Not just for Thanksgiving anymore, cranberries are tart nutrition powerhouses that have been used since ancient times as medicine. Because of their intensely tart flavor, culinary preparations often include a lot of sugar in the form of jelly or desserts. Maximize the antioxidant and health properties of this red berry by using no-sugar preparations or supplements if medicinal use is appropriate for you.
Medicinally, cranberry is used for:
When used in foods, cranberries are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) without any danger or warning. Feel free to use in recipes and drink in juice throughout the year – not just during the holidays. When used in a more concentrated supplement form, there may be health considerations. The best research and most well-known medical use of cranberry is for urinary tract infections, specifically for E.coli infections. Don’t think you can just buy cranberry juice cocktail from the store to treat this serious condition; real cranberry juice is very tart. Studies show it is effective when taken correctly in the proper quantities and pure, no-sugar-added form– reducing risk of recurring UTI by up to 38%.
Studies are mixed on other medicinal uses of cranberry. Clinical research isn’t showing benefit to diabetes or blood sugar at this time and studies are also mixed on uses for cardiovascular support or to cure the common cold or flu. Some of the interest in cranberries may lie in the fact that they’re packed with vitamin C and antioxidants such as anthocyanins, flavonols and stillbenoids such as resveratrol. Because these compounds can calm inflammation and reduce oxidative stress including damage from free-radicals, they may be able to support many systems in the body.
Eating cranberries is safe – add the berries or pure juice to smoothies for a tart boost of vitamin C and antioxidants. If taking in supplement form, use caution with medications that lower cholesterol or if you’re allergic to aspirin because cranberry juice can contain a large amount of salicylic acid (the active ingredient in aspirin). People with kidney stones should use caution because cranberries are a high oxalate food. Aside from kidney stones, aspirin and cholesterol medications, many people will be able to use cranberry either in their kitchen in a culinary way or even to help treat UTIs or other conditions with the support of their medical care provider.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments if you have had a positive experience with cranberries for your health.
Natural Medicines Database. Cranberry: professional monograph. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=958. Updated 11/1/2017. Accessed 5/14/18
Worlds Healthiest Foods. Cranberries. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145. Accessed 5/16/18