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Cranberry is an evergreen shrub native to North America. It grows in bogs as a bush with upright branches. Pink flowers and red-black berries appear in June and July. Cranberry is related to the blueberry, buckberry, hackberry, and bilberry.
Why cranberry is used
Cranberries show up along with turkey and stuffing at many holiday meals. But in addition to being a popular side dish, cranberry has long been considered a natural remedy for a variety of conditions including urinary disorders and infections. Recently, cranberry has been used to try to prevent urinary tract infections and Helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) infections that can cause stomach ulcers. Cranberry is also sometimes used to reduce dental plaque.
Cranberry fruit is a good source of vitamin C and is known to be high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, which are dangerous particles in the body that can damage cells membranes, affect cell DNA, and even cause death. Researchers are trying to determine if these antioxidants in cranberry can help prevent heart disease and cancer.
Cranberry has long been believed to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). Some studies indicate that cranberry can prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract (the bladder and the tube that carries urine out of the body). Cranberry cannot cure UTIs, but some studies indicate that taking cranberry can help prevent UTIs.
However, researchers at the University of Michigan are now reporting that cranberry is no better than a placebo at preventing UTIs. The study followed 319 college-aged women who had formerly had a serious UTI. Some of the group drank cranberry juice twice a day for 6 months while the rest of the group drank a placebo that did not contain cranberry. The researchers were surprised to note that the group who drank cranberry actually had more repeated UTIs than the placebo group (19 percent vs. 15 percent). This group of researchers now claims that cranberry is not effective at preventing urinary tract infections.
How cranberry is used