Cherry - An Antioxidant Powerhouse
Author: Allison B. Vought
Friday, June 19, 2015

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The cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus. Prunus is a genus of trees and shrubs, which includes plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. The fruit from this genus are commonly called stone fruit. Plants can be deciduous or evergreen and the fruit is a fleshy drupe with a single relatively large, hard-coated seed (called a “stone”).

Cherries are pigment rich fruits. These pigments are polyphenolic flavonoid compounds (antioxidants) known as anthocyanin glycosides. Many prunus species are also cyanogenic; they contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides, notably amygdalin. Amygdalin is found in bitter almonds and in the kernels of many stone fruits. Although the fruits of some species may be edible, the seeds, leaves and other parts can be toxic. Trace amounts of amygdalin may give a characteristic bitter taste. Amygdalin has been bred out of many common commercial species in order to reduce bitterness and create a more palatable (and more profitable) product to grow for human consumption.

Cherries have high antioxidant potential and contain a number of compounds that fight free radicals. This makes the cherry a desired ingredient for cosmetic formulations, particularly anti-aging formulations. The most commonly used parts of the cherry are the fruit, stem, blossom and bark.
The West Indian cherry fruit known as acerola (Malpighia emarginata) belongs to tropical fruit-bearing shrubs in the family Malpighiaceae and contains 2-3 tiny seeds. Acerola contains exceptionally high levels of vitamin-C and vitamin-A compared with North American and European cherries.

Montmorency (sour) cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food, including blueberries, pomegranates and other fruits. The anti-inflammatory substance found in the peel of the fruit contains the same enzyme as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. [1]

Cherry blossom extract shows good anti-inflammatory effect in vitro and in vivo and is a promising functional ingredient in soothing skin care. Cherry blossom flowers may be effective against skin advanced glycation end-products (AGE) which are known to contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation. According to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, forty study participants saw skin-calming results using a cherry blossom extract cream. After 9 days, those who treated irritated skin with the cream were less inflamed than those who tried a placebo. [2]
Cherry bark has soothing and astringent properties and has been used in hair conditioning treatments to detangle and add body to hair. Historically, cherry bark was used as a cough suppressant and can still be found in some natural cough syrups on the market. Due to the cyanogenic content in cherry bark, it is not recommended for long term use internally. [3,8] Cherry bark also contains prunasin, which is known to cause birth defects. For that reason, it is recommended to avoid cherry bark while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Though we are familiar with the power of the anthocyanin group of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in tart cherry, researchers have also identified a new group of compounds in cherries that appear to have strong antioxidant effects similar to caffeic acid, a potent antioxidant. [6]
Several research teams have shown the antioxidant effect of tart cherry cell culture in the lab, and it is now known that the amount of anthocyanin in the fruit goes hand in hand with its ability to reduce cell damage. One study additionally found that tart cherry juice also increased the activity of a free radical scavenger called superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that helps break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules in cells, which might prevent damage to tissues.

1. Zhang YQ, Guan L, Zhong ZY, Chang M, Zhang DK, Li H, Lai W. The anti-inflammatory effect of cherry blossom extract (Prunus yedoensis) used in soothing skincare product. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2014 Dec;36(6):527-30. doi: 10.1111/ics.12149. Epub 2014 Sep 4. PubMed PMID: 25065693. 
2. Shimoda H, Nakamura S, Morioka M, Tanaka J, Matsuda H, Yoshikawa M. Effect of cinnamoyl and flavonol glucosides derived from cherry blossom flowers on the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and AGE-induced fibroblast apoptosis. Phytother Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):1328-35. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3423. Epub 2011 Feb 10. PubMed PMID: 21308824.
3. Gardner, Z., McGuffin, M. (2013) Prunus spinosa. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, Second Edition. p 707-708.
7. Acamovic, T., Stewart, C.S. , Pennycott, T.W. (2003) Prenatal toxicity of Cyanide in Goats - A Model For Teratological Studies in Ruminants. Poisonous Plants and Related Toxins.  p 428-429.