The Tart Cherry

6/1/2015 - 3:18:45 PM
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“Tis the season, the cherries are blooming, the grass is green and the winds are soft.”

There are definitely perks to working in a fruit orchard at this time of year and we’re living it up. The work is hard, but it’s worth it in so many ways to watch things grow and <sneak> some to eat now and then. Nature almost always has something beautiful about it but right now there is almost too much to take in and keep up with work at the same time.



But “such is life” as our Pennsylvania Dutch forefathers have often said and it’s true. Life is beautiful sometimes, and other times hard; sometimes we have full health, sometimes the pain blinds us. Since Kauffman’s is entering the month of harvesting cherries, we began to get interested in exactly what cherries could do for us health-wise and pass that information on. Most fruits have some type of health benefit, of course, but it seems like cherries got packed with a double whammy in regards to arthritis and gout. The world cherry is confusable with the french word cherie and for those of us who love when cherry season rolls around we don’t mind the similarity, because cherie in French is a term of endearment for: dear or sweetheart. We won’t go so far as to say we love cherries that much, but it’s definitely an endearing fruit when gout or arthritic pain hits. “Why?” is a good question.

The Cherie Antioxidant

The number one use for tart cherries in natural medicine is for use with inflamed and painful joints. Medically the pain in these two maladies are treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and with more than 111 millions prescriptions accounting for around 60% of over-the-counter pain reliever sales in just the US, these medications are very common. There’s just one problem: they may have side effects of gastric bleeding, heart attack and kidney failure. For a lot of people that’s being stuck between a rock and hard spot because the pain is so bad that they must do something in order to live semi-normal lives, but who wants to risk potential side effects that bad?

That’s when folks re-discovered using tart cherries to treat their symptoms and flare-ups of the inflammatory pain of joints no longer protected by cartilage because one of the most potent of flavonoids, anthocyanins, are found in high concentration in cherries. Some of these are found in other berries such as blueberries and can all pack a powerful punch when it comes to delivering a good amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammation, but cherries are unique and superior because they contain high levels of some novel anthocyanins that other berries such as blueberries and bilberries don’t have.

Also in total, cherries have much higher amounts of phenolics than even sweet cherries with antioxidant levels passing red wine and dark chocolate. After measuring this, scientists discovered that bioactive compounds found in tart cherries boost or switch-on cancer defenses, regulate glucose, and enhance primary antioxidants. This was exciting news, and they began to test it on various problems of different natures, beginning with the inflammation of joints and/or high amounts of uric acid leading to arthritic pain and gout.

Arthritis

It is estimated that one out of every two Americans will develop osteoarthritis at some point throughout their life, which is a chronic condition in which joint cartilage breaks down leading to pain and injury. Just how painful it is can only be described by those who have suffered it, but imagine no lubricant to run machinery, no shock protection to protect the joints with the addition of moderate to severe inflammation as a result of this breakdown and you can imagine how much it hurts to do what we do without thinking every second; move.

The inflammation that results as a breakdown of the cartilage can be treated with acetaminophen, but this doesn’t lower the inflammation, it only treats the pain and comes with side-effects besides. (liver and kidney damage) Like mentioned earlier this puts arthritic sufferers between a rock and hard spot as far as treatment goes and while the pain relievers and over-the-counter medications may help with pain they do practically nothing to reduce what is causing the pain which can add more stress and injury to the joint. Arthritic patients who started taking concentrated amounts of tart cherry juice were documented with decreases in inflammation, measured by reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRPs) (CRPs are produced by the liver and indicate the levels of inflammation in the body and can be measured by specific tests, though not pinpointed to specific causes) Taking the tart cherry concentrate reduces these levels and makes a difference across a broad spectrum of illnesses. It isn’t shown to entirely heal arthritis, but it does make a significant difference in treatment and pain control.

Gout

Gout is also a type of inflammatory arthritis and is thought to create higher risk of heart disease and mortality with a high blood concentration of uric acid as its main pathway. Once again the drugs used to keep this condition under control come with undesirable side effects that may even interfere with other medications.

A study conducted in Boston U. found that taking cherry extract reduced the risk of gout attacks by 45% in the test group, which when combined with allopurinol use reduced gout by 75% in patients compared to no intervention at all. Pretty significant when considering the level and severity of a normal gout attack.

This uric acid reduction happens when cherries with high levels of Vitamins A and C are consumed, which along with fiber helps to reduce uric acid levels by as much as 50% in some cases. Of course you can always take Vitamin C separately, but the combined effects of everything in cherries is a powerful remedy that may do a lot for a wide spectrum of health problems that are usually tied together somewhat. Things like:

  • obesity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • blood sugar problems
  • etc

How many cherries should I eat

A half cup of cherries, or 3 oz delivers anywhere from 82-297 mg’s of anthocyanins and this is thought to be a good amount, though of course more can be eaten. However buying the cherries themselves may not always be available out of season, so there are other alternatives to buying the actual cherries. There is organic tart cherry juice by Knudsens and also organic cherry juice concentrate which is very potent and effective to treat arthritis and gout. These include instructions on the label as to recommended use. Another available supplement in cherry form is in capsule form and may be found at any regular health food store or online at various sources.

An old-fashioned picnic is another option.

Picnic

“Life ain’t no picnic,” just isn’t always true and these moments are when life slows and we stop to breath. On Memorial day we put together an outside lunch with appetizer as well as included a recipe we like for sugar-free, energy bars.

Coconut Nut Energy Bars

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • ¼ c cocoa powder
  • ½ c raw ground nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, or peanut butter)
  • ¾ c unsweetened shredded organic coconut
  • 1 Tbsp. honey (optional, add more to taste)
  • parchment paper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt honey and coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Once combined, add cocoa, ground-up nuts (or nut butter) and coconut, and mix together.
  3. Pour mixture into small baking sheet or square pan covered in parchment paper.
  4. Refrigerate until hard, cut into bars. 

These bars are a delicious alternative to sweets and with milk are perfect for a snack or dessert. Careful, these melt really quickly and aren’t recommended paired with light clothing.

Happy June!

(Any of the statements in the above blog post are not intended to diagnose or replace the advice or treatment of medical doctors, merely to open alternatives in treatment that have received recent attention by the medical community) 

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