Botanical: Vaccinium macrocarpon
Family: Ericaceae (berry)
Other common names: Crane Berries, Marshwort, Fenne Berry
Don't wait for Thanksgiving to benefit from the natural way to urinary tract health. Cranberry is one of Nature's best weapons against cystitis and urinary tract infections. It has helped to treat bladder and kidney infections and has also helped to dissolve kidney and gallstones. Moreover, it is said to possess antioxidant qualities that may protect against the invasion of serious malignant diseases. There is also important new research being conducted with respect to Cranberry's beneficial effects on ovarian cancer treatments.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The Cranberry plant has been in existence since the Iron Age, but the Romans were the first to recognize and document its medicinal uses by the local inhabitants of what is now England. Herbalist, Henry Lyte, documented its healing effects in 1578, and since that time, the Cranberry has been a popular folk remedy for a variety of illnesses, including gout, rheumatism, diarrhea, constipation, scurvy, fevers and skin problems. The Cranberry plant is a small, creeping shrub bearing beautiful pink flowers that grow into rounded reddish-black berries, which are closely allied to the blueberry and huckleberry. Early Native Americans introduced Cranberry to the Pilgrims who settled the New England area, and the berries were favorably mentioned in a written European Account of Two Voyages to New England During the Years 1638, 1663 by John Josselyn. Two species of Cranberry are used interchangeably in herbal medicine, and they are distinguished only by the size of their berries: Vaccinium macrocarpon (large berry) and Vaccinium oxycoccus (small berry). Currently, there are approximately 150 species of Cranberry, but the best known and most popular is the American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), because of the size and juiciness of its fruit. The Colonists "Europeanized" the berry, using it stewed and sweetened in puddings and tarts, and the Europeans included the Cranberry regularly in their diets and considered it a fine treatment for scurvy (Cranberry has a very high vitamin C content). Cranberry was cultivated by Captain Hall of Massachusetts in 1820, and by Benjamin Thomas of New Jersey about 1835. The berries are harvested early in the autumn for commercial preparation, but it is a difficult plant to grow, requiring a heavy investment and bogs. The United States presently produces about ninety-eight percent of the world's Cranberries. Cranberry is listed as an effective remedy for urinary tract infection in the United States Pharmacopœia, the official listing of drugs in the United States. Some of Cranberry's chemical constituents include tannins, lutein, triterpenoids, anthocyanins and catechin. It is also a good source of protein, fiber, beta-carotene, citric and malic acid, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zinc and vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, C and E. Often laden with sugar and high in calories, Cranberry is now available in supplemental extract form, including capsules, which are not only more potent, but also much less caloric and without the sugars often found in juices and other preparations.
The common Cranberry is one of Nature's best weapons against cystitis and urinary tract infections. It is a diuretic and urinary antiseptic that helps prevent the spread of bacterial infection in the urinary tract. In the early 1920s, American scientists discovered that Cranberry increased the urine’s acid content, and because bacteria cannot survive in an acidic environment, the researchers speculated that this was the reason Cranberry was effective against urinary tract infections, which are commonly caused by bacteria known as Escherichia coli. Interestingly, however, recent laboratory studies (conducted in the mid 1990s) revealed that Cranberry’s effectiveness is not due to its ability to acidify the urine as originally thought, but to its ability to prevent E. coli from adhering to the cells lining the wall of the bladder. Without adhering to the bladder, E. coli cannot flourish, and test tube studies also suggest that Cranberry may also inhibit the adherence of other species of organisms that cause urinary tract infections as well, such as Proteus, Klebsiella and Pseudomonas. In fact, Cranberry prevents bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder, thus flushing the potential troublemakers out of the body before they do damage. 2013 research from the University of Wisconsin further postulated that anti-pathogenic activity in Cranberry may actually begin earlier by preventing colonization of pathogens in the gut, which is then helpful in inhibiting subsequent infection in the urinary tract.
Pursuant to the above antibacterial activity, 2010 research from Massachusetts'
Worcester Polytechnic Institute found that Cranberry may offer protection from serious staph infections like toxic shock syndrome and antibiotic (methicillin)-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Infection occurs when bacteria manage to adhere to a host cell and form a biofilm, creating an environment where the bacteria can multiply and thrive. Urine samples from subjects who consumed Cranberry demonstrated significantly reduced ability of E. coli and S. aureus to form biofilms. Staphylococcus aureus showed the most significant results with essentially no biofilm formation, which was surprising because S. aureus is usually very effective at forming biofilms; thus, research continues.
Further laboratory studies have indicated that Cranberries also prevent another micro-organism known as Helicobacter pylori from adhering to cell walls. H. pylori is a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, so it is possible that Cranberries may eventually prove to play a role in the prevention of this condition as well. Studies also suggest that Cranberries may help to prevent bacteria from adhering to gums and around the teeth, which may be very beneficial in the area of oral hygiene.
According to a 2010 report
in the British Journal of Nutrition,
the protective effects of Cranberry toward urinary tract health may also extend to men’s prostates. Scientists from the Czech Republic's
Palacky University found improvements in quality of life measures, such as lower urinary tract symptoms (especially in men with
benign prostatic hyperplasia), non-bacterial prostatitis and lower levels of PSA (marker commonly used to screen for malignant prostate disease).
Test tube research suggests that Cranberry may help keep LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which would help prevent the development of cholesterol plaques in arteries. Cranberry is high in antioxidants, partly from substances called proanthocyanidins (which give Cranberries their rich color). Antioxidants scavenge damaging particles in the body known as free radicals, the natural by-products of normal metabolism. Free radicals can alter cell membranes, tamper with genetic material known as DNA and even cause cell death. Environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking and air pollution) can increase the number of free radicals in the body, which are believed to contribute to the ageing process as well as the development of a number of health problems, such as heart disease, melanoma and infections. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.
While Cranberry is known for killing the bacteria that cause kidney and bladder infections, it is also helpful in dissolving kidney stones and gallstones. Kidney stones are most often caused by high levels of ionized calcium (as in calcium salts) in the urine, and Cranberries can help prevent this condition because they are rich in quinic acid, which increases the acidity of the urine. As a result, the levels of ionized calcium in the urine are lowered.
There are claims that Cranberry may help in the treatment of gout, which is characterized by a raised blood uric acid level, and severe, acute onset of arthritis resulting from crystal deposits of sodium urate in the connective tissues and cartilage. The anthocyanin in Cranberry is said to be effective in inhibiting uric acid from crystallizing in joints.
Cranberry has been used in nursing homes to keep the urine of incontinent patients from developing an unpleasant ammonia-like odor.
Important research (2007) conducted at the department of plant biology and plant pathology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, demonstrated that Cranberry might greatly boost an ovarian cancer patient's sensitivity to chemotherapy. In laboratory experiments, pre-treating ovarian tumor cells with Cranberry juice bumped up the cancer-killing power of drugs sixfold. Although not yet clear how Cranberry might kill malignant ovarian cells, the researchers noted that an antioxidant unique to Cranberries - the "A-type" proanthocyanidins - could be key. This specific antioxidant is not present in other fruits and appears to bind with - and block the activity of - tumor proteins found in malignant ovarian cells, increasing their sensitivity to chemo. The researchers stressed that the finding is still experimental and preliminary, but it could offer a new option for patients whose ovarian cancer has become resistant to treatment.
In previous years Cranberry was used as an effective treatment to combat scurvy; it contains a high degree of vitamin C.
Currently, there are no known warnings or contraindications associated with the use of Cranberry. However, it is suggested that you should consult with your health care provider before use if you have kidney stones or are taking medicines used for stomach acid or ulcers - examples: Cimetidine (Tagamet), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Famotidine (Pepcid), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Nizatidine (Axid), Omeprazole (Prilosec), Pantoprazole (Protonix), Rabeprazole (Aciphex), Ranitidine (Zantac). Taking Cranberry and the medicines listed above together may make the stomach ulcer medicines not work as well for you. Consult your physician before taking Cranberry if you are taking blood thinning medication - example: warfarin (Coumadin), as this may cause your blood to be too thin (clot less easily), making you bleed or bruise more easily.