I’d never heard of using cherry juice as a natural sleep aid prior to a couple of months ago. And then all of a sudden I had two different medical professionals recommend it, independent of one another and for different patients, in less than a month’s time.
The first was my own doctor, when I mentioned that despite being tired pretty much all the time, I tend to have a lot of difficulty falling asleep. I just can’t get my brain to shut up long enough to fall asleep. (As the saying goes, my bed is a magical place where I suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do that day). “Try a glass of cherry juice at bedtime,” he said. “And also,” he added, eying my travel mug full of steamy caffeinated goodness, “you should consider cutting back on the coffee.” (There may have been some less-than-charitable thoughts about the doctor and where he could put his “cut back on the coffee” suggestion running through my mind).
Two or three weeks later, I was having a similar conversation with my children’s pediatrician about the sleeping difficulties my 13-year-old son, Dustin, has been having. It’s estimated that between 40% and 80% of children with autism have problems sleeping – trouble falling asleep, inconsistent sleep routines, restlessness/poor sleep quality, and/or waking early and/or frequently. Both Dustin and Braeden (my 9-year-old) have autism and pretty much hit “all of the above” when it comes to sleep problems. Dustin has a lot of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep at night, and then struggles to stay awake during the day. (Physics is apparently an amazing cure for insomnia!) And again, I heard the doctor say, “Try a glass of cherry juice at bedtime.”
And then shortly after that, I had the opportunity to review Elite Gold Solutions’ Organic Tart Cherry Juice! And as it turns out, tart cherry juice is good for more than just helping you fall asleep – in addition to being a natural source of melatonin, it’s also alleged to block bad enzymes for pain relief (less swelling and faster muscle strength recovery); help fight heart disease by controlling bad cholesterol; and neutralize harmful oxidants in your body.
Because this product is a nutritional supplement, none of the claims have been evaluated by the FDA. So I decided to do a little research on my own. (I wrote so many research papers in college – so many research papers – that researching things is just habit now). When researching, you want to try to find valid sources for your information, so I checked out research studies published on PubMed Central, a free online archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). In the interests of not boring the majority of you to death, I’ll just give you the super-short version of some of the results. You can click here if you’re a research geek like me and want to read about the various experiments and results done with tart cherry juice. Alternatively, you can check out the Google search results for “tart cherry juice” on WebMD (which is somewhat less reliable but much easier reading than science journals).
In summary, the scientific journal articles say that tart cherry juice was found to:
- Produce significant reductions in insomnia severity
- Produce modest improvements in sleep time and quality
- Contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that improve antioxidant defenses/reduce oxidative stress
- Decreases some of the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage (strength loss and pain)
- Decrease inflammatory responses to repeated days of high-intensity cycling
- Minimize post-run muscle pain when ingested for 7 days prior to and during a strenuous running event
I’m not a hard-core athlete (I can get winded just chasing the baby around the house), so I can’t speak as to how effective tart cherry juice is on things like post-workout muscle pain or preventing loss of strength. I do have quite a bit of joint and muscle pain due to fibromyalgia, though, and I’m curious to see if it’s effective on that type of pain. From the research studies I read, it seems like you would need to take it consistently for at least a week to see those types of benefits. I was more interested in seeing if it would work to help my 13-year-old son fall asleep at night, though, so that’s where my focus has primarily been.
The product packaging recommends “1 serving” at dinnertime or 2-3 hours before bedtime. Since this is a concentrate, 1 serving = 2 tablespoons. You can add it to water, seltzer, smoothies, or even cocktails; or even desserts/ice cream/yogurt/etc. I did try a taste of the unadulterated concentrate – just a tiny taste. And yep, it’s tart! It kind of tastes like an “extreme sour” cherry candy – not a bad taste, just… tart. For those not into extreme flavors, I recommend using it in a smoothie with vanilla yogurt, a banana, and some fruit juice (fruit punch is great in this blend, as is orange-tangerine) – absolutely delicious, even if you’re not a huge “cherry flavor” fan (I’m partial to raspberry, myself). For my son, though, I mix two tablespoons of tart cherry juice with 50/50 fruit juice and water, since he “doesn’t like smoothies.” (I think he thinks of smoothies as a “girl drink” – but I bet he’d like smoothies just fine if I made popsicles! Because, you know, popsicles).
There are 16 servings in the 16 oz. bottle, so he’s been having a serving of tart cherry juice with dinner for about a week now. And it does seem to be helping!
To be fair, he *does* know that it’s supposed to help him fall asleep easier, so there may be a placebo effect going on. There’s no double-blind scientific research study going on here, just a kid who has a hard time falling asleep at night. And that kid has actually fallen asleep BEFORE bedtime twice in the past week, which is pretty much unheard of (especially when there’s Minecraft to be played). And because there are other benefits to tart cherry juice beyond the “go to sleep, kid!” effect (and no side effects like there would be if he were taking a prescription sleep aid), I don’t mind him having it every night. He’s not going to get addicted, he doesn’t wake up groggy or “hungover,” there’s no withdrawal if he stops drinking cherry juice… although I plan to try mixing it with seltzer water instead of juice to cut down on the sugar content in the future. I also intend to ask our pediatrician about trying tart cherry juice with Braeden (my 9-year-old son who also has autism and sleep disorders – I always check with our pediatrician on things like this just to be safe, and particularly since Braeden is currently on prescription medication and I want to make sure there aren’t any possible interactions).
Elite Gold Solutions Tart Cherry Juice is certified USDA Organic and Vegetarian and has a 100% Money Back Guarantee. You can purchase a 16 oz. bottle of tart cherry juice on Amazon or right from the Elite Gold Solutions online store for $24.99
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.