Cranberry is a wild American plant, similar to blueberry, and has been used for centuries in medicine, but also for culinary purposes. The name of the plant comes from the word crane (a large, long-beaked bird), and berry because the flowers of this plant resemble crane’s head. Cranes can often be seen in swampy areas, where there are cranberry. Today, this plant is grown throughout the United States.
Traditionally, berries are used as hot wraps in the treatment of wounds and swelling, but also as a medicine for scurvy which, due to lack of vitamin C, causes slower wound healing and weakness of the gum. Today, medicine uses cranberries mostly because of its role in preventing and treating urinary tract infections caused by Escherichia coli and other bacteriae.
How does it work?
In 1920’s it was proven that people who consume large amounts of cranberries have acidic, ”cleaner” urine. Cranberry stimulates the secretion of hypouric acid, which has a strong antibiotic effect on the urinary tract. Scientists have realized that this acid not only hampers, but sometimes even eliminates bacteriae that cause the infection.
Recent studies, however, show that the ability to act against infection results from different properties of cranberry itself. It hampers the adherence of harmful microorganisms to some urinary wall cells, the environment becomes inconvenient for multiplying of E. coli and other bacteria and the possibility of infection is reduced. It is believed that phytochemical substance of the proanthocyanamine group are responsible for these effects. These substances are also in cranberry juices, but not grapefruit, oranges, cheeses, mangoes and pineapple juice.
MAIN USEFUL EFFECTS: scientists have confirmed the efficiency of cranberry in preventing and treating urinary tract infections. Some studies show that daily consumption of cranberry juice or capsules drastically reduces the frequency of re-infection. They occur ten times more often in women than in men (25 to 35% of women between the ages of 20 and 40 have at least one urinary tract infection). However, cranberry can be also useful to men.
It appears that this plant shortens the duration of urinary tract infections and relieves pain, feeling of burning and itching, as well as other symptoms. However, it is important to remember that strong infection should be treated with antibiotics to avoid complications. Cranberry juice can accelerate the treatment and may be taken together with conventional medicines.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: cranberry relieves the unpleasant odor of urine and can be taken by people who have such problems as a result of incontinence. In addition, due to the large amount of vitamin C, cranberry is a natural vitamin supplement to diet. According to some researches, this plant lowers cholesterol levels. A recent study in the United States has shown that drinking three glasses of cranberry juice a day significantly increases the level of ”good” cholesterol and antioxidants, and this can reduce the risk of heart disease.
How to take it?
DOSAGE: for the treatment of urinary tract infections: 800 mg of cranberry extract (two 400 mg capsules) should be taken or a minimum of 500 ml of untreated juice in the form of tinctures; take these products according to the packaging instructions.
To prevent repetition of infections: the dose can be halved at 400 mg of extract per day or at least 250 ml of juice.
USE GUIDELINES: cranberry can be taken with another food or individually. You can even accelerate your recovery if you drink plenty of water during the day. There is no known interaction of cranberries with antibiotics or other drugs, but acidification of the urine may reduce the effect of other herbal preparations used in urinary tract infections, such as Uva ursi.
Possible side effects
No side effects are known, even after long-lasting consumption of cranberries. Also, it seems to be safe for pregnant women and women who breastfeed.
IMPORTANT: cranberry is not a substitute for antibiotics in the treatment of acute urinary tract infections. If you think you have infection, if you took cranberry and the condition didn’t improve 24 to 36 hours after that, contact your doctor.