Health Benefits of Cherry Juice for Arthritis and Gout

Tart cherry juice may reduce inflammation in people with arthritis and gout

Although preliminary, some studies have shown that cherry juice could offer some benefits as a complementary treatment for arthritis and gout.

Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols, naturally-occurring plant compounds, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries also contain vitamin C, carotenoids, potassium, and are a plant-based source of melatonin. In addition, these little fruits are a good source of dietary fiber and are considered low on the glycemic index.

There are many different varieties of cherries, but the two main types are sweet and tart. Montmorency cherries are a tart cherry variety commonly studied for their health benefits, while Bing cherries are a popular sweet cherry variety.

health benefits of black cherries
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Both sweet and tart cherries are rich in polyphenols. Tart cherries seem to have more phenolic compounds while sweet cherries contain more anthocyanins. These plant compounds have been studied for their many health benefits. More specifically, this article will focus on how tart cherry juice may be beneficial for people with arthritis and gout.

Tart Cherries for Arthritis

A daily dose of tart cherries (as cherry extract) has significant effects on markers of inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, although studies have not shown pain relief significantly better than placebos.

Properties and Health Benefits

Tart cherry juice contains anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory compounds responsible for the red, orange, blue, and purple colors of fruits and vegetables. This substance may help to combat some chronic inflammatory diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Many medications used to treat arthritis target inflammation as a way to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. 

Tart cherry juice also has high concentrations of other polyphenols, including flavonoids. All of these nutritional compounds make tart cherry juice a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food and potential adjunct therapy for people with arthritis and gout.

The process by which anthocyanins help decrease inflammation may be by suppressing pro-inflammatory compounds in the body, such as cyclooxygenase, or COX. By this and other unknown mechanisms, tart cherry juice may help reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other related joint pain disorders.

Nutrition Facts for Tart Cherry Juice

Nutrition facts for 8 ounces of 100% organic tart cherry juice:

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 1.01 grams
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated fats: 0 grams
  • Trans fats: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 19.2 milligrams
  • Total carbohydrates: 32 grams 11% DV
  • Dietary fiber: 0.96 grams 4% DV
  • Sugars: 24 grams
  • Calcium: 19.2 milligrams 2% DV
  • Iron: 1.44 milligrams 8% DV
  • Potassium: 410 milligrams 12% DV
  • Vitamin C: 9.12 milligrams 15% DV
  • Vitamin A: 0 IU

Another alternative to tart cherry juice is tart cherry capsules. One brand, called Cherry Flex, uses the skin and the pulp of the Montmorency cherry in each of their capsules. The product also is marketed as a paste for those who have trouble swallowing the capsule. As opposed to the juice, there is less sugar in this product. Side effects could include gastrointestinal issues similar to what might occur by consuming cherry juice.

With any supplement or nutraceutical, it is important to have a conversation with your healthcare provider if you plan to try this product.

Benefits for Arthritis Patients

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. The breakdown of cartilage in one or more joints leads to further inflammation, pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. There are limited recent clinical trials studying tart cherry juice and its effect on osteoarthritis. We summarize two small randomized, double-blind studies below.

  • Tart cherry juice was evaluated for its ability to decrease symptoms and inflammatory markers in people with osteoarthritis in a 2012 study. Study participants drank 10.5 ounces of Montmorency cherry juice or placebo drink twice daily for three weeks. At the end of the study, the cherry juice group had statistically significant decreased levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
  • A 2013 study looked at tart cherry juice’s effect in people with osteoarthritis. Montmorency cherries were used to prepare the tart cherry juice, while a placebo flavored drink was also prepared. Participants in the study drank 8 ounces twice a day of one type of drink for six weeks, then had a washout period of at least one week, then switched to the alternate beverage for an additional 6 weeks. After completing the study, researchers found that pain, stiffness, and function improved significantly with drinking tart cherry juice, though it wasn't significantly better than placebo. However, tart cherry juice consumption was associated with significantly decreased inflammatory markers compared to placebo.

Additional larger studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of tart cherry juice as a complementary treatment for osteoarthritis.

How Much Cherry Juice for Arthritis?

According to these studies, 8-10 ounces of tart cherry juice taken twice daily may achieve lower markers of inflammation in osteoarthritis.

Cherry Juice for Gout

Gout is a chronic form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints and tissues (most commonly the big toe), causing severe pain, redness, and tenderness. Traditional treatment often includes medications, self-care, as well as avoiding trigger foods.

  • Tart cherry juice was evaluated for its ability to decrease uric acid levels and inflammatory markers in people with gout in a small 2011 study of ten participants. The participants consumed 8 ounces each day of either 100% tart cherry juice or a placebo drink for 4 weeks each with a 2 week washout period in between. The study authors concluded that tart cherry juice reduced uric acid levels and biomarkers of inflammation.
  • 2019 research studied the effects of tart cherry juice on uric acid levels and inflammation in at-risk overweight and obese people. Study participants were randomized to drink 8 ounces of either tart cherry juice or a placebo drink daily for 4 weeks, followed by a 4 week washout period, then proceeded with another 4 weeks of drinking the alternate beverage. After analyzing results from the study, researchers determined that tart cherry juice consumption decreased uric acid levels, as well as the pro-inflammatory C-reactive protein. These results show promise that tart cherry juice may alleviate high uric acid levels associated with gout.
  • A 2019 review of six studies that looked at the effect of cherries (as extract or juice) as a complementary treatment for gout and uric acid levels concluded that there is an association between cherry intake and a reduced risk of gout attacks. However, the authors noted that more comprehensive studies with longer-term follow-up are needed to fully determine the effectiveness of cherry consumption for people with gout or high uric acid levels.
  • A 2020 study examined whether tart cherry concentrate affected serum urate levels in people with gout. Fifty people were randomized to receive placebo or tart cherry juice concentrate for 28 days in doses of 7.5 milliliters (ml), 15 ml, 22.5 ml, or 30 ml twice a day for 28 days. At the end of the study, it was determined that the cherry juice had no effect on serum urate levels. It should be noted that while this study did not note any changes in urate levels in people with gout when consuming cherry concentrate, the form was different (tart cherry concentrate vs. juice) and the amounts given were much less than in previous studies that did observe benefits.

With the small number of participants in these few studies and the short-term follow-up, along with the mixed results, larger long-term studies are warranted to clarify the effects of tart cherry juice in people with gout.

Side Effects and Risk Factors

In general, tart cherry juice is well tolerated. Some studies noted that a few participants experienced mild gastrointestinal upset and loose stools. One study mentioned a participant with an allergic reaction to tart cherry juice. Overall, no side effects or minimal side effects were seen in the majority of people when taking tart cherry juice.

It should be mentioned that drinking large amounts of tart cherry juice daily contributes a considerable amount of sugar to your diet, which is contraindicated on an arthritis-friendly diet.

People with diabetes should drink cherry juice in moderation, as too many carbohydrates (sugar) from the juice may raise blood sugar above desired levels.

A Word From Verywell

Cherry juice is not meant to be a replacement for traditional arthritis or gout therapy. Always talk with your healthcare provider before making any changes in your diet or treatment plan.

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10 Sources
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