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Black cherries, also known as wild cherries, are common ingredients in many foods and drinks. There are two basic types of black cherry supplements. One comes from the fruit, like black cherry juice concentrates, while the other derives from the bark of the tree.

Why do people take black cherry?

Cherries may have antioxidant properties. In lab studies, antioxidants appear to protect cells from damage that leads to disease, including the formation of plaques in arteries. However, it’s not clear yet if antioxidants have a health benefit in people.

One small study found that people who drank cherry juice -- from a blend of different cherries -- suffered less muscle damage as a result of exercise. More research is needed to confirm a benefit, though. Cherry juice blends may help with insomnia, possibly as well as valerian.

There’s some evidence that black cherry bark may work as a cough suppressant; interestingly, it may be the cyanogenic glycosides (see below) that both help decrease the cough mechanism while being toxic in high doses. This underscores the importance of using such botanical medicines under the guidance of a health professional. It’s a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines. Black cherry bark also seems to have a sedative effect.

Black cherry bark has been used to treat many other conditions, including colds, digestive problems, and pain. For colds, the bark seems to work as an astringent, drying up secretions and mucus. For now, however, there’s no good evidence to support these uses.

How much black cherry should you take?

Since black cherry is an unproven treatment, there is no standard dose. Some people use five to 12 drops of black cherry bark liquid extract in water two to three times per day. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get black cherry naturally from foods?

Black cherries are a common ingredient in pies, jellies, sodas, and other foods. Black cherry leaves should not be eaten; they contain a chemical that is converted into a form of cyanide in the body. Black cherry bark also contains this same chemical and should only be used under the guidance of a knowledgeable professional.

What are the risks of taking black cherry?

  • Side effects. When eaten in foods and drinks, black cherry fruits are safe. Cherries can trigger allergic reactions. These may be more common in people who also have allergies to other fruits or birch.
  • Risks. Using black cherry supplements in the long term may not be safe. High doses of black cherry bark can be poisonous and even fatal.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using black cherry supplements. They could interact with sedatives and medicines used for high cholesterol, fungal infections, allergies, cancer, and other conditions.

Given the lack of evidence about its safety, black cherry supplements are not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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