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cranberryCRANBERRY (Vaccinium macrocarpon, Oxycoccus quadripetalus)

 

Common name

Cranberry

 

Medicinal parts

Juice from the berries, whole berries

 

Description

Cranberries grow in bogs from Alaska to Tennessee and are a main crop in Maine. The bright red small berry fruit is harvested in fall.

Traditionally made into a sauce to serve with the Thanksgiving turkey, the common cranberry has a powerful medicinal use as an agent against urinary infection and cystitis. Doctors routinely advise their patients troubled with these afflictions to drink cranberry juice, and it is listed as an effective remedy in the United States Pharmacopoeia, the official United States list of approved drugs.

The problem with commercially produced cranberry juice "cocktail" generally purchased in supermarkets is that it is more water and sugar than actual cranberry juice. To get enough of the pure juice, it's necessary to drink a large quantity-as much as a quart a day, which is often not practical. Fortunately, health food stores carry a bottled pure cranberry juice concentrate that can be diluted at home to suit one's own taste. Personally, I enjoy its natural tartness, but if you find it too sour, you can sweeten it as you please. Of course, if you use sugar or honey, you are adding calories. One good sweetener is an infusion made from licorice root (which does not taste like the licorice candy you know from childhood-that taste comes not from licorice but from anise seeds). Another solution is to mix the pure cranberry juice with unprocessed apple juice that is sugar-free, or buy a commercial brand of cranberry juice sweetened naturally with apple and grape juices. Encapsulated dried berries are also effective for active urinary infections. You can also munch on the new dried cranberries, sometimes called "craisins" for their similarity to raisins.

Once a urinary infection has been cleared up, continue to drink a glass of pure cranberry juice daily as a preventative against future infection, especially if you are a sexually active woman who is prone to cystitis.

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