Medicinal Benefits of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
Cranberries have been used for centuries for a multitude of medicinal reasons. Some of these uses need to be credited to the Native Americans as they first introduced the European settlers to the cranberries in the form of food but also taught them the many other ways the Natives used the cranberries.
The Native Americans valued cranberries as an aid to treat fevers and they were used to treat blood poisoning in the form of poultices that were placed over the wound to draw out the infection. We now know, thanks to modern research, that cranberries contain a lot of vitamin C and vitamin C is crucial for wound healing.
Another longtime folkloric usage has been to treat conditions of the urinary tract. Most women today, and again, scientific research confirms this, know that cranberries and cranberry juice will prevent urinary tract infections. It was originally thought that this was due to the acidity in cranberries. However we now know that cranberries actually contain a compound that prevents bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder wall which prevents infection from occurring. Cranberries are better used as a prophylactic measure against urinary tract infection rather than a treatment once infection is present.
The ability to prevent bacteria from adhering to the surface of the bladder wall also prevents bacteria from adhering to oral mucous membranes helping to prevent dental caries. It may be that this ability will also prevent the Helicobacter pylori bacterium from adhering to the lining of the stomach. H. pylori is known to cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancers and early research shows promising results in the cranberrys ability to prevent this bacterial invasion from occurring.
One cup of freshly chopped cranberries contains a mere 51 calories and only 4 grams of sugar. (Sugar found naturally in the berry and in all fruit, not added sugar) This same one cup offers 5 grams of dietary fiber, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 24% of the Vitamin C you need for one day, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, and a host of other vitamins and minerals known for their antioxidant properties.
Cranberries contain large amounts of proanthocyanidins (PACs) which play a vital role in the health of many organ systems. PACs help in lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and raising good cholesterol (HDL). They are the ingredient in red wine that make it medicinal when consumed responsibly. Cranberries contain even higher amounts of PACs than grapes and even children can drink cranberry juice!
You don't need to consume a lot to get the medicinal benefits of cranberries. The following amounts will give you a good "daily dose" of preventative medicine from these wonderful berries.
- 8-10 ounces of juice (must contain at least 29% cranberry juice)
- 1½ cups of fresh berries
- ½ cup prepared cranberry sauce
- 1 ounce of sweetened dried cranberries
With all the medicinal benefits in the cranberry it's a wonder we don't have to pay more for these rubies in the sand. Good food, good health, affordability and easy preparation make this a true super food for today's consumer.