The Benefits and Uses of Cranberry

Cranberry juice and cranberries
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Rich in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, cranberries are a fruit native to North America. Often consumed dried (in cereal or trail mix), cooked in sauces or muffins, or as a juice, cranberries are also available in supplement form.

Uses for Cranberry

Often taken to fend off urinary tract infections, cranberry is also used to manage or prevent the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Gout
  • Gum disease
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Tooth decay and cavities
  • Yeast infections

The Benefits of Cranberry

Although research on cranberry's health effects is limited, studies suggest that cranberry products may help treat the following:

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Research suggests that substances found in cranberry may help prevent urinary tract infections by keeping bacteria from clinging to cells along the walls of the urinary tract and causing infection.

In a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, however, researchers analyzed previously published trials on the use of cranberry juice to prevent UTIs and concluded that the benefit is small. They also noted that many study participants dropped out or withdrew from studies (possibly due to the strong taste of cranberry juice).

Another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that cranberry may help prevent UTIs in women with a history of UTIs.

For the study, women took a cranberry drink or a placebo drink daily for six months. At the end of the six month period, those who took the cranberry drink had fewer UTIs.

If you think you have a urinary tract infection, contact your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Cranberry juice or supplements shouldn't be used to self-treat UTIs, and people with certain conditions may have to avoid cranberry.

Prostate Health

Cranberry may help to improve lower urinary tract symptoms in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), according to a study published in the World Journal of Urology. For the study, men over 40 with prostate symptoms took either a low dose of cranberry, a higher dose of cranberry, or a placebo daily for six months. At the study's end, those who took either dose of cranberry had a reduction in lower urinary tract symptoms compared to those who took the placebo.

Another study, published in 2016, found that cranberry supplements taken daily for 60 days reduced the number of UTIs in men over 65 with benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Oral Health

Cranberry may help prevent Streptococcus mutans (an oral bacteria that contributes to tooth decay and cavities) from sticking to teeth, according to a 2015 study. In another study published in the same year, a mouthwash containing 0.6 percent cranberry was found to be as effective as a standard mouthwash used to control the bacteria in your mouth.

Side Effects and Safety

Eating whole cranberries in amounts found in cooking 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 (or other types of blood-thinning medication or supplements), it's important to avoid cranberry products if you're using this type of medication.

People with diabetes, kidney stones, and clotting disorders should consult their healthcare providers before using cranberry supplements.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of cranberry supplements.

The Takeaway

The research on cranberry to prevent urinary tract infections is mixed. While cranberries may be protective (and may help by increasing your fluid intake), it shouldn't replace conventional strategies to prevent or treat UTIs.

If you're still interested in using cranberries for health purposes, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first to see if it's appropriate for you.

Sources:

Jepson RG, Williams G, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD001321.

Khairnar MR, Karibasappa GN, Dodamani AS, Vishwakarma P, Naik RG, Deshmukh MA. Comparative assessment of Cranberry and Chlorhexidine mouthwash on streptococcal colonization among dental students: A randomized parallel clinical trial. Contemp Clin Dent. 2015 Jan-Mar;6(1):35-9.

Maki KC, Kaspar KL, Khoo C, et al. Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jun;103(6):1434-42.

Vidlar A, Student V Jr, Vostalova J, et al. Cranberry fruit powder (Flowens™) improves lower urinary tract symptoms in men: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. World J Urol. 2016 Mar;34(3):419-24.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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