The use of cranberries (scientifically referred to as Vaccinium macrocarpon) dates all the way back to the Native Americans. Their uses ranged from everyday consumption to medicinal purposes. Due to the high amounts of antioxidants that these berries contain, the Native Americans were successful in treating different types of bladder infections. (UMMC, 2011)
Cranberries are very rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants play a vital role in keeping the body protected from dangerous molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are very dangerous because they have an unpaired electron that can react with our DNA and cell membranes, resulting in cell lysis and death. Cranberries also contain high levels of salicylic acid, which prevent swelling, and the formation of blood clots. (UMMC, 2011)
Cranberries are useful for treating a wide variety of conditions, but they are most known for treating urinary tract infections (UTI). Urinary tract infections are caused by different type of the bacteria, mainly E.coli, which enters the urethra and causes infections. Research has proven that the rich amount of antioxidants in cranberries can interfere with the adhesion of the invading bacteria, making it harder for them to reproduce and cause an infection. (Woznicki, 2010)
Cranberries have also been known to help with the treatment of ulcers. Ulcers are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which adheres to the lining of the stomach and causes an infection. Like urinary tract infections, the antioxidants of cranberries help prevent the adhesion of this bacterium and therefore make it less likely to stick to our stomach lining and reproduce. (Sloan Kettering, 2011)
People who are on Coumadin need to be extremely careful when consuming cranberries. The chemicals in Coumadin react with cranberries, and may cause extra bleeding and possible infections. (Aston, 2006) Cranberries are also associated with the formation of kidney stones. Kidney stones are formed from the chemical Oxalate, which cranberries secrete. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that people with past history of kidney stones could be cautious when taking cranberry products. (UMMC, 2011)
- Aston JL, Lodolce AE, Shapiro NL. Interaction between warfarin and cranberry juice. Pharmacotherapy. 2006 Sep;26(9):1314-9.
- Sloan Kettering. “About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products.” Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. N.p., 2011. Web. 05 July 2012.
- University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). “Cranberry.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 2011. Web. 05 July 2012.
- Woznicki, Katrina. “Women’s Health.” Cranberry Juice Fights Urinary Tract Infections Quickly. N.p., 23 Aug. 2010. Web. 05 July 2012.