Cranberries are edible fruits of plant found in cooler climates of northern hemisphere. They are only found in cooler, sunny, wet and moist environment. It is one of few commercially grown fruits native to North America. Cranberries were used by Native Americans as food and medicine.
Cranberries can be eaten fresh, boiled, baked in a pit, dried, canned or in form of jams, jellies, and pies. Fresh berries are red in colour and are very tart.
Cranberries offer numerous health benefits due to their flavonoid and phytonutrient content. They are antioxidant, antiviral, anti-tumor, anticancer, antifungal, ACE inhibitor, lipid lowering and anti-inflammatory. They are especially beneficial in urinary infections. They increase good cholesterol and protects heart.
Cranberries have significant antioxidant properties and prevents body cells from free radical damage. Cranberry products, in particular the juice, with high concentrations of proanthocyanidin (or condensed tannins, are very powerful antioxidants that remove harmful free oxygen radicals from cells), reduces the risk of developing UTI. Cranberries are good support good health of oral cavity, gastrointestinal (GI) tract and urinary tract.
In India, nowadays, Cranberry Juice is available. It not only tastes great but also improves overall health. It is important to select only 100 % juice product. The one which comes with added sugar tastes great but is not so good for health owing to high sugar content.
Cranberry is a trailing, vine-like shrub with soft stems and grow at a fast rate.
The plant has alternate small evergreen leaves with rolled edges that are dark green above, pale beneath, and pointed at the tip. Flowers are pink to red borne singly or in clusters at the ends of stems. The flowers are have both male and female parts (hermaphrodite) and are self-pollinated or insect pollinated. Plant prefer sandy and loamy soils and prefers wet soil.
The fruit of plant is a red, juicy berry.
The botanical name of Cranberry is Vaccinium oxycoccos. It belongs to plant family Ericaceae.
Ericaceae is also known as Heath or rhododendron family. There are more than 100 genera of this family distributed all over the world. The largest genera of this family are Rhododendron (1200 species) and Erica (heaths, 700 species). To genus Vaccinium, berries such as blueberries, cranberries belong.
Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
- Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
- Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
- Subclass: Dilleniidae
- Order: Ericales
- Family: Ericaceae (Heath family)
- Genus: Vaccinium L. (blueberry)
- Species: Vaccinium oxycoccos L. (small cranberry)
- Oxycoccus hagerupii
- Oxycoccus intermedius
- Oxycoccus microcarpos
- Oxycoccus ovalifolius
- Oxycoccus palustris
- Oxycoccus quadripetalus
- Oxycoccus vulgaris
Native: North America, Eurasia (combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia)
Part (s) used: Fruits
Plant type / Growth Habit: Shrub Subshrub
Distribution: Throughout Alaska, Canada, Labrador, Greenland, Newfoundland, England, western Washington, Oregon
Habitat: Coniferous swamps; Moist to very wet, nitrogen-poor soils and high surface groundwater.
Propagation: Natural vegetative propagation. Also from seeds.
Vernacular names / Synonyms
Scientific name: Vaccinium oxycoccos, Vaccinium macrocarpon
English: Small cranberry, bog cranberry, swamp cranberry, wild cranberry
Constituents of Vaccinium oxycoccos
Cranberries contain Catechin, flavone glycosides, fructose, organic acids, proanthocyanidins and vitamin C.
Cranberry has a high Flavonols content (100–263 mg/kg) compared to other fruits. Flavonols are a class of flavonoids. They are phytochemicals present in plants and provide several health benefits owing to richness in medicinal properties such as antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant etc.
Cranberry also contain Citric, malic and benzoic acids.
Important Medicinal Properties
Cranberry is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- ACE inhibitor: Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) that block the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, used in the treatment of hypertension.
- Antioxidant: Significantly delays or prevents oxidation by destroying free radicals.
- Antiviral: Destroys viruses or suppresses their replication
- Antifungal: Destroys fungi or suppresses their growth/reproduction
- Anti–inflammatory: Helps to counter the inflammatory process
- Bacteriostatic: Stops bacteria from reproducing.
- Chemo protective: Protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of anticancer drugs
- Diuretic: Increase passing of urine
Nutrition of Cranberries (100 gram fresh, whole; 45 Calories Glycemic Index: low)
Daily Required Value
Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice
Cranberries are highly nutritious. They contain vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K along with Manganese, Cooper, pantothenic acid and fiber. This combination is very beneficial for health.
Vitamin C and E are antioxidant. Vitamin C, water soluble vitamin helps in absorption of iron and boosts body immunity. Vitamin K, fat-soluble vitamin, helps in blood clotting. It is opposite in effect of blood thinning medicines.
Manganese is a component of a number of enzymes and activates a range of others. Low level of manganese in body can cause skeletal malformations, and impaired growth and reproductive function.
Cranberries are excellent for kidney, urethra, and bladder disorders. They are intestinal and urinary antiseptic.
Cranberry improve urinary tract health by lowering the pH of the urinary tract. They are highly acidic and prevents growth of bacteria in urinary tract.
Cranberry juice also helps in urinary tract infections as it contain proanthocyanidin or condensed tannins which prevent adhesion of bacteria in tract. This allows flushing of bacteria out of the body along with urine.
Regular drinking of juice for one or more month reduces UTIs episodes. Researches indicate it can be used as an adjunctive treatment in UTI.
Cranberries have more antioxidant activity compared to other fruits. It contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Antioxidants are those substance which prevent oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals. Free radicals are formed in body either from normal metabolic processes or by exposure to external sources (X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoking, chemicals, pollution etc.). Free radicals are highly reactive and can attack the healthy cells of the body, causing them to lose their structure and function. Damage to cells leads to premature ageing and development and progression of many diseases.
Intake of potent antioxidants, such as Cranberry helps to maintain normal functioning and integrity of cells and thus delaying the ageing process and keeping good health. The free radical scavenging activity of Cranberry is comparable or superior to that of vitamin E, another antioxidant.
Drinking of cranberry juice increases plasma antioxidant status.
Good for heart
Cranberries reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-oxidation, maintain or improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, reducing platelet aggregation and improve vascular function.
A small study of 30 abdominally obese, healthy, middle-aged men who consumed increasing doses of cranberry juice, up to 500 mL/day over 12 weeks, found a significant reduction in plasma matrix metalloproteinase-9, a substance which can accelerate atherosclerotic (deposition of fatty material on inner walls of arteries) progression.
Cranberry prevents the growth and proliferation of several types of tumor or abnormal growth of cells in body due to its high bioflavonoid content and antioxidant properties.
- Cranberries are good for overall health. They provide vitamin C, energy, antioxidants, and minerals.
- Cranberry juice prevents tooth decay due to presence of proanthocyanidin which prevent adhesion of bacteria to teeth. Inhibition of bacterial growth also protects gums from bacterial diseases.
- Cranberries are effective in prevention of recurrent cold, cough, respiratory and ear infections due to presence of immunity boosting, antioxidant and other important phytochemicals.
- Intake of Cranberry cures vitamin C deficiency.
- Cranberry contains vitamins and is good for skin.
- Antioxidant effect of Cranberry is on whole body.
Dose of Cranberry Juice
- Cranberry can be taken in dose of 120–400 ml daily by adults or 15 mL/kg or up to 300 mL daily by children.
- For recurrent UTIs the juice should be taken continuously for 4–8 weeks.
- As Cranberry is sour in taste, you may dilute it by adding water.
- Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings
- Opt only for 100 percent juice without added sugar and sweeteners.
- Commercially available Cranberry juice contains high amount of sugar and hence should not be taken by diabetics.
- In case the symptoms of UTI become more severe after taking juice medical advice is recommended.
- Cranberries contain oxalates and calcium. So person at the risk of oxalate kidney stones should take it cautiously. Cranberry juice can increase level of oxalate in urine by 43 percent.
- At high doses (more than three liters), gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea can occur.
- Cranberries are hot in potency.
- People who take anticoagulant / blood thinning medicines (Warfarin, to prevent the formation of blood clots in the blood) should take Cranberries cautiously. As it may affect efficacy and safety of anticoagulant medicines in body.
- People taking blood-thinning medicines and prescribed Aspirin, should not drink too much Cranberry juice.