vitamins and supplements

Should I take cherry supplements for my osteoarthritis pain?

Grant Cooper Health Guide May 12, 2008
  • My wife's grandmother lives in Belgrade, Serbia.  She is 91 and still vacations in the mountains.  She has knee pain, but it bothers her mostly after walking up three flights of stairs to her apartment.  What is her secret?  She lives well, keeps a positive attitude, exercises regularly, and eats an anti-inflammatory diet.  And, by the way, she eats lots and lots of sour cherries.  Her legendary sour cherry pita is one of my favorites. 

     

                Cherries have been a traditional folk medicine remedy for osteoarthritis for centuries.  Today we know that cherries are rich in antioxidants, including quercetin, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.  Quercitin is a flavonoid that is believed to be a particularly potent antioxidant.  Studies have shown that consuming 20 cherries per day may be as effective as aspirin at relieving pain.  Other studies have shown that cherries may decrease blood markers of inflammation as well as blood levels of uric acid.  When uric acid levels are otherwise high, an arthritis-like disorder known as gout may occur. 

                While cherries are certainly a positive addition to your diet, the amount of cherries needed to show an effect are higher than may be reasonable to consume -- up to half a pound or more per day!  In addition, cherries may not be available all year round.  When available, a half a pound or more per day habit would be expensive to maintain.  A reasonable alternative may be to add some cherries to your diet, but also to consider cherry supplements.

     

    Cherry Supplements for Osteoarthritis Relief?

                Cherry supplements are available in both liquid and capsule forms.  A common dosage is 2,000 mg per day of cherry fruit extract, divided into 2 to 4 doses. 

                If you consider the supplements, just remember this important point: Cherry supplements cannot cure osteoarthritis symptoms.  Research supporting their usage for arthritis is very limited.  More research is certainly needed in this area.  In addition to helping with osteoarthritis symptoms, by decreasing the overall level of inflammation in your body, cherry supplements may be helpful for your overall health as well.

                Talk to your doctor before trying any supplements. If you are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, or nursing, don't take these supplements.  Ask your doctor to monitor your electrolyte, kidney, and liver function tests through regular blood work while taking the supplements.  If you try them for more than eight weeks and don't feel any improvement in symptoms, it may be worth discontinuing them.

                As with all supplements, only buy from a reputable company. A "USP Dietary Supplement Verified" seal ensures that some basic manufacturing standards have been met.  Also, check out groups like ConsumerLabs.com and NSF International that evaluate supplements and publish their results.

                I don't know if eating cherries all these years has helped my wife's grandmother stay so healthy and active. There are a million reasons why the correlation may simply be a coincidence.  In the end, because an anti-inflammatory diet is extremely important for joint health as well as overall health and cherries have  anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects -- and perhaps a little because I love my wife's grandmother's cherry pie -- I believe cherry supplements may be worth a try.