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Exploring the Medicinal Properties and Potential Benefits of Cranberry

Exploring the Medicinal Properties and Potential Benefits of Cranberry

From : U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health : Health Information --Cranberry

Cranberry is a perennial shrub that belongs to the heath family Ericaceae. It typically grows in acidic bogs in regions with cool summers and cold winters, such as those found in the Northeastern and North Central parts of the United States and Canada. Cranberries are small, round fruits with a tart flavor that can be eaten fresh or processed into juice, sauce, or dried fruit.

The use of cranberry for medicinal purposes dates back centuries. Native Americans used cranberry for treating bladder and kidney diseases, as well as wounds and fever. In colonial times, cranberry was used to treat scurvy, a condition caused by Vitamin C deficiency. Early American settlers also believed that cranberry had antiseptic properties and used it to treat illnesses such as tuberculosis and cholera.

Today, cranberry is most commonly promoted for its potential to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are bacterial infections that affect the urinary system, including the bladder, kidneys, and urethra. They are more common in women than men and can cause painful and frequent urination, along with other symptoms such as fever and nausea. Cranberry has been traditionally used for UTIs due to its ability to prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract walls and subsequently flushing them out of the body.

Many studies have investigated the effectiveness of cranberry for preventing UTIs. A meta-analysis of 28 trials involving over 4,000 participants found that cranberry products decreased the risk of UTIs by about one-third among people who are at increased risk of UTIs or those who have recurrent UTIs. However, there is some uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of cranberry due to the low quality of some research. Some studies have shown inconsistent results in certain populations, such as elderly people in long-term care, pregnant women, women undergoing gynecological surgeries, and people with multiple sclerosis. Therefore, cranberry has not been found to be beneficial for these populations.

Despite this, in 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed manufacturers to claim on product labels that there is “limited” evidence that daily consumption of specified amounts of cranberry dietary supplements may reduce the risk of recurrent UTI in healthy women who have had a UTI. A similar claim may be made for cranberry juice beverages, but the evidence must be described as “limited and inconsistent.” It is important to note that cranberry has not been shown to be an effective treatment for an existing UTI. If you suspect you have a UTI, it is crucial to see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, rather than using cranberry products in place of proven treatments.

Research supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is investigating the effects of polyphenols from cranberry and other fruits and vegetables on the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays an essential role in maintaining overall health and preventing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Preliminary studies suggest that polyphenols from cranberry may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can positively impact the gut microbiome.

Cranberry products are generally considered safe for consumption. Still, consuming large amounts can cause stomach upset and diarrhea, particularly in young children. It is unclear whether it’s safe to use cranberry products for health purposes during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. There is also conflicting evidence on whether cranberry interacts with the anticoagulant (blood thinner) warfarin. People taking warfarin should talk to their healthcare provider before consuming cranberry products.

In conclusion, while cranberry has traditionally been used for various medicinal purposes, its most well-known potential benefit is its ability to prevent UTIs. However, more research is needed to determine its effectiveness for other conditions and in certain populations. As with any complementary health approach, it is essential to talk to healthcare providers about the use of cranberry products to make shared and well-informed decisions.

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