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Cranberry - Uses and Benefits

Common Names - Cranberry, American Cranberry, Bog Cranberry

Scientific Name - Vaccinium Macrocarpon

Plant Description

The cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs of genus Vaccinium and subgenus Oxycoccus. It is a low-growing shrub of the heath family with creeping shrubs up to 10 cm tall (often less), having leathery leaves, slender, wiry stems and astringent red berries with small evergreen leaves. Cranberry is familiar to all, particularly in holiday sauces. It grows in bogs from Newfoundland to Manitoba south to Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois. Most of the commercial berries are produced in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

There is preliminary clinical evidence in support of the use of cranberry juice and cranberry supplements to  prevent  UTI, although most available studies are of poor methodologic quality. Most evidence has focused on effects against  E. coli  , although  in vitro  research suggests activity against  Proteus  ,  Pseudomonas  and other species. There are no clear dosing guidelines, but given the safety of cranberry, it may be reasonable to recommend the use of moderate amounts of cranberry juice cocktail to prevent UTI in non-chronically ill individuals.

Uses and Benefits of Cranberry

Cranberry is a very useful medicinal herb that some people take as a preventative and is also very commonly used for the treatment of urinary tract infections. There are also reports that it may be helpful in preventing and dissolving kidney and gallstones. It is considered a very good source of vitamin C.  It is available in different forms - capsule , pill, tea or juice (unsweetened).

Some other Uses of Cranberry are:

  • Historically, cranberry fruits and leaves were used for a variety of problems, such as wounds, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach ailments, and liver problems.
  • Cranberry juice has been used infrequently in conjunction with antibiotics to treat chronic kidney inflammation.
  • Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
  • Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
  • Some women claim that drinking large quantities of cranberry juice at the first symptoms of cystitis can stop an infection. In most instances, though, once an infection has begun and is causing pain and urgent urination, it requires medical treatment.
  • Recently, cranberry products have been used in the hope of preventing or treating Helicobacter pylori infections that can lead to stomach ulcers, or to prevent dental plaque. Cranberry has also been reported to have antioxidant and anticancer activity.
  • Cranberry juice has also been used in nursing homes to keep the urine of incontinent patients from developing an unpleasant ammonia-like smell. Evidently cranberry juice is able to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that degrade urine to ammonia.

Dosage for Cranberry

Pure cranberry juice is very acidic and sour - the most commonly marketed drink, cranberry juice cocktail, is a mixture of cranberry juice (at least 25% by volume), sweeteners, and vitamin C. Preparations and doses used in the above clinical trials included 300 ml/day (10 oz) of a standard cranberry juice cocktail beverage or 2 oz of concentrate (both supplied by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.) in single or divided doses. A daily dietary supplement capsule containing 400 mg of cranberry extract (Solaray, Inc.) was also used in one trial. There are many other cranberry foods and supplements on the market that would be expected to have similar active constituents, but the optimal preparation and dose is unknown.

Side Effects of Cranberry

No side effects have been associated with taking cranberry supplements or products. According to one report, supplementation with an unspecified number of cranberry tablets for seven days increased the urinary excretion of oxalate by 43%, suggesting that long term use of cranberry supplements might increase the risk of developing a kidney stone. On the other hand, in the same study, urinary excretion of magnesium and potassium (which are inhibitors of stone formation) also increased.

In some cases, diarrhea, upset stomach or other allergic reactions have been reported after the consumption of very large amounts (up to 4.25 quarts or 4,000 ml) of cranberry juice in one day. Individuals with a family history of calcium-oxalate kidney stones must consult a doctor before using cranberry supplements for long periods of time (e.g., more than a week).

Caution

Cranberry should not be used as a substitute for any antibiotics during an acute urinary tract infection, except under strict medical supervision.

Adverse Effects

There are no documented adverse effects with cranberry products.

Interactions

There are no recognized drug interactions.

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