- Tart cherry is a variety of cherry that is particularly high in antioxidants, including anthocyanins and quercetin.
- Tart cherry benefits include supporting healthy sleeping patterns, as well as muscle strength and recovery.
- There is also some research to suggest tart cherries may be beneficial for those suffering from arthritis and could potentially have positive effects on some markers of cardiovascular health.
Tart cherries, also commonly called sour cherries, dwarf cherries, or Montmorency cherries, are a variety of cherry that have been linked to a number of interesting health benefits.
The tart cherry tree, scientifically named Prunus cerasus, is native to southwest Asia and Europe and its cherries have a completely different flavor profile to the cherries most of us are used to.
Because tart cherries are less sweet, they typically consume dried, frozen, powdered, or juiced rather than fresh.
Tart cherries also have a long history of medicinal use. Traditionally they were used to treat conditions such as gout, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones, and their stems were used in a herbal tea infusion for treating gonorrhea. (Source)
More recently, they have been endorsed for treating several health issues, from insomnia and muscle pain to heart disease and cancer.
Tart Cherry Extract Benefits Science-Backed
1. Potent Source Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that protect our cells from damage by fighting molecules called free radicals.
Free radicals are found in the environment and also created in our cells through normal body processes. When levels of free radicals rise and outpace antioxidant levels, the imbalance causes oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is associated with several illnesses, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. This is why maintaining strong levels of antioxidants is important for our health. (Source)
Tart cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins and quercetin, which are strong antioxidants, and they also contain melatonin, carotenoids, and vitamins E and C, all of which have antioxidant properties. (Source)
“Refreshing cranberry tasting drink”
Yummy, lovely refreshing cranberry tasting drink, that I know is packed full of antioxidants
Joanne, UK (March 2023)
Anthocyanins are a type of polyphenol (beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant properties) and are responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors in fruits and vegetables.
Research shows that anthocyanins can improve visual ability, have a neuroprotective effect and play a role in preventing various diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and microbial infections. (Source)
Quercetin, another component of tart cherries, is a flavonoid (a class of polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties).
Quercetin has been linked to improved exercise performance and reduced inflammation, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Plus, it may have brain-protective, anti-allergy, and anticancer properties. (Source)
4. Sleep Support
Tart cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, meaning they may positively affect sleep quality and duration.
Synthetic melatonin is often used to treat insomnia. Adding to the body’s natural supply of melatonin can make you fall asleep more quickly and less likely to wake up during the night.
Research suggests that both the quality and quantity of sleep can be improved by consuming tart cherries, with effects detected within five days of consumption. (Source)
One study found that supplementation with tart cherry juice concentrates significantly elevated melatonin levels and increased time in bed, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. (Source)
Another study on older adults suffering from insomnia found that tart cherry juice had modest beneficial effects on sleep, however, they were considerably less than the effect of hypnotic agents and cognitive-behavioral therapies for insomnia. (Source)
A more recent study also found that cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency. (Source)
Although these studies are small, they do indicate that consuming tart cherries may be supportive of healthy sleeping habits.
5. Exercise Recovery And Muscle Health
Tart cherries may also benefit athletes or those who participate in regular physical activity due to their effect on muscle strength and soreness.
One review found that tart cherry significantly reduced exercise-induced muscle pain, soreness, and loss of strength in eight out of nine studies. (Source)
Two studies looking at the effects of tart cherry on runners found that those taking tart cherry juice or extract:
- Experienced three times less pain during and after their race (Source)
- Experienced less muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation, and also recovered faster (Source)
This attenuation of exercise-induced muscle damage seems to be related to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds found in tart cherries. (Source)
There is also research to suggest that tart cherries may increase muscle strength, with one study showing a 4% increase in muscle strength in participants taking tart cherry extract supplements. (Source)
While the majority of the research on this topic is positive, it is important to note that there are a few studies that found no benefits too.
6. Joint And Arthritis Support
The earliest study regarding the health benefits of cherries was conducted in 1950 in patients with gout. This study demonstrated that consumption of fresh or canned cherries prevented attacks of arthritis in all twelve patients included in the study with four patients reporting greater freedom of joint movements in fingers and toes. (Source)
Tart cherry appears to impart these benefits by reducing blood levels of uric acid, a chemical that can trigger gout (a form of arthritis) when present in high concentrations. (Source)
However, more recent research on this topic is limited.
One study in obese individuals found that consumption of tart cherry juice for 4 weeks significantly reduced blood concentration of uric acid, although the same effect was not seen in other studies on patients with osteoarthritis or water polo athletes. (Source)
Another study carried out with 633 gout patients found that consumption of fresh cherries or cherry extract over a 2-day period was associated with a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared with no intake of cherries. (Source)
These findings suggest that tart cherry consumption may contribute to joint health and reduce the incidence of arthritic attacks, however, further, long-term, high-quality human trials are needed to confirm these effects.
7. Cardiovascular Health
There has also been some research into the effect of tart cherry on cardiovascular health.
In a study with diabetic women, 6-week supplementation with tart cherry concentrate significantly decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (Source)
In contrast to the above studies, research carried out into the effect of tart cherry supplementation in healthy adults showed no reduction in blood pressure levels.
However, the normal blood pressure of study participants and low dosage likely contributed to this result. (Source)
Tart cherry juice consumption may lead to modest reductions in blood pressure levels but further research is needed.
While consumption of tart cherry concentrate has not been shown to alter cholesterol levels in healthy adults, a study with subjects who had elevated cholesterol did report a decrease in a type of “bad” cholesterol (VLDL) following consumption of tart cherry juice for four weeks. (Source)
More research is needed to determine the potential of tart cherry to improve cholesterol levels.
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If you are interested in trying out tart cherry for yourself, Human Tonik’s Red Tonik contains a substantial dose of tart cherry powder in each serving, along with other beneficial ingredients.
A lot of supplement companies mask the ingredients in their powder and their quantities by labeling their products as proprietary blends. This makes it very hard for the consumer to decipher what exactly is in the product.
Human Tonik list all the ingredients in their powders individually on the label along with the amount per serving for each, giving people full transparency of ingredients and dosages.
Red Tonik is also third-party tested with standardized potency. This means each batch is produced in a consistent way, with the same percentage of active ingredients.
Convenient to include in your daily routine, Red Tonik is designed to be taken once a day by mixing one scoop of powder into water or your preferred beverage.
And then just enjoy!
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Tart cherry extract is high in antioxidants and has been linked to several health benefits, which is why some supplement brands are including it in their formulas, like Human Tonik’s Red Tonik.
Tart cherry’s health benefits are largely attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Current clinical evidence has shown that tart cherry is supportive of healthy sleeping patterns and aids in muscle strength and recovery.
There is also some research to suggest it may be beneficial for those suffering from arthritis and may potentially have a positive effect on some aspects of cardiovascular health.
Red Tonik contains a substantial dose of tart cherry powder in each serving, making it a good option if you’re interested in seeing whether tart cherry could benefit you.
Lucy Brennan is a registered associate nutritionist (ANutr) and freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition and wellness content. She holds a BSc. (First Class Hons) in Public Health Nutrition and has over 4 years’ experience working in health communication, which is where her passion lies.
She has worked in roles with The Irish Food Board and FleishmanHillard PR, on their healthcare team, working with national and international health companies. Using this experience, Lucy now writes content in a freelance capacity. Lucy is dedicated to providing evidence-based content that is both engaging and accessible and inspires readers to make informed choices regarding their health.