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Black cherry

Black cherries are common ingredients in many foods and drinks. Black cherry is also taken as a supplement by some people who think it may have some health benefits, but evidence is lacking to support this.

There are two basic types of black cherry supplements: one comes from the fruit, like black cherry juice concentrates; while the other derives from the bark of the tree.

Black cherry uses

Cherries may have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that studies suggest protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. However, it’s not clear yet if antioxidants have a health benefit in people.

One small study of 54 runners, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that runners who drank cherry juice - from a blend of different cherries - suffered less muscle damage as a result of exercise. But since this was a small study, more research needs to be done.

There’s some anecdotal evidence about the effects of black cherry bark as a supplement. It’s possible, but not proven, that it may work as a cough suppressant, which is why it’s a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines. It also seems to have a sedative effect, but there have been no clinical trials to prove this.

Black cherry bark has been used to treat many other conditions, including cough, digestive problems and pain. For now, there’s no good, clinical evidence to support these uses.

Black cherry dose and instructions for use

Since black cherry is an unproven treatment, there is no standard dose. Some people use between five to 12 drops of black cherry bark liquid extract in water two to three times per day. Follow instructions on the packet.

Black cherry food sources

Black cherries are a common ingredient in tarts, jams, soft drinks and other foods. However, the raw (unprocessed) leaves and bark of the black cherry tree are poisonous. They contain a chemical that is converted into a form of cyanide in the body.

Black cherry supplement information

Black cherry supplements may be sold as capsules, tinctures or concentrates - mainly syrups to treat coughs. Like any supplement, keep black cherry in a cool, dry place, away from humidity and direct sunlight. Make sure to distinguish between the supplements that contain black cherry juice and black cherry bark.

Black cherry warnings

  • Side effects. When consumed in foods and drinks, black cherry is 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 dangerous or even fatal.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your GP before you start using black cherry as a supplement because it 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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 31, 2013

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