By TAP Integrative

Sleep and sleep disorders are multifactorial but mediated in part by the activity of melatonin and its precursors. Melatonin is derived from serotonin, which in turn is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan can also be degraded by the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) to produce kynurenine—a biochemical pathway that is stimulated by inflammation. Inflammation stimulates greater degradation of tryptophan, a higher kynurenine:tryptophan ratio, and a lower availability of tryptophan as a precursor for serotonin and melatonin.

These biochemical pathways suggest that interventions aimed at decreasing inflammation might also increase the availability of tryptophan, boost production of melatonin, and improve sleep. Montmorency (Prunus cerasus) tart cherry juice contains a small amount of melatonin (0.135g per 100g), a small amount of tryptophan (9mg per 100g), and 0.2% procyanidins—plant compounds known for their anti-inflammatory effect. A small pilot study published in 2010 showed that tart cherry juice improved insomnia in older adults. To follow up on that study, researchers at Louisiana State University conducted a second clinical trial.

A total of 8 subjects older than 50 years and with chronic insomnia completed the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Subjects consumed placebo or tart cherry juice (Indian Summer cherry juice; 240mL in the morning and 2 hours before bed) for 2 weeks. The cherry juice was measured for procyanidin-B and total anthocyanidins. After 2 weeks, subjects completed an overnight polysomnographic sleep study, completed 5 questionnaires, and had blood drawn for analysis. Crossover testing was done after a 2-week washout period.

The main finding of this study was that tart cherry juice extended sleep time by 84 minutes (p=.018) with no adverse effects. Cherry juice also reduced the kynurenine:tryptophan ratio (p<.05) and the level of prostaglandin E2 (p<.05), indicating reduced inflammation and inhibition of IDO. Also, researchers found that procyanidin B-2 inhibited interferon–induced IDO in vitro.

Despite the small sample size of this pilot study, the results show promise that tart cherry juice may prove to be an effective treatment for insomnia.


Losso JN, Finley JW, Karki N, et al. Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. Am J Ther. 2017

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.