The healing power of cranberry or cranberry

Cranberries are better known in the Netherlands as cranberries. The cranberry mainly grows on Terschelling, where a barrel of cranberries brought over from the US once washed ashore. This was reversed in the dunes by beachcombers. This subsequently led to a healthy population of cranberry bushes on the Wadden Island. Cranberries have strong medicinal properties against bladder infections. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.


  • Naming cranberries
  • Cranberry among the Indians
  • Cranberry during colonial times
  • Cranberry from the 19th century to the present
  • Active substances cranberry
  • Cranberries for bladder infections
  • Other medicinal effects of cranberries
  • Cranberry eating tips
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Naming cranberries

The plant names are all in Latin so that people who use plants all over the world are talking about the same plant. The Latin name of the cranberry bush is Vaccinium Macrocarpon . Vaccinium is derived from ‘bacca’ meaning berry and ‘vacca’ meaning ‘cow’. All evergreen berry bushes were given this Latin name because the Greeks saw that their cows loved bilberries very much. Macrocarpon is Greek for ‘Large fruit’. Dutch has some alternative names for the berry: Cranberry, North American cranberry, Giant cranberry, Swampberry, Crane berry, Bouncing berries and Cranberry. In English the plant is called cranberry, which is a derivative of ‘crane bird’. The blossom of this shrub somewhat resembles a crane.

Together with lingonberries and bilberries, the cranberries belong to the blueberry family.


Cranberry among the Indians

North American Indians in Massachusetts call the cranberry ‘ibimi’ which means ‘bitter berry’. They had investigated various medicinal effects of the cranberry, which were later confirmed by scientific findings. The Indians treated urinary tract infections with it. They also made an ointment from it that they used when they were hit with a poisoned arrow; the cranberries extract the poison from the wound. They covered meat with cranberries so that it could be kept fresh longer. The Indians dried the berries during cold winter months; then people would still have enough vitamins during those months. They were put in cakes, preserved in deer fat or dried cranberries were put in maple syrup by the Indians.

Dried cranberries / Source: Tomtheman5, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.5)

Cranberry during colonial times

Cranberry was discovered by colonists from Europe. They started making cranberry pie and preparing a sweet sauce for a hot meal. Ships sailing back to Europe always took cranberries with them because they contain a lot of vitamin C; This prevented the development of scurvy, which was a feared and fatal disease during long sea voyages in the centuries before American colonization. American women used cranberry juice against bladder infections. In that case, the cranberry was mixed with more sweet fruits. The cranberry is quite sour. You can mix cranberries with sweet banana, apple, kiwi, pomegranate, orange or grapes to neutralize the sour taste.

Cranberry from the 19th century to the present

In 1840, German doctors confirmed popular knowledge that cranberries were a good remedy for bladder infections. Since the 1920s, scientists have known that cranberries acidify the urine, which means that pathogenic bacteria that prefer an alkaline environment no longer have a chance. More recently, it turned out that proanthocyanidins permanently adhere to the bladder wall, meaning that germs in the form of bacteria that want to attach themselves there no longer have a place to establish colonies and reproduce. Double-blind studies show that when people drink just 300 ml of cranberry juice (one and a half glasses) after 4 to 8 weeks, bladder infections are cured in two-thirds of people and the bacterial colony is significantly reduced in everyone.

Active substances cranberry

Cranberries are harvested in the fall. Cranberries contain Catechins or Oligomeric Proanthocyanides (OPCs). In addition, it contains a series of powerful flavonoids: anthocyanidins, flavanols and flavonols such as hyperoside, isoquercitrin, quercetin and avicularin, the organic acids hippuronic acid, malic acid, quinic acid, benzoic acid, glucuronic acid, oxalic acid and citric acid, pectin and the natural sugars fructose and D- mannose. To a lesser extent, the cranberry contains triterpenic acids, chlorogenic acid, leptosine, alkaloids, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, E, beta-carotene, lutein and xanthine, the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium and potassium. , eugenol, alphaterpineol and lectins.

Cranberries for bladder infections

The cranberry is a plant-based antibiotic for the bladder and urinary tract. A series of substances are used for this purpose, which reinforce each other in their effect. This is called a synergistic effect. The substances are removed in the urine, causing a disinfectant effect in the bladder. It also has a medicinal effect on the kidneys and prostate. In addition, it helps prevent bladder infections for sexually active women. Due to these medicinal effects, a herbalist can prescribe cranberries for the following indications:

Cranberry bush / Source: Sten Porse, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy or enlarged prostate. Benign prostate enlargement that can cause infectious diseases in the bladder due to incomplete urination.
  • Prevention of honeymoon cystitis or bladder infection in sexually active women,
  • Prevention of repeated bladder infections, especially in older women with weakened resistance and diabetics,
  • Prevention of bladder infections in postmenopausal women who develop thinner mucous membranes due to the drop in estrogen and are therefore more susceptible to infections.
  • Prevention of bladder infections in people with catheters, spinal cord injuries and chronic urinary tract infections. In 90% of cases, burning or stabbing pain during urination is reduced, annoying urges disappear and urination frequency is reduced.
  • Acute bladder infection, the burning sensation and the need to urinate in small amounts are reduced a few hours after taking the berries during an acute bladder infection.


Washing cranberries / Source: Tracy, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)

Other medicinal effects of cranberries

  • Because this berry makes the urine more acidic, kidney stones are dissolved,
  • Since it makes the urine more acidic, the ammonia-like smell of urine disappears and it has a deodorizing effect.
  • Because it contains vitamin C, it has a preventive effect on scurvy,
  • Vitamin C and flavonoids strengthen the immune system.
  • Anthocyanidins and flavonoids provide a preventive effect on cataracts or macular degeneration, a disease that mainly occurs in diabetics.


Cranberry eating tips

Cranberry sauce with baked camembert has become a classic vegetarian delicacy. Cranberries can easily be included in a fruit smoothie, but it is good to supplement them with some sweeter fruits. The fresh and sour taste of cranberries is not ideal for serving as a snack fruit, but it can’t hurt to try it occasionally in combination with some sweeter fruit. When you crush and mash cranberries and then mix them with dried, grated coconut and honey, you get a tasty, sweet sauce that is suitable as a sandwich spread, over a pancake, as a sauce with homemade ice cream or as a sweet addition to a homemade muesli. You can also use cranberries to make jam, jelly or compote.

Consult a herbal therapist

Anyone who wants to use cranberry as a medicinal remedy is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Cranberry extracts and medicines in the form of mother tinctures, powders, nebulisate, liquid extract, ointment, cream and capsules should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can tell you more about this, as well as about any side effects and interactions with other medicines or herbs. There are also beneficial combinations with herbs. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.

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