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Besides a juicy peach, nothing says summer to me like a handful of dark, sweet cherries. You just can’t get them any other time of year… at least, not as good as they are in the summer months.
But the cherries I’m going to tell you about are bright red, not dark purple. And they’re anything but sweet. In fact, unless you really enjoy puckering up, you won’t want to eat them fresh, but dried. Or even better and more convenient, you should drink them.
Insomniacs, athletes and gout sufferers already know about the power of tart cherry juice to bring sleep, relieve cramping and reduce pain.
Now, research has shown that it may also sharpen specific cognitive skills that can make our day-to-day lives more productive and satisfying.
Tart cherry juice and the pain of arthritis
Research has shown that tart cherries, also known as sour, dwarf or Montmorency cherries, can make our lives better. After all, better sleep and less pain are two things that instantly improve our quality of life.
In one study, patients with osteoarthritis of the knee drank two 8-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice daily. Scores on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) improved significantly for those drinking cherry juice, but not for those taking the placebo.
The WOMAC is a widely used questionnaire used to evaluate the pain and stiffness of patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis.
Tart cherry juice is also well known as a home remedy for gout, an extremely painful form of arthritis for which traditional medicine has no cure. Specifically, it’s been found to reduce the uric acid buildup that’s the main cause of gout.
Nature’s best sleeping pill
Insomnia isn’t something to take lightly. Poor sleep, and not enough of it, affects every other aspect of our health. And for older adults, with changes in biological rhythms, insomnia is more and more common.
Sleeping pills should be used with great caution. Natural sleep aids like melatonin and valerian can help.
Well, guess what? Tart cherry juice is naturally rich in melatonin. It’s also high in tryptophan and anthocyanins, two compounds that help the body create melatonin.
At the end of this article, I’ll share a simple way to make Tart Cherry Turmeric Bedtime Tea, as well as a 3-ingredient smoothie using cherry juice. Try them both and see if they help improve your sleep.
Keep your brain sharp in every way with cherry juice
“Cognitive function is a key determinant of independence and quality of life among older adults,” says Sheau Ching Chai, assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware and author of a recent study on cherry juice and cognitive function in older adults.
In the study, published in the journal Food & Function, 34 adults between the ages of 65 and 73 were assigned to drink either 16 ounces of tart cherry juice daily, or a placebo, for twelve weeks.
Compared to the placebo group, the group drinking the cherry juice showed:
- a 5 percent increase in satisfaction with their ability to remember things
- a 4 percent reduction in how long it took them to respond to a visual cue
- a 23 percent reduction in errors during a visual memory test
- a 3 percent improvement in visual sustained attention (a measurement of how well they process visual information)
- an 18 percent reduction in errors during a spatial working memory test, which assesses both memory and strategy use
For me personally, these results are nothing less than life-changing.
As a writer, I have recently found myself struggling more to maintain my focus, remember where on my computer I’ve stored important information, and just an overall feeling of being less “sharp” that is quite disturbing, to say the least.
Part of this is due to struggles with sleep, the other part, who knows?
I am definitely going to put tart cherry juice to the test.
And with that, here are those two recipes I promised you.
Here’s how to make Tart Cherry Turmeric Bedtime Tea. It’s one of my absolute favorites because in addition to the tart cherry juice, turmeric has extensive research that backs up its reputation as both an anti-inflammatory pain reliever and a sleep aid. So this recipe pulls double duty.
And here’s a Sleepy Time Smoothie you can whip up in minutes.
- ½ c. tart cherry juice
- ½ c. coconut milk
- 2 Tbsps. creamy almond butter
- ½ c. ice
Blend until smooth.
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- Tart cherry juice may juice up the brain and improve cognitive function — Neuroscience News
- Effect of Montmorency tart cherry juice on cognitive performance in older adults: a randomized controlled trial — Food & Function
- Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee — Osteoarthritis and Cartilage
- Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality — European Journal of Nutrition
- Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study — Journal of Medicinal Food