the crazy cranberry...

The healing properties of the cranberry date back to the time of the Native Americans who used it to make medicinal salves and poultices. The tannin content of the berry helped draw poison from arrow wounds. The berries rich in vitamin C were eaten to ward off scurvy and their acidity was embraced by the Native Americans to fight off infections.

Folk lore touted the cranberry as a healing agent for gout, rheumatism, diarrhoea, constipation, fevers and skin problems. Today scientists are investigating dozens of health-promoting compounds found in cranberries, and they are finding there is a lot of truth to the lore of centuries past.

Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs), more common in women than in men, occur in both the lower urinary tract (cystitis) and in the kidneys (pyelonephritis). The E. Coli bacterium is the main cause of these conditions although other bacteria, viruses and fungi may be responsible.

Modern medical research has revealed the chemical and physiological effects cranberries have on the urinary tract and how drinking cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins that can prevent the adhesion of certain bacteria associated with UTIs, including E. coli, to the urinary tract wall. Once bacteria are unable to stick to the lining of the urinary tract, they cannot reproduce and bring on an infection. Cranberry tablets are just as effective in preventing bladder infections as the juice in its unsweetened form.

Cardiovascular Benefits
Incredibly, the cranberry offers cardiovascular benefits at several different levels:
» Cranberry’s anti-inflammatory phytonutrients block the action of two enzymes that are responsible for arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

» In animal studies it was shown that antioxidant properties of cranberries decreased the risk of high blood pressure.

» It minimises the risk of blocked vessels by lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing the HDL (good) cholesterol in our bodies.

Anti-Cancer Benefits
Two key risk factors that increase the likelihood of cancer are chronic excessive oxidative stress (from lack of sufficient antioxidant support) and chronic excessive inflammation (from lack of sufficient anti-inflammatory compounds). Thanks to its high anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory content, the cranberry appears perfectly poised to help in the prevention (not the treatment) of cancer, particularly in breast, lung, colon and prostate cancer.

Kidney Stone Control
Although the jury is still out on this one cranberries may be helpful in dissolving and preventing kidney stones. There are different kinds of kidney stones and most Americans, for example, develop the calcium-oxalate variety, which is problematic as cranberries can thereby increase the chances of this type of stone formation. On the other hand, however, the risk of developing stones containing uric acid (urate stones) is minimised by the intake of cranberry as the fruit decreases urinary uric acid.  If you have kidney stones talk to your doctor before going the cranberry route.

Digestive Tract Benefits
A recent study has shown that the high concentration of phytonutrients in cranberry may increase the number of good bacteria (Bifido-bacteria) in the gut, which in turn improves the immune system. In addition to this, research suggests that the cranberry’s anti-adhesion effect may prevent Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers, from attaching to the stomach lining.

Nutritional Highlights
It is the large variety of phytonutrients contained in the cranberry that make it an invaluable health-supporting food. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of its triterpenoids, phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins and flavonoids are what really make it effective in preventing the health concerns above. 

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