Consumption of sleeping pills is increasingly becoming a habit with many people as a part of their daily regime for preventing physical and mental exhaustion. There are also many people suffering from sleep-onset insomnia which is generally attributed to deficiency Melatonin, one of the critical antioxidants produced by the brain and circulated in the blood, especially amongst older people. Synthesized by the pineal gland it is responsible for the synchrony of circadian rhythm, modulating sleep patterns with day and night. Melatonin also protects tissues from oxidative damages by free radical elements, besides inducing synthesis of endogenous antioxidants like Superoxide dismutase (SOD). It is also implicated in giving protection to Gastrointestinal tract from irritation, stress induced lesion formation and cancer.
The obscure Red cherries cannot sound like a candidate for inducing sleepiness in human beings but presence of Melatonin in some concentration in this fruit seems to have endowed it with properties to do so. Montmorency tart cherry is one amongst very few natural sources of Melatonin amongst fruits and eating a handful of these cherries is reported to be effective in producing symptoms of sleep in normal healthy individuals. According to some reports eating a few berries one hour before traveling by air assures one of a sound sleep during the flight. Similarly consumption of this fruit for 3 days after a flight sets right the sleep rhythm affected by passing through different time zones during international travel. A serving of half a cup of this fruit or its juice or any other preparation made from it provides the benefits attributed to tart cherry.
What is intriguing is that tart cherry is not the best source of Melatonin, that distinction going to others like Huang-qin (7.11 ug/g), St John's wort (4.4 ug/g) white mustard seed (0.2 ug/g) or feverfew leaf(1.92 ug/g). Tart cherry has just 15-18 nanogram per gm of Melatonin and still it is being claimed as the most effective material for inducing sleep. Probably its other constituents like anthocyanins, vitamin C, and a slew of bioactive compounds and its high ORAC value, about 2000 per 100 gm might also be contributing to the unique property attributed to it. Processed products that can be made from tart cherries include juices, concentrates, frozen fruits, dehydrated whole fruits etc and the daily recommended intake of foods with 5000 ORAC units can be met with about 75 gm of dried cherry. Probably industry must consider importing the concentrates and dried cherries for reprocessing in India into locally acceptable products for the benefit of the consumers.