The Health Benefits of Cranberry

What Should I Know About It?

fresh cranberries
Fresh cranberries. Charity Burggraaf/Moment/Getty Images

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

In alternative medicine, the most common use of cranberry is to treat urinary tract infections. Cranberry is also used to manage or prevent the following:

  • Gum disease
  • Diarrhea
  • Diabetes
  • Stomach problems
  • Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries

Health 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.

Learn about 6 ways to improve your gums naturally.


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.

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

You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Using Cranberry for Health

Given the lack of science behind cranberry's purported health benefits, cranberry cannot currently be recommended as a standard treatment for any condition. If you're interested in using cranberry for health purposes, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.


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" 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.

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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