by: Celeste M. Smucker
(NaturalNews) Pain is a huge problem for individuals, families, businesses and our economy. According to the American Pain Society, at any given time, as many as a third of us are in pain and every year pain drives half of us to a doctor`s office seeking relief. Combined costs of medical care and lost productivity due to chronic pain amount to $150 billion annually. While pain medications are expensive and have serious side effects, a number of natural and herbal remedies for pain relief are available which are good alternatives. One of these is cherries, which are loaded with antioxidants called anthocyanins that give them their red color along with significant pain relief.
In research published in 2004 at Johns Hopkins University, rats were injected with either a solution containing tart cherries or a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and exposed to either a heated surface or an inflammatory agent. The tart cherries significantly reduced pain sensitivity and at the highest dosage were as effective as the drug. The authors conclude that tart cherries may have a beneficial role in inflammatory pain. In a 2001 study at Michigan State University, the anthocyanins in cherries were found to be equivalent to two common over-the-counter painkillers(also NSAIDs) for inhibiting the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes associated with inflammation.
Sore Muscles in Athletes
Oregon`s Hood to Coast relay is a 197 mile race involving 1,000 relay teams. In 2009, scientists from Oregon`s Health and Science University studied the impact of tart cherry juice on pain in athletes participating in the race. Participants drank 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for a week prior to the race and then every 8 hours during the race. At the end of the race the cherry drinkers had less pain and faster muscle recovery. NSAIDs, though helpful for some kinds of pain, are associated with side effects including hospitalization and death. Tart cherry juice, on the other hand, has few if any side effects and may be a healthier choice for athletes and others who suffer from pain.
Gout is a painful type of arthritis caused by build up of uric acid in joints, often favoring the toes. In a 2003 study designed to test the value of cherries for ameliorating gout pain 10 healthy female volunteers ate 45 Bing cherries for breakfast. Researchers at the USDA`s Agricultural Research Service then evaluated levels of urate, a precursor of uric acid, in blood plasma levels and in urine. Within 5 hours of eating cherries, urate decreased in blood plasma levels and increased in urine. Scientists also evaluated levels of C-reactive protein and nitric oxide, two other markers of inflammation, which decreased after subjects ate cherries.
In a recent study at the Oregon Health and Science Center, women with fibromyalgia were evaluated for muscle pain and weakness after exercise. Of the 14 women, half drank cherry juice and half a placebo for ten days. Results showed a subset of the cherry group enjoyed a significant reduction in overall pain.
The research suggests that cherries can be effective for different kinds of pain conditions. While both tart and sweet cherries have anthocyanins, tart cherries have more of them as well as a lower glycemic index making them a better choice. Tart cherries are also one of the only known food sources of melatonin, helpful for those whose pain interrupts their sleep cycle.
Tart cherries are available dried, frozen, and in juice form.