tart cherry juice

There’s an ever expanding list of supplements that people take for arthritis. There are the common ones like Glucosamine and the uncommon ones like “Thunder God Vine”. In the middle is tart cherry juice. I increasingly see products at our local Whole Foods that feature this ingredient, hawking it’s ability to help arthritis. Does tart cherry juice help arthritis…what’s the evidence?  A small study that was just published may help answer that question. It was well designed and included 58 patients who had moderate to early severe arthritis. Arthritis function scores improved significantly after the tart cherry juice but not after the placebo. However, the improvement in function between the two groups wasn’t significantly different. This usually means that the effect was small, so a bigger study with more patients would have likely shown more significance between the groups. The good news for tart cherry fans is that there was a decline in inflammatory blood tests with tart cherry and not with placebo. Believe it or not, this is the only study listed in the US National Library of Medicine for Tart Cherry and Osteoarthritis. However, there are a few studies on tart cherry and inflammation. A 2010 double blinded, placebo study showed that taking tart cherry a week before a run minimized post-run muscle pain. Another 2010 placebo study showed that tart cherry also helped marathon runners recover faster and reduced inflammatory markers. There are also a number of animal studies showing that tart cherry suppresses inflammation. So tart cherry seems to be a pretty good anti-inflammatory and unlike NSAIDs is very unlikely to increase your chance of dropping dead. So what’s the best way to take it? A 2012 paper looked at the bioavailability of various processed tart cherry products. They found that juice concentrates worked the best to reduce inflammation in in-vitro lab tests. The upshot? Tart cherry juice concentrate may or may not help your arthritis, but it seems to be a reasonable anti-inflammatory.