Tart cherry extract is derived from a cherry variety known as tart or sour cherry. This fruit extract is typically made by combining the fruit with a solvent such as a consumable alcohol and letting the combination infuse in a cool, dark place for a time. The process results in an intense flavoring that is often used in cooking and baked foods. This potent extract -- available in liquid, powder or capsule form -- also has potential health benefits.
Eating foods rich in anthocyanins is linked to decreased risk for certain diseases such as cancer. Anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, purple or blue fruits and vegetables their color. An article published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" in 2006 noted dietary anthocyanin-rich tart cherry extract may help increase the effectiveness of certain cancer medications in reducing chemotherapy side effects and in protecting against colon cancer.
Tart cherry extract is packed with antioxidants -- powerful substances that protect your body against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage healthy cells. A University of Michigan Health System study announced in 2007 revealed that animals that received the powder form of tart cherry in their diet showed lower free radical stress than animals on a similar diet that didn't receive the extract. According to Steven Bolling, University of Michigan cardiac surgeon, the potential for protective effects from antioxidant-rich foods and food extracts is a promising area of research.
Inflammation has been lined to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease. An article published in "Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology" in 2012 noted that a study investigating the effectiveness of tart cherry extract against an inflammation-inducing substance -- interleukin-6 -- found that tart cherry extract effectively decreased inflammation.
Supports Brain Health
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, result in progressive memory loss, brain neuron loss and an increase in free-radical damage. A study published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in 2013 researching the effects of antioxidants and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids on Alzheimer's disease revealed that tart cherry extract, along with fish and emu oils, protected brain tissue from inflammation and loss of brain neurons in mice. The study suggests that this combination has the potential to help reduce cognitive decline in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.