Cherries, a notoriously sexy fruit, have been receiving a lot of attention of late due to their beneficial effects on something not-so-sexy: arthritis. Researchers have discovered the reason is that cherries have anti-inflammatory properties. The Arthritis Foundation says:
Drinking tart cherry juice mixed with water three times a day may be beneficial for some people with arthritis … Cherries also contain varied antioxidants, including kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds, particularly quercetin, may have anti-inflammatory effects that are similar to those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
So which kind of cherry juice works best against arthritis? Researchers have focused their attention on tart cherry juice and that is what seems to work best for most people. According to a 1999 study by Michigan State University researchers, tart cherries contain something called anthocyanins. These were found to prevent free radical damage and inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes better than some anti-inflammatory drugs that work as Cox-2 inhibitors.
Here’s the interesting part: in order to inhibit Cox-2 enzymes, many anti-inflammatory drugs have to attack both Cox-1 and Cox-2 enzymes. Unfortunately, Cox-1 protects the lining of the stomach. This is why so many people who take anti-inflammatories on a regular basis develop stomach problems. So if cherries inhibit both Cox-1 and Cox-2, how are they any better than those drugs? Well, it turns out that cherries contain flavanoids and antioxidants that have a protective effect on the stomach, minimizing the deleterious effects of inhibiting Cox-1 enzymes.
It seems that nature has thought of everything. While there haven’t been any studies done on humans, researchers believe there’s strong enough evidence to add cherries to your daily diet. They certainly won’t hurt you and they might provide outstanding relief from the pain of arthritis. Who knows, you may just decide to throw all those bottles of ibuprofen in the trash along with the cherry pits.