We can all learn something new every day! And good doctors are constantly alert to learning from all of their patients. It takes a lot to surprise me after twenty years in medicine but - I hold my hand up - this is a new one!
I had never heard of cherry juice or fresh cherries being used to treat gout or for gout pain relief until I heard it recently from a patient (who had been told it by his pharmacist, who had heard it from a relative etc etc). Anyway - a quick search for the "treatment of gout" on google turned up one (rather ancient -1950) research paper and a whole stream of anecdotal reports about the positive effect of cherries and their juice. It seems that consuming about half a pound of fresh cherrys a day or half a litre of fresh cherry juice can significantly lessen the pain and swelling of gout.
I've never had gout and I hope you haven't either but I can tell you it's one of the most painful conditions known in medicine.
Our blood contains a salt called uric acid. It's there all the time in everyone but is normally fully dissolved in the way that sugar is fully disolved in a hot cup of tea. But ... if the tea cools down ... what happens to the sugar? It comes out of solution as little sharp edged crystals. Well, guess what - that's exactly what happens in an attack of gout pain.
A change in the blood chemistry allows the uric acid to crystalise out of solution and form little jaggy crystals (like bits of broken glass) in the joints. For some reason the first joint of the big toe is the most commonly affected - and the pain when walking is horrific. Quite literally "like walking on broken glass" as many of my patients describe it.
Anyhow - back to those cherries.
My patient swore that taking the cherry juice had made a big impact on his gout pain and had provided rapid gout pain relief. You might want to try this yourself if you have gout or you might want to recommend it to a friend or relative.I'm not clear whether tinned cherries can have the same effect.
The most commonly quoted explanation of the effect is that cherries contain flavonoid compounds that may lower uric acid and reduce inflammation. As I described above, uric acid is the body salt that triggers gout attacks.
I have found nothing published to suggest that taking regular cherry juice lessens the risk of you having an attack in the first place but if you suffer from gout regularly it may be worth a try. Cherry juice, cherry pie, ice cream with cherry sauce? Mmmm - sounds good to me!
Dr Gordon Cameron MD is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.