cherry extract: sweet relief for pain

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A CHERRY A DAY MAY KEEP GOUT AND ARTHRITIS AWAY. WITH EXTRACTS AND JUICE, YOU CAN BENEFIT YEAR-ROUND

Move over, blueberries. In recent studies, cherries are revealing their extraordinary health benefits, from easing post-exercise soreness to preventing cancer and heart disease.

Blossoming Hearth with Cherries
Many people swear by cherries for relieving the excruciating pain of gout and arthritis. According to recent studies, this folk remedy now has the backing of science.

In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers examined the effects of sweet Bing cherries on plasma lipids (blood fats) and blood markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (CRP). In the study, healthy men and women were fed 280g (about 10 oz.) of Bing cherries daily for 28 days. Although the cherries didn't affect cholesterol or triglyceride levels, there was a decrease in concentrations of CRP and other indicators of inflammation.

In another 2006 study, University of Vermont researchers writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that 12 oz. of tart cherry juice noticeably decreased the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage, primarily strength loss and pain.

Because inflammation is increasingly recognized as a factor in heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases, the benefits of cherries extend to far more than relieving gout. Suppressing inflammation protects the arteries from damage that leads to plaque buildup and inhibits the growth of some cancers. That's why some doctors recommend low doses of aspirin as preventive medicine for some patients. One serving of tan cherry juice (about 2 Tbs. of concentrate) packs the inflammation-relieving punch of one aspirin.

Antioxidant Powerhouses
Researchers credit the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of cherries to the high concentrations of antioxidants in the fruit. Cherries are unique in the variety and quantity of antioxidants they contain. Thus far, research has identified more than a half-dozen major flavonoids, powerful antioxidant compounds. These include anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, the pigments that give cherries their rich red color.

The antioxidant potential of foods can be measured with a laboratory analysis called oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). The OKAC analysis measures not only how many antioxidants are in a specific food, but also how powerful they are. Tart cherry products range from 1,700 to 12,800 ORAC units per 100g. In contrast, other fruits that have been tested range from 700 (red grapes) to 5,700 (dried prunes) ORAC units per 100g.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, eating fruits and vegetables that rank high on the ORAC scale may slow aging in the body and brain. While Americans generally consume about 1,200 ORAC units per day, a dosage of 3,000-5,000 ORAC units is necessary for a significant increase in blood levels of antioxidants.

A Natural Melatonin Source
Researchers have also discovered that tan cherries contain a significant amount of melatonin, an especially beneficial antioxidant because it is soluble in fat and water, which means that it can enter some cells that other antioxidants (such as vitamins C or E) cannot. Among other health attributes, melatonin is thought to help protect brain function.

Cherry-Picked Options
Found in the supplement aisle of your health food store, cherry extracts in liquid and capsule form are the newest way to experience the health benefits of cherries.

Obviously eating fresh cherries is a tasty way to take advantage of the fruit's health-protective benefits. Hut cherries have a relatively short harvest season in midsummer. Frozen, canned and dried cherries are year-round options. Concentrated tart cherry juice is another great choice. A typical dose is 2 Tbs. of concentrate daily, added lo juice, water, herbal tea or smoothies.

"One serving of tart cherry juice (about 2 Tbs. of concentrate) packs the inflammation-relieving punch of one aspirin tablet."

Possible Uses for Cherries at a Glance
Gout and arthritis pain
Pain and inflammation
Post-exercise soreness
Elevated C-reactive protein
PHOTO (COLOR): Enzymatic Therapy Cherry Fruit Extract

PHOTO (COLOR): FruitFast Montmorency CherryFlex

PHOTO (COLOR): NOW Foods Black Cherry Extract

PHOTO (COLOR): Leland Cherry Company Michelle's Miracle CherriMax

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By Laurel Vukovic, MSW

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