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Can you sleep and recover better with Tart Cherry?

5 min read time Sep 17, 2020


Is a compound that works as an anti-inflammatory the same as a food that

Supports a healthy inflammation response?

The answer is NO and here is why…

Anti-inflammatories only work on one specific inflammation pathway and often have an overall negative effect on the entire inflammation response cascade.

I believe one of the most underrated foods which should be the first line of defense for supporting a healthy inflammation response is tart cherries.

Research shows that tart cherry has a positive effect on the entire inflammation cascade. Resulting in supporting the body to have a healthy inflammation response.

Tart Cherries vs Curcumin for Inflammation What makes Tart Cherries so special?

Let’s compare tart cherry to curcumin (The world’s most famous inflammation modulator).

Curcumin supports a healthy inflammation response via modulating the inflammation cascade. Its effects specifically begin with directly suppressing the switch that turns on the inflammatory response (Nuclear Factor-KappaB).

This one action supports the rest of the cascade to respond in a healthy manner to the stressor which caused the inflammation to occur.

Curcumin’s three main jobs are:

  1. The transcription of DNA,
  2. Cytokine production, and
  3. Cell survival.

Tart cherries are in a class of their own:

No other whole food (as of yet) has been shown to modulate the inflammation cascade while also directly affecting specific portions of the cascade without throwing it out of balance.

The primary functions of tart cherry within the inflammation cascade are to(1):

    • Inhibit cox-1 and cox-2 enzymes- a group of enzymes that produce these prostaglandins called cyclooxygenases or otherwise known as (COX). There are specifically 2 types of COX enzymes known as cox-1 and cox-2. Both of them produce these prostaglandins which promote pain, fever and inflammation but, only cox-1 promotes prostaglandins which activate platelets and protect the lining of the stomach.
    • Suppress IL-6- Acts as both a pro and anti-inflammatory. The end stage of inflammation
    • Suppress Nuclear Factor-KappaB-  A protein complex that turns genes on which produce inflammation. This is the initial trigger in the inflammation cascade.
    • Switch off genes involved in the inflammation process.
    • Lower uric acid levels.


What does all of this mean for you?

Tart cherry supports a healthy inflammation response by modulating the entire inflammatory cascade via suppression of the initial trigger (Nuclear Factor-KappaB) while at the same time, having a direct effect (versus curcumin which has a more indirect effect) on both Cox-1 and Cox-2 pathways.(1)

In a paper published in Journal of Medicinal Food, it stated that a diet which contained tart cherry directly supported the reduction of other specific areas of the inflammation cascade (IL-6, TNF-alpha mRNA).(2)

Again, in simple terms, not only do tart cherry have the ability to modulate the inflammatory cascade but, directly affect specifics parts of the cascade without throwing off the balance of the response.

How does tart cherry perform under pressure?

The effects of tart cherry juice consumption were tested in a double-blind, randomized trial of runners participating in a 24-hour relay race. Runners drank two 355 milliliter beverages containing either tart cherry juice or a placebo beverage daily for one week prior to the race and during the race. (Two 355 mL bottles of tart cherry juice daily provides at least 80 mg anthocyanins which are the equivalent of 90 to 100 cherries). Both groups reported pain after the race. But the runners who drank tart cherry juice experienced a substantially smaller pain increase after the race. This natural protection against acute muscle soreness suggested that tart cherries must be providing some defense against muscle damage.(3)

To confirm this, scientists conducted a controlled trial on indices of muscle recovery. Participants were given either tart cherry juice or a control drink for five days before, on the day of, and for two days after a marathon race. Runners in the tart cherry group had significantly lower inflammation biomarkers (Interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein) compared to the placebo group. The tart cherry group also recovered isometric strength faster than the control runners, demonstrating an accelerated recovery following strenuous exercise.(4)

Study shows tart cherry helps with Sleep and Recovery

The need for quality sleep is essential for the human restoration process. This is where tart cherry shines above all others in its mechanisms of action. Tart cherry is the world’s highest natural source of melatonin found in any food.

A double-blind placebo-controlled human study showed the effects tart cherry had on the sleep-wake cycle in humans. Twenty people either consumed tart cherry or a placebo for 7 days. Measures of sleep quality (actigraphy and subjective sleep questionnaires) and urine samples were collected to test for a metabolite of melatonin (6-sulfatoxymelatonin). The results showed “Total melatonin content was significantly elevated in the cherry juice group”  and “There were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency total”. It was concluded that “consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep”. (5)

The power of Anthocyanins & Polyphenolic compounds, found in tart Cherry

According to a paper published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 2002, polyphenols are the most abundant of the 3 classes of antioxidants in the human diet. Known as “reducing agents” and with the help of other dietary agents referred to as antioxidants they “Protect the body’s tissues against stress and associated pathologies”. (6)

Foods that contain these powerful compounds have been extensively studied for supporting cardiovascular and neurological health through their ability to support a healthy inflammation response. (7)


Tart cherry possesses a unique complexity of compounds. When applied as a synergistic whole food, tart cherries provide a broad spectrum of benefits. Its various mechanisms of action make it capable of supporting some very complex cascades in the healing process.

This is exactly what makes tart cherry a true needle in a haystack.

About Michael Stuchiner

Michael Stuchiner is an experienced Master Herbalist, the Head of Education for Z Natural Foods, a teacher, and an accomplished author.  With a 16-year specialization in medicinal herbs, Mike also has a vast knowledge of tonic and adaptogenic herbalism. Mike has enjoyed a 25-year career as an elite-level competitive powerlifter where he learned to heal his ‘mind and body’ as an avid user of herbal remedies.

        As an “in-the-trenches” herbalist, Mike has done more than 85 speaking engagements, consulted with clients ranging from young to elderly, worked with athletes in virtually all sports and with clients who have “dis-ease” states of a wide variety. Mike also mentors student Master Herbalists and will continue to teach the next generation to grow a deeper wisdom of the human body through appropriate herbal remedies.

For Bulk inquiries and custom formulations click here: https://www.znaturalfoods.com/pages/bulk



2)Seymour EM1, Lewis SK, Urcuyo-Llanes DE, Tanone II, Kirakosyan A, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. “Regular tart cherry intake alters abdominal adiposity, adipose gene transcription, and inflammation in obesity-prone rats fed a high fat diet”. 2009. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

3)Kerry S Kuehl,1 Erica T Perrier,#1 Diane L Elliot,#1 and James C Chesnutt#2. “Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial”. 2010. Pubmed.gov. Sourced 4/3/18

4)Howatson G1, McHugh MP, Hill JA, Brouner J, Jewell AP, van Someren KA, Shave RE, Howatson SA. “Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running” 2010. Pubmed.gov. Sourced 4/3/18

5)Howatson G1, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. “Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality”. 2012. Pubmed.gov. Sourced 4/3/18

6)Tapiero H1, Tew KD, Ba GN, Mathé G. “Polyphenols: do they play a role in the prevention of human pathologies?”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy. 2002. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

7)Blando F, Gerardi C, Nicoletti I. Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) “anthocyanins as ingredients for functional foods”. J Biomed Biotechnol. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

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