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Herbs ~ CRANBERRY (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

These tangy, ruby red berries, such an integral part of the American Thanksgiving tradition, have long been considered nature's cure for the urinary tract infections that frequently plague women of all ages.Modern science has now confirmed that this folk wisdom has real merit.
  • Treats lower urinary tract infections (also called bladder infections or cystitis).
  • May prevent recurrence of urinary tract infections.
  • Helps deodorize urine.
  • May help fight E. coli and other bacteria.
The cranberry, a native American plant closely related to the blueberry, has been used for centuries in both healing and cooking.The name is a shortened form of craneberry - the flowers of the low-growing shrub were thought to resemble the heads of the cranes that frequented the bogs where it grew.The berries are now widely cultivated throughout the United States, especially in Massachusetts and Washington.In early American medicine, cranberries were crushed and used as poultices for treating wounds and tumors, and also as a remedy for scurvy, a gum and bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of vitamin C.In this century, medicinal interest in cranberry has focused on its important role in preventing and treating urinary tractinfections (UTIs), which are caused by E. coli and other types of bacteria.
  • Capsule
  • Liquid/Tincture
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Tablet
  • Softgel
  • Tea
In the 1920s, it was discovered that people who consumed large amounts of cranberries produced a more acidic urine, and that the urine was purified in the process.During this purification process, a powerful substance called hippuric acid was created.It proved to have a strong antibiotic effect on the urinary tract.In fact, it discouraged and sometimes even eliminated harmful infection-causing bacteria.

More recent studies, however, indicate that cranberry's main infection fighting capabilities may be due to a different property:Cranberry appears to inhibit the adhesion of harmful microorganisms to certain cells lining the urinary tract.This makes the environment a less hospitable place for E. coli and other bacteria to replicate, and thus reduces the likelihood of infection.Scientists have isolated two substances that produce this effect.One is fructose, a sugar that is found in many fruit juices.The other is a poorly understood compound present in cranberry and blueberry juices but absent from grapefruit, orange, guava, mango, and pineapple juices.

  • A major study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 153 elderly women (average age 78) who had no urinary tract symptoms.half the women drank 300 ml (about a cup) of undiluted cranberry juice every day, and the other half received a placebo.After four to eight weeks, those who drank the cranberry juice were much less prone to urinary tract infections and has lower levels of potentially harmful bacteria in their urine.
  • Research confirms that cranberry is effective for younger as well older women.In a study in Utah, women ages 28 to 44 who took cranberry capsules (400 mg a day) for three months were only 40% as likely to have a urinary tract infection as the women who were given a placebo.
  • Cranberry is not a substitute for antibiotics during an acute urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • See your doctor right away if symptoms include fever, chills, back pain, or blood in the urine, which may be signs of a kidney infection (upper UTI) requiring medical attentions.
  • Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
Scientists have now confirmed the effectiveness of cranberry in preventing and treating UTIs.Several studies have shown that daily consumption of cranberry, either in juice or capsule form, dramatically reduces the recurrence of UTIs.Women are 10 times more likely to develop these infections than men - in fact, 25% to 35% of women ages 20 to 40 have had at least one.There's no reason, however, why men can't benefit from cranberry as well.

Cranberry also appears to shorten the course of urinary tract illness, helping to alleviate pain, burning, itching, and other symptoms.It's important to remember, though, that persistent UTIs should be treated promptly with antibiotics to prevent more serious complications.However, cranberry juice can be safely taken along with conventional drugs.It may even help hasten healing.

You would have to eat 2 cups of fresh cranberries to get the equivalent of two 400 mg cranberry capsules.
There are no known side effects from either the short-term or long-term use of cranberry.In addition, cranberry appears to be safe for pregnant and lactating women. Because it helps deodorize urine, cranberry should be in the diet of anyone suffering from the embarrassing odors associated with incontinence.In addition, cranberry's high vitamin C content makes it a natural vitamin supplement. Cranberry can be taken with or without food.Drinking plenty of water or other fluids along with cranberry and throughout the day should speed recovery.Cranberry has no known interactions with antibiotics or other medications.But by acidifying the urine, cranberry may lessen the effect of another herb sometimes used for UTIs called uva ursi (also known as bearberry). Try one or the other.


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