Tart cherries, also known as sour, have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years.
Compared to sweet cherries, which tend to be enjoyed fresh, tart cherries are often consumed dried, frozen or juiced.
Tart cherry juice is made from the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree, native to southwest Asia and Europe, and is linked to a number of interesting health benefits.
Here are 10 science-based health benefits of tart cherry juice.
- Rich in Nutrients
Tart cherry juice is rich in various nutrients. (1)
One easy way to tell tart cherries from sweet varieties is by their color. Sweet cherries tend to be darker in color, whereas tart cherries retain their bright red color after being harvested.
Tart cherry juice contains many nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Compared to sweet cherry juice, it may also contain higher levels of certain nutrients*.
- May Increase Strength and Reduce Muscle Soreness*
Physically active individuals may be particularly interested in tart cherry juice’s effect on muscle strength and soreness.
A majority of studies have reported beneficial effects.
In one study, long-distance runners drank either 24 ounces (710 ml) of tart cherry juice or a placebo in the seven days leading up to as well as on the day of a race.
The runners given Tart cherry juice experienced three times less pain during and after the race compared to those given the placebo (6)
In another study, runners given 16 ounces (480 ml) of Tart cherry juice in the days leading up to and immediately following a marathon experienced less muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation. They also recovered faster (7).
One group of men was given tart cherry supplements or a placebo in the days leading up to and immediately following an intense resistance training session.
The tart cherry group lost up to 4% less muscle strength as a result of the training when compared to men given the placebo (10).
Tart cherry juice intake in the days leading up to and immediately following intense physical exercise may reduce muscle strength loss and soreness*. It may also speed up recovery*.
- Could Help You Sleep Better
Tart cherry juice may be a safe and effective way to treat insomnia and increase the amount of sleep you get each night.
That’s because tart cherries are naturally rich in melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleepiness.
Moreover, tart cherries contain a good amount of tryptophan and anthocyanins, two compounds that may help the body create melatonin and lengthen its effects.
In one study, participants suffering from insomnia drank either 16 ounces (480 ml) of tart cherry juice or the same amount of a placebo juice each day for two weeks. The tart cherry juice increased sleep time by an average of 85 minutes (16).
Tart cherry juice can help increase the body’s melatonin levels. This helps reduce symptoms of insomnia and can result in better quality sleep*.
- May Reduce Symptoms of Arthritis and Gout
Tart cherry juice is often claimed to reduce arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation.
In one study, tart cherry juice reduced certain blood markers of inflammation in women with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis (18).
In another study, patients who consumed two 8-ounce (240-ml) bottles of tart cherry juice daily experienced slightly less pain and stiffness after six weeks (19). However, the differences observed between patients given the cherry juice and those given a placebo were very small (19).
Studies have also looked at the effect of tart cherry juice on gout, a type of arthritis accompanied by repeated attacks of swelling and intense pain.
Drinking tart cherry juice seems to reduce blood levels of uric acid — a chemical that can trigger gout when present in too high concentrations (20).
Tart cherry juice’s anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce symptoms of arthritis and gout*.
- Might Promote Brain Health
Degenerative brain disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are thought to be caused, in part, by oxidative stress.
Tart cherries and their juice contain large amounts of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that may have protective effects on brain cells (23).
In one study, consuming 16 ounces (480 ml) of tart cherry juice daily improved antioxidant defenses in healthy older men and women (24).
In another study, older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia consumed either 6.5 ounces (200 ml) of tart cherry juice or a placebo for 12 weeks.
Adults in the cherry juice group experienced improvements in verbal fluency and short-term and long-term memory, whereas those in the placebo group experienced no improvements (25).
The high antioxidant levels in tart cherry juice may help improve brain function and reduce symptoms of mild-to-moderate dementia*.
- May Strengthen the Immune System
Tart cherry juice is rich in many vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds proven to offer a boost to your immune system.
In particular, researchers believe that tart cherries’ high antioxidant content may help prevent infections.
For instance, one study researched the effect of this juice on upper respiratory tract symptoms commonly experienced by marathon runners after a race.
A group of runners drank tart cherry juice in the days leading up to and immediately following a marathon race while another consumed a placebo.
50% of the runners given the placebo developed URTS following the race, whereas none of those in the tart cherry juice group did (26).
Tart cherry juice is rich in a variety of nutrients that may strengthen the immune system*.
7–10. Other Potential Benefits
Tart cherry juice may offer a variety of other health benefits.
- May protect against cancer*: Certain antioxidants found in tart cherry juice may help turn off genes involved in cancer growth. However, this hasn’t been tested directly on humans yet (27).
- Might reduce pain*: Tart cherry juice may help reduce peripheral neuropathy, a type of pain caused by nerve damage (28).
- May reduce blood pressure*: Studies show that tart cherry juice consumption may lead to modest reductions in blood pressure levels (29, 30).
- Could help you lose weight*: Tart cherry juice was observed to reduce weight, belly fat and blood cholesterol levels in mice. However, human studies are needed (31).
- Tart cherries are packed with potent antioxidants called anthocyanins that give them their deep, dark color and provide numerous health benefits. In addition to promoting cellular health in general, including heart and brain health, they also promote faster recovery of isometric strength and muscle function after exercise*. That means faster relief from the minor aches, discomfort, and stiffness that can follow everyday muscle exertion*. Enjoy all the muscle-supporting benefits of tart cherries without the calories*.