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Prunus cerasus, commonly known as tart cherry (or sour cherry), was known to the Greeks as early as 300 B.C. Throughout the centuries since then, this potent ingredient has been used in a variety of foods, including soups, cakes, tarts, and pies.
Provides a natural source of melatonin
Tart cherries (and their juice) have been studied in both young and older adults as natural sleep remedies shown to increase exogenous melatonin levels. (1) In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, volunteers consumed either a placebo or tart cherry juice concentrate for 7 days. Results showed that total melatonin content was significantly elevated in the melatonin group but not for the placebo group. There were also corresponding increases in total time spent in bed, time spent asleep, and sleep efficiency. Concluding that tart cherry may lead to improved sleep duration and quality.
Provides a natural source of tryptophan (2-3)
Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays an important role in the production of serotonin, the “happy hormone” that helps stabilize our mood. Serotonin is also the building block for melatonin, the key hormone that regulates sleep.
Reduces inflammatory markers
Studies examining the impact of tart cherry juice as well as Montmorency tart cherry juice supplementation on exercise-induced inflammation, and muscle soreness found that it reduced inflammatory markers and increased the antioxidant capacity for both cyclists and marathon runners. (4-5) It has also been studied in reference to joint pain and flexibility—specifically for those with osteoarthritis—but results weren’t definitive, as improvements were seen halfway through the study but not at the end. (6) The high concentration of vitamin C and anthocyanins—an antioxidant-rich flavonoid—in cherries may also help reduce oxidative stress present in patients with sleep disorders. (7)
There are multiple cherry products: whole fruit, juice, concentrate, cherry extract, and powder. Below is the evidence-backed recommended dosage for two of the most common forms as sleep aids: juice and capsules.
How much cherry juice to drink before bed?
When 240 mL (an 8-ounce serving) of tart cherry juice is consumed daily (the equivalent of 100 cherries/day), effects on sleep have been observed within 5 days. (8)
Tart cherry capsule/supplement dosage
In capsule form, tart cherry concentrate is often combined with melatonin, in which case the dosage is typically 100 mg; however, you can find isolated concentrates up to 400 mg.
Because supplements are regulated differently than foods and pharmaceuticals, it’s important to do your research to ensure it contains what it says it does and is not contaminated with heavy metals or pesticides. Here's what to look for:
- Third-party tested for purity and verified free of heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides
- U.S. manufactured and produced in an FDA-approved, "Good Manufacturing Practices"-compliant facility
- Botanical extracts standardized to guarantee consistent purity, potency, and efficacy
- Free of artificial colors or binders
- Vegan, gluten/dairy/sugar-free, non-GMO
Side effects of tart cherry
Because tart cherry contains a type of carbohydrate called sorbitol, it may lead to stomach discomfort or diarrhea for some when consumed in large doses.
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