What Is Black Cherry?
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 is from the bark of the tree.
Drinking black cherry juice is a delicious way to stay hydrated. It also gives you some health-boosting nutrients.
Black cherry has long been used for timber and furniture, and also medicinally. Native Americans throughout North and Central America consumed the bark and the fruit to treat cough and cold symptoms.
Today, people drink black cherry juice as a medicinal supplement. You'll see it most often as an herbal supplement in health food stores, but you can enjoy it as a refreshing beverage anytime.
Black Cherry Benefits
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. But it’s not clear yet if antioxidants have a health benefit in people.
Cherries also have a good amount of other polyphenols like p-coumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, and quercetin. Polyphenols help with easing inflammation, supporting brain function, and improving memory and learning.
A combination of anthocyanins, quercetin, and other nutrients in black cherries help to reduce inflammation, especially inflammation related to arthritis and gout. These phytochemicals also work to lower uric acid levels in the body, reducing your risk of painful gout attacks and stiff joints.
Melatonin is a natural hormone your body makes to regulate your sleeping and waking cycles. Too little melatonin can cause restless nights and daytime drowsiness, putting your cycles out of alignment. Cherries and cherry juice contain natural melatonin, which can help you sleep better.
One small study found that people who drank cherry juice – from a blend of different cherries – had 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 plant’s cyanogenic glycosides (compounds that are toxic in high doses) that help decrease the cough mechanism. This shows 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. But for now, there’s no good evidence to support these uses.
Black Cherry Nutrition
Black cherry juice contains a variety of nutrients that can support your health:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
- Folate (B9)
One 8-ounce glass of pure black cherry juice contains:
- Calories: 170
- Protein: 1 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 26 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 22 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Sodium: 0 milligrams
Drinking too much black cherry juice could cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Since black cherry is an unproven treatment, there is no standard dose. Ask your doctor for advice.
How to Use Black Cherry Juice
When you purchase black cherry juice, make sure it is 100% pure juice with no added sugar. Read the ingredients list and look for cherries and water, with few to no other ingredients.
You can also buy juice concentrate, but you need to dilute the liquid with water to avoid an upset stomach. Read the label to see how much water you'll need to add for each amount of juice concentrate. Black cherry juice makes a refreshing drink on its own, or it can be used in cocktails and other beverages.
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 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.