Is tart cherry extract safe to take?

Tart cherry extract has become an increasingly popular supplement due to its potential health benefits. However, some people wonder if taking tart cherry extract is actually safe. This article provides a comprehensive look at the safety of tart cherry extract.

What is Tart Cherry Extract?

Tart cherry extract is made from the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree, more commonly known as the sour cherry. Tart cherries contain high concentrations of nutrients and plant compounds that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other protective effects in the body.

The most researched compounds found in tart cherries include:

  • Anthocyanins – pigments that give tart cherries their bright red color and act as antioxidants
  • Quercetin – a flavonoid antioxidant
  • Melatonin – a hormone that regulates sleep

Tart cherry extract supplements are made by concentrating the juice from whole tart cherries into a powder or liquid form. This allows you to get a higher dose of beneficial plant compounds in a convenient way.

Is Tart Cherry Extract Safe?

Overall, research to date suggests that taking tart cherry extract as a supplement is safe for most people.

Tart cherry extract has relatively few side effects. In studies, it has been well tolerated when taken in doses up to 480 mg per day for up to 2 months (1, 2).

Potential side effects can include:

  • Mild digestive issues like diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Insomnia when taken before bedtime

However, these side effects are generally mild. Serious adverse effects have not been reported.

Studies have found tart cherry extract supplements to be safe for most adults when used short-term, including older adults and postmenopausal women (1, 3).

It’s also generally recognized as safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume tart cherries and tart cherry juice. However, always consult your healthcare provider before taking any new supplement if pregnant or breastfeeding (4).

Medication Interactions

Before taking tart cherry extract, it’s important to consider potential medication interactions.

Tart cherry extract can affect how certain medications are broken down and eliminated from your body. Substances in tart cherry can inhibit certain liver enzymes and transporters, including CYP3A4, CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2C8, CYP2C9, CYP2D6 and OATP1B1 (5).

This can cause medications metabolized by these pathways to be cleared from your body more slowly, resulting in higher blood levels that could potentially cause side effects.

Some drugs that may interact with tart cherry extract include:

Drug type Examples
Immunosuppressants Cyclosporine, tacrolimus
Benzodiazepines Alprazolam, diazepam
Statins Atorvastatin, simvastatin
Blood thinners Warfarin
Steroids Methylprednisolone
Opioid pain medications Oxycodone, fentanyl

If you take any prescription medications, check with your healthcare provider before taking tart cherry extract to ensure safety and monitor for any increased side effects.

Dosage Recommendations

Most research on tart cherry extract has used dosages between 500–2,000 mg per day.

The table below outlines general dosage recommendations based on the available evidence (6, 7, 8):

Purpose Dosage
Exercise performance and recovery 500–1,000 mg per day
Sleep aid 500–1,000 mg before bedtime
Inflammation and pain relief 500–2,000 mg per day

Doses up to 2,000 mg per day have not been associated with serious side effects in most people. However, it’s best to start with a lower dosage and work your way up to assess your personal tolerance.

Forgeneral health, doses of 500–1,000 mg per day are commonly used. It’s best taken in 1–2 divided doses rather than a single large dose.

Always follow dosage directions on the product you purchase, and consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Is Tart Cherry Extract Right for You?

Tart cherry extract may provide benefits for:

  • Enhancing exercise recovery
  • Reducing muscle soreness and damage
  • Lowering inflammation
  • Easing joint pain
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Protecting heart health

The compounds in tart cherries, including anthocyanins and melatonin, are thought to be responsible for many of these effects.

Taking tart cherry extract can be an easy way to increase your intake of these beneficial plant nutrients. It may complement a healthy lifestyle and standard treatment approaches.

However, always talk to your healthcare provider before taking tart cherry extract if you:

  • Have upcoming surgery
  • Take any medications
  • Have a chronic health condition
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

Additionally, tart cherry extract should be avoided in children and adolescents under 18 years old due to lack of safety data.

The Bottom Line

Based on current research, tart cherry extract appears to be safe for most healthy adults when used for short time periods.

Potential side effects are mild and infrequent. However, there are some interactions to be aware of if taking medications metabolized by certain liver enzymes.

Tart cherry extract may offer a variety of health benefits related to exercise recovery, inflammation, sleep, and more. But as with any supplement, it’s best used alongside an overall healthy lifestyle.

Speak to your healthcare provider to determine if tart cherry extract is a good choice for your individual health needs.

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