Cranberries as Medicine?

When I was 8 years old, you couldn’t get me to drink cranberry juice – even if you paid me.  Years later, after being “blessed” with my first urinary tract infection, I choked it down in the name of good health… in the name of ending that miserable, painful infection as quickly as possible.   I don’t know with any certainty if it helped or not, but the medications my doctor prescribed took care of the pain, and ultimately the infection went away.

So often we do that in our lives, don’t we?  We hear of remedies that will help our pain, or help us heal more quickly.  We don’t really know if it will help, but we take them anyway because we think it couldn’t hurt.  Let’s not do that with cranberry anymore.  There is a source for information on remedies, and we’re going to consult it.  For today, let’s go to the National Institute of Health and find the answer from THE authority.

Several studies have been conducted on cranberry as a treatment for urinary tract infections.  Overall, the NIH has gathered results from studies in two types of treatment:

  • cranberry as a treatment for preventing urinary tract infections
  • cranberry as a treatment for lowering blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

Cranberry as a treatment for preventing UTI:

Studies have shown that drinking cranberry juice cocktail in older women, pregnant women, and hospitalized patients will help prevent recurring urinary tract infections.  There are some studies that support the use of cranberry capsules for preventing UTIs as well.  However, it should be noted that this research is geared toward prevention, not treatment.  Thus far, there is no clinical proof that cranberry juice or capsules will treat a UTI.

Cranberry as a treatment for lowering blood sugar for diabetic patients:

Unfortunately, there was no evidence that taking cranberry as a supplement lowered blood sugar, even slightly.

What are the risks of taking cranberry as a home remedy?

Overall, cranberry is quite safe to use as a home remedy.  Even if there is no significant research for the treatment you require, (such as treating a UTI, reducing urinary odor, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or chronic fatigue syndrome), chances are that a cranberry supplement is safe.  However, there are exceptions.

  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, cranberry juice is safe, but a supplement is not recommended without consulting your physician.
  • If you have an allergy to aspirin, note that cranberry contains high amounts of salicylic acid, which is a main ingredient in aspirin.
  • If you are diabetic, be sure to drink a cranberry juice with no added sugar.  Most cocktails contain high fructose corn syrup, which will raise blood sugar.
  • If you have a history of kidney stones, avoid a cranberry regimen until you have consulted with your doctor.  Large amounts of cranberry may raise your risk of kidney stones.
  • If you take warfarin, consult your doctor before taking larger amounts of cranberry or cranberry juice.

You may find that in your case, cranberry juice or a cranberry supplement may help certain health problems.  As long as the supplement is taken after consulting your physician or pharmacist, it is likely a safe and effective treatment.

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