If you watch Dr.Oz, you may have heard some of the recent hype about tart cherry juice and its amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Tart cherries contain a large amount of a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin. This antioxidant is thought to inhibit the same enzyme as aspirin (cyclooxygenase), which would explain why it would decrease inflammation and pain. In a small study done at Oregon Health & Science University, women drinking tart cherry juice for 3 weeks had a significant reduction in inflammatory markers and arthritis pain.
Tart Cherry Juice for Arthritis Pain
I am always looking for new things to help my patients, but also wary of new “miracle cures” that are being hyped up by the media, so I decided to do a little experiment myself. Since I do not have arthritis, I decided to use my parents as guinea pigs. They both have chronic pain due to severe osteoarthritis of the spine and knees. After tasting the tart cherry juice, I decided to use tart cherry capsules instead. The juice is very, well, tart, and I think it would be difficult to drink two whole glasses of it each day. There is also a lot of sugar and calories in that much juice. I bought the Solaray brand Tart Cherry Juice capsules on Amazon.com. I had my parents track their pain levels for a week before starting the capsules in order to get a baseline. Then I had them take 2 capsules twice per day with breakfast and dinner for the next week and again record their pain levels.
Both of my parents reported a modest reduction in their arthritis pain. My mother’s average pain level went from 5.71 to 5, and my father’s went from 7.71 to 4.57. I could tell when I saw my mother for her weekly chiropractic treatment that she was much less inflamed than usual. They also both reported increased pain when they stopped taking the capsules, and thus they have gone on Amazon.com themselves now and bought another two bottles. I am encouraging them to try 3 capsules twice per day to see if it further reduces their symptoms.
Neither of my parents reported any adverse side effects. Both of them have a history of GERD and stomach ulcers, but the capsules did not seem to bother them.
Of course this was only a tiny study with no placebo controls, but I think the results are promising. Is tart cherry juice a miracle cure for arthritis? No, but it may help “take the edge off” and be an important part of managing osteoarthritis, along with a healthy diet, regular low-impact exercise, chiropractic & massage, etc. Because it is an antioxidant, it also has many other health benefits such as maintaining cardiovascular health and preventing free radical damage to cells. If you have chronic osteoarthritis pain, it may be worth trying. One word of caution: Check with your PCP first if you are taking blood thinners. Since tart cherry juice acts similar to aspirin, it may have some blood thinning properties.
Click here to see Dr.Oz’s segment on tart cherry juice.