(NaturalHealth365) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) account for about 60% of over-the-counter medication and nearly $111 million of prescription sales in the United States. They are most commonly prescribed for their anti-inflammatory activity and pain relief. Unfortunately these NSAID’s are associated with side effects that range from mild (nausea) to severe (heart attacks).
Today there is an increasing awareness among the medical community on the potential damage of NSAIDs, hence there is a demand for anti-inflammatory remedies that are free of side effects.
A natural way to avoid toxic side effects!
Traditional Medicinal systems such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine have used food as therapy for many centuries. Foods from nature that show strong anti-inflammatory activity are commonly used to treat conditions ranging from wound healing to pain relief. One such natural anti-inflammatory agent that is as potent as the NSAID’s like ibuprofen and other are tart cherries.
The magic inside tart cherries
Tart cherries are different from bing (sweet) cherries due to their sharp sourness in taste. The sourness in tart cherries is attributed to the spectrum of phytochemical compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
Tart cherries are predominantly rich in anthocyanins, a class of flavonoid compounds that are powerful antioxidants and fight inflammation. Tart cherries are abundant in total phenolics and in fact rank 14th among the top most antioxidant rich foods.
Tart cherries vs. NSAIDs
NSAIDs may decrease your pain by temporarily reducing inflammation, but that is not all. Because NSAIDs suppress the production of prostaglandins it also creates an imbalance in the rest of the system.
Prostaglandins are not only responsible for pain and swelling in the body but also perform numerous other functions such as protecting the stomach lining, regulate the blood flow through the kidney to name a few. Heavy dose and prolonged use of NSAIDs stall the prostaglandin production result in permanent kidney damage, chronic ulcers plus many more.
Although tart cherries also exhibit potent anti-inflammatory activity, the mechanism of action is different from that of the drugs. One study quotes that anthocyanins in tart cherries do not have analgesic effect in the absence of inflammation; however in the presence of inflammation, anthocyanins significantly decreased the same. This implies that tart cherries not only decrease inflammation at site but do not exhibit harmful effect in other areas of the body.
Tart cherries are good for more than just pain relief
Heart protector: Because tart cherries bring down the inflammatory reactions in our body, they also offer cardiovascular protection and significantly decrease the risk of heart disease.
In mice studies, administration of tart cherry powder brought down cholesterol levels by 26% and also decreased the risk of early death by 65%.
Anti-cancerous: Studies that observed the mechanism of action of tart cherries concluded that the high anthocyanin levels help in destroying cancer growth by initiating programmed cell death (apoptosis) of pre-cancerous cells. It was found that compounds in tart cherries switch off inflammation and cell proliferation and inhibit cancer pathways.
Osteoarthritis relief: Arthritis is characterized by high inflammatory condition and research has identified that the phytochemicals in tart cherries address this issue directly. Researchers at Baylor Research Institute documented through a pilot study that after 8 weeks of administering tart cherries in pill form, there was a significant improvement in function and decrease in pain among patients.
Sleep better: Studies have shown that a glass of tart cherry juice a day can increase melatonin levels and lead to better sleep pattern.
The growing need for a drug with an effective anti-inflammatory activity and minimal side effects has encouraged researchers to look deep into natural remedies. Despite efforts by big pharma giants to downplay the health benefits of natural remedies, there is no doubt that future health care will predominantly seek tart cherries as a safe therapeutic alternative than conventional medicines.
So, next time you are shopping in the supermarket, add tart cherries to the shopping cart – in place of the usual pain killers. Those antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds (and taste) are so good for you.
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Tall JM, Seeram NP, Zhao C, Nair MG, Meyer RA, Raja SN. Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat. Behav Brain Res. 2004 Aug 12;153(1):181-8.
Wang H, Nair MG, Strasburg GM, et al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of anthocyanins and their aglycon, cyanidin, from tart cherries. J Nat Prod. 1999;62:294-6.
Blando F, Gerardi C, Nicoletti I. Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) anthocyanins as ingredients for functional foods.J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004;5:253-8.
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