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Honey, Vinegar, Water, and Cherry Juice for Osteoarthritis

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Is there any credible evidence that cherry juice or a drink mixture of honey, vinegar, and water relieves symptoms of osteoarthritis? Johns Hopkins specialists answer readers’ questions in this excerpt from a recent issue of the Arthritis Bulletin.

  • Arthritis question 1

Q. My cousin, who has osteoarthritis in her hip, swears that drinking a daily mixture of equal parts honey, vinegar, and water has alleviated her arthritis pain. Though I have never been one for folk remedies, I’m assuming that there is some logic operating behind this one. As for the honey and water, I suspect that they are simply a delivery system that makes vinegar palatable. Is my cousin’s honey-vinegar-water concoction just a homemade placebo? Kansas City, MO

A. Human physiology is quite complex, so it’s difficult to ascertain and analyze which properties of a given food or drug actually have a desired effect in a given target tissue. The body cannot be viewed as a container in which everything we ingest is evenly distributed to all tissues. The trip from mouth to joint involves many modifications, and few substances ever get to the joint in the same form as they entered the mouth. Moreover, pain modification in osteoarthritis is just as likely to happen at the level of pain perception (in other words, in the brain) as in the joint itself. To my knowledge, there have never been any studies evaluating the use of this honey, vinegar, and water mixture for the treatment of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Arthritis question 2

Q. My wife reads the popular health literature religiously and is now on a cherry juice kick. We start every day not with orange juice (our breakfast drink for the past thirty years) but with a cherry juice concentrate that she buys at the local health food store.

We both have arthritis. I have arthritis my left knee and both hips. Harriet has arthritis in her neck and upper back. She insists that we drink the juice to fight off the arthritis pain. I happen to like the taste of it, but I have my doubts about its pain-relieving effects. Have you heard of any studies of cherry juice, or do you know of people who have benefited from it? Princeton, NJ

A. The pigments in the skins of cherries, blackberries, grapes, and other dark-colored fruits contain compounds known as anthocyanins. Some studies have demonstrated in vitro (test-tube) activity of these compounds as antioxidants and weak anti-inflammatories, with some studies suggesting that they may inhibit prostaglandins in animals. To our knowledge, no controlled clinical trials of these compounds in humans with arthritis have been published in the peer-reviewed medical literature. Still, I’d encourage you to include a variety of dark-colored fruits (and vegetables) in your diet simply because they offer other, proven health benefits in the form of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Posted in Arthritis on February 18, 2008

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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