What is Cranberry?
Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are the fruit of a plant native to North America. Often consumed whole, cranberries are also available in juice or supplement form.
Uses for Cranberry
The most common medicinal use of cranberry is to treat urinary tract infections. Cranberry is also used to manage or prevent the following:
Benefits of Cranberry
Although research on cranberry's health effects is limited, studies suggest that cranberry products may help treat the following:
1) Urinary Tract Infections
A number of studies have shown that regularly drinking cranberry juice (or taking cranberry supplements) may help prevent urinary tract infections. Research indicates that substances found in cranberry may prevent bacteria from clinging to cells along the walls of the urinary tract and causing infection.
If you think you have a urinary tract infection, contact your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Infections should not be self-treated with cranberry products.
2) Peptic Ulcer Disease
A small study published in 2005 suggests that regularly drinking cranberry juice may prevent Helicobacter pylori infection, a major cause of peptic ulcers (a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum, the beginning of the small intestine). Infection with H. pylori (a type of bacteria) is also linked to the development of gastric cancer.
3) Gum Disease
Cranberry may help gum disease by preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth, according to a 2004 study. To help reduce your risk of gum disease (a condition that may be linked to heart disease), drink about four ounces a day of a cranberry juice that does not contain added sugar.
Side Effects and Cautions
Eating whole cranberries appears to be safe, but drinking excessive amounts of juice could cause an upset stomach.
Since cranberry may increase the blood-thinning effects of warfarin, it's important to avoid cranberry products if you're using this medication.
Kontiokari T, Sundqvist K, Nuutinen M, Pokka T, Koskela M, Uhari M. "Randomised trial of cranberry-lingonberry juice and Lactobacillus GG drink for the prevention of urinary tract infections in women." BMJ. 2001 30;322(7302):1571.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Cranberry [NCCAM Herbs at a Glance [link: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/cranberry/]." NCCAM Publication No. D291 March 2008.
Stothers L. "A randomized trial to evaluate effectiveness and cost effectiveness of naturopathic cranberry products as prophylaxis against urinary tract infection in women." Can J Urol. 2002 9(3):1558-62.
Yamanaka A, Kimizuka R, Kato T, Okuda K. "Inhibitory effects of cranberry juice on attachment of oral streptococci and biofilm formation." Oral Microbiol Immunol. 2004 19(3):150-4.
Zhang L, Ma J, Pan K, Go VL, Chen J, You WC. "Efficacy of cranberry juice on Helicobacter pylori infection: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial." Helicobacter. 2005 10(2):139-45.