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Tart Cherry's Traditional Medicinal Uses

By Flo Lavallie, DNM RCRT Cl.H

Tart cherry is used in formulations to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections, nephrolithiasis (kidney stones), cystolithiasis (calculi stones) in the urinary bladder and dysuria (painful urination).

In Western Europe, the fresh fruits with pits inside are traditionally used to prepare Sirupus Cerasi (cherry syrup) which was used to treat fever and liver diseases. In Canada, in addition to use as a conventional food, tart cherry fruit may also be used as an active ingredient of natural health products (NHP’s) – which require pre-marketing authorization from the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products (NNHPD).

Licensed NHP’s that contain a tart cherry preparation equivalent to 15 grams of dried tart cherry fruit, or 100 grams of fresh tart cherry fruit may be labelled with a claim statement to the effect of “Provides antioxidants that help protect against cell damage caused by free radicals”. Certain tart cherry ingredients are also permitted for use as non-medicinal components of licensed NHP’s. For example, tart cherry fruit juice or powder may be used as a flavor enhancer, and the dried juice may be used as a color additive and flavor enhancer.

The biochemistry and pharmacology of tart cherry have only recently been reviewed. Anthocyanins in tart cherry juice not only have shown significant activity but have also inhibited enzymes involved in diabetes in a dose dependent manner. Additionally, anti-inflammatory effects have been demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo.

In various exercise protocols, exercise related muscle damage was alleviated, and muscle contractility and endurance improved with tart cherry preparations.

A positive trend was noted for efficacy in gout or hyperuricemia (elevated uric acid in the blood).


United States Department of Agriculture – Tart cherries grown in the states of Michigan, et al; Free and restricted percentages for the 2019 – 20 crop year, Finale rule. Federal Register, 2020; 85(131): 408673.

Ahmad I, Shamsi S, Zaman R. A review on sour cherry (prunus cerasus) a high value Unani medicinal fruit. INT/Green Pharm. 2017, 11(1):1-6

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