract per capsule. I have found that 1000mg of cherry extract taken twice a day can have good results in cases of arthritis. For those just wanting to boost their antioxidant intake 1000mg per day is all that is needed.
Supplements containing Cherry fruit extract have no known adverse reactions and can be taken alongside conventional medications. Whether you take the fresh fruit or opt for the supplements you will be doing your body a favour by including cherries in your diet!
From the Jan de Vries archives
There you have it then, the humble cherry secretly houses a plethora of health benefits, helping to provide you with free-radical fighting flavonoids and antioxidants. Not bad for a fruit you can usually find at your local supermarket, however as Jan said, there’s no supplement for well…a supplement.
Hadley Wood’s CherryBombules Vegetable Capsules are usually our go-to here at Jan de Vries. This supplement compresses 10kg of cherries into 1kg of CherryBomb fruit powder. Potent and extremely high in vitamin C, this remedy can help to contribute towards normal collagen formation!
CherryActive’s award-winning Montmorency 500mg Cherry Capsules are also a useful remedy. Just two capsules a day provides you with that 1000mg dose Jan recommended, helping to ease any discomfort and supply you with plenty of vitamin C.
Another of our favourite cherry products has to be Optima’s Cherry ActivJuice for Joints! This delicious sour cherry juice containing glucosamine and vitamin C to help bulid joint cartilage and reduce inflammation.