Everything you wanted to know about cranberry

Drs. Catherine Neto and Joe Vinson from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, contributed a chapter on cranberry in the textbook, Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, 2011.

Most of the chapter is detailed biochemistry — their specialty. But, they also review the status of cranberry in cancer therapy and managing urinary tract infections.

Let’s focus on urinary tract infections.

Sources of cranberry

  • There are 2 major species of cranberry.
    • American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
    • European cranberry (V. oxycoccos)
  • The United States and Canada account for more than 90% of the world’s production.


  • Flavonols
  • Flavonones
  • Anthocyanins
  • Flavanols (catechins)

Mechanism of action

  • Improved antioxidant status might be beneficial with respect to chronic diseases.
  • Cranberry juice helps prevent adherence of E. coli bacteria to cells along the urinary tract.
  • Benefits are not related to acidification of urine.

UTI prevention

  • Studies support cranberry juice in women with recurrent UTIs, pregnant women, the elderly, and children.

Long-term response

  • In 1 study, follow-up 2 years later found that those who continued to take cranberry remained free of infection.

The bottom line?

As stated at the outset, the authors’ expertise and greatest contribution to our understanding of cranberry is in the field of biochemistry. It’s not my field, but they appear to thoroughly review what’s known there.

More clinically oriented reviews are here and here.

6/12/12 11:57 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.