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Vaccinium macrocarpon

What is cranberry?

The cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, belongs to the family Ericaceae, and is different from the small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos). The cranberry is a low-growing and kreeping perennial plant with small ovate leaves. The cranberry flowers are attractive and pink coloured. During autumns bright red edible berries (cranberries) are formed.

Parts used

The ripe berries are used, either fresh, dried or as cranberry juice.


These are typical phytochemicals found in cranberry: the cranberry contains catechins, triterpenoids, quinic acid, hippuric acid, anthocyanins.

Benefits of cranberry

Cranberry contains high levels of antioxdants which have health promoting properties. Typical for cranberry is that it contains special phytochemicals which prevent the adherence of bacteria to membranes. This property explains why cranberry is used to prevent urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers and to improve dental health.

Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberry juice is widely recommended to treat and prevent urinary tract infections. It was long believed that the cranberry acted against urinary tract infection because the acids in the cranberry lowered the pH of urine, thereby inhibiting the growth of bacteria (mainly Escherichia coli). Later studies have shown that phytochemicals in cranberry adhere to the lining of the bladder and prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder. The main phytochemical which is responsible for this anti-adhering action is hippuric acid.

Dental Health

Cranberry can also improve dental health. Today you can even find dental floss containing cranberry extract. Cranberry phytochemicals, such as flavanols and proanthocyanidins, prevent the film formation buy tooth decaying bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis. Cranberry also reduces inflammation caused by pathogens, there reducing the destruction of tooth supporting tissues.

Stomach Ulcers

A new study from the Beijing Institute for Cancer Research suggests that cranberry juice destroys the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Helicobacter weakens the protective coating of the stomach, resulting in increased risk for stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. Stomach ulcers are caused when helicobacter stick to the stomach wall and weakens its protective mucus coating. The study, which was sponsored by Ocean Spray and carried out on 189 adult infected by Helicobacter, tested the influence of drinking 500 ml cranberry juice daily during 90 days. The study concluded that 14% of persons who had been drinking the cranberry juice tested negative for helicobacter, compared to only 5% in the placebo group.

Heart Health

Cranberry is loaded with anti-oxidants, which can prevent cardiovascular diseases by preventing the LDL oxidation but the. Cranberries can reduce excessive plasma cholesterol in circulation.


Many in-vitro studies have shown that cranberry phytochemicals have also anti-cancer activity, but their effectiveness in humans has not been established and may be limited by poor absorption and rapid elimination.

Other facts

The cranberry is indigenous to North America where it co-occurs with the small cranberry. The cranberry was named as such by pilgrims because the stem and flower of the cranberry resembles the head, neck and beak of a crane bird. The name Vaccinium is derived from a Greek word meaning berry producing shrubs. Macrocarpon means large fruit. Cranberry fruits have long been valued for strong acidulous flavor and have become an important ingredient for juices, sauces, jellies and pies.

Other names

North American cranberry, large cranberry

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