The Cranberry Cure
bush (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a low-growing evergreen shrub with
leathery leaves and bright red berries. This member of the heath family grows
in mountains, forests and damp bogs from Alaska to Virginia. However, most of
the commercial berries are produced in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
Native Americans used cranberries for both food and medicine. The berries were
enjoyed either raw or sweetened with maple sugar. In addition, they used them
in sauces, breads and puddings, and used cranberries in poultices for treating
wounds. Cranberry leaves were typically used for diarrhea and urinary
disorders. The sailors during colonial days used cranberries to prevent scurvy.
Today, cranberry is available in a variety of products such as frozen
cranberries, cranberry juice and juice cocktails, cranberry sauce and capsules
containing cranberry powder. Cranberry sauce or jelly are commonly used during
the year-end holiday season. The most popular form of cranberries is the
sweetened cranberry cocktail that contains about 30 percent cranberry juice.
Apple cranberry and other cranberry drinks only contain about 10 percent juice.
Cranberries are distinguished by their extremely sour taste, due to their low
sugar and high acid content.
Cranberries are rich in citric, malic, quinic and other acids. They also
contain flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and vitamin C. Because of their
tannin content, the berries possess a natural astringency.
Help for Infections
Cranberries have longed
been considered valuable for maintaining the health of the urinary tract. The juice has been widely used for the
prevention, treatment, and symptomatic relief of urinary tract infections. It
was commonly believed that cranberry juice was effective because it acidified
the urine. The high acidity was believed to prevent bacterial growth.
However, recent research supports the notion that cranberries contain
substances that prevent the adhesion of E coli and other bacteria to the lining
of the urinary tract. The bacteria adhere to the urinary tract by way of many
fimbriae, hairlike projections on the surface of the bacteria. This allows the
bacteria to colonize in large numbers and produce an infection. Recently, researchers
identified proanthocyanidins in cranberry juice which inhibit the E. coli from
adhering to the lining.
Urinary tract infections
(UTIs) pose a serious health problem affecting millions of Americans every
year. UTIs are more prevalent among women than in men, and many women will
develop several UTIs in their lifetime. The risk of a UTI increases with
advancing age, and is greatest among institutionalized older women. In
addition, people with diabetes are at higher risk for UTIs.
Symptoms commonly experienced with a UTI include painful urination, the need to
frequently urinate, a cloudy urine, and lower back pain. If a UTI is untreated,
more serious complications may develop. If they occur during a pregnancy, the
infection may cause a pre-term delivery.
A group of 153 elderly
women living in a nursing home experienced on average a 50 percent reduction in
the bacterial load and white blood cell count in their urine after daily
consuming 10 ozs. of cranberry juice cocktail for six months. The elderly women
also had a greater possibility of being free of the infection than similar
women not using the cranberry juice. Capsules containing cranberry concentrate
can also be effective. Women who took two 400 mg capsules of cranberry powder
for 3 months experienced a significant decrease in risk of UTIs.
Cranberry juice is also effective in reducing urinary odors in bedridden
patients who have urinary infections and are incontinent. Nursing home
personnel have observed a decrease in urine odor in the geriatric wards of a
nursing home following the regular drinking of two glasses of cranberry juice
by the patients. In addition, patients complained less about a burning
sensation when they urinated.
What About Other Fruits?
The blueberry (Vaccinium
corymbosum), a close relative of the cranberry, is also a good source of the
proanthocyanidins which inhibit the colonization of certain bacteria. On the
other hand, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, guava, and mango juices do not possess
any anti-adhesion properties.
Other Protective Effects
Cranberry appears to
possess other benefits for human health. Helicobacter pylori is the major cause
of gastric and duodenal ulcers. This bacterium penetrates the mucus lining of
the gastrointestinal system and adheres to the underlying epithelial layer.
Recently, it was found that a cranberry fraction disabled some strains of H.
pylori so that they could not stick to the epithelial surface. Through this
mechanism cranberries could help prevent ulcers. A cranberry fraction also
reduces the stickiness of oral bacteria and may be useful for delaying the
development of dental plaque and gum disease.
Cranberry juice may also prevent the formation of certain types of kidney
stones. A glass or two of cranberry juice every day for 1 to 2 weeks will
increase the acidity of the urine, and decrease the risk of a kidney stone
forming. In addition, cranberry juice does not contain high levels of oxalate,
a substance which can promote the formation of kidney stones.
Protection Against Chronic Disease
Cranberries are rich in
polyphenolic antioxidants which protect against cancer and cardiovascular
disease. The proanthocyanidins and other compounds inhibit the oxidation of LDL
cholesterol while cranberry powder has been observed to decrease the LDL
cholesterol levels of animals with elevated blood cholesterol levels. The
proanthocyanidins in cranberry and lowbush blueberry are known to inhibit tumor
For the prevention or treatment of UTIs a daily
glass of cranberry juice, one to three cups of cranberry juice cocktail, or
10-12 capsules of cranberry powder are recommended. Generally there are no side
effects. However, drinking 3 or more liters of cranberry juice per day can
produce diarrhea and other gastrointestinal effects. Lesser amounts may
increase the frequency the bowel movements. It is important that a patient with
a UTI see their physician.
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have been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose,
treat, cure or prevent any disease. As always, consult your physician before
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information contained throughout this website is based upon the opinion of the
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LifeSource Vitamins whose relentless research and studies have been ongoing on
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