By Becky Earley
Cranberries are one of three native fruits to North America, as members of the heath family. The plants contain pink flowers which produce small red-black edible berries in the months from June to July. They grow in the wild from Canada to the Carolinas. The first cultivation occurred in North America and centered in sandy "bogs", marshes, or rain-soaked salt meadows.
Cranberries are composed of about 88% water. Other organic constituents include flavonoids, anthocyanins, catechin, triterpenoids, B-hydroxybutryic acid, citric, malic,glucuronic and quinic and benzoic acids, ellagic acid and vitamin C.They are a great source of fiber. Raw cranberries are very low in calories (209 calories/pound).
During the 17th century cranberries were used to relieve blood disorders, stomach ailments, liver problems, vomiting, appetite loss, scurvy, and cancer. Native Americans prepared wound dressings from the dried whole fruit. People from New England used boiled cranberries to reduce the severity of gall bladder attacks. Early scientists' believed that cranberries were also beneficial in urinary tract disorders, due to its low pH (high acidity). It was known that benzoic acid was metabolized to hippuric acid, researchers suggested that beneficial effects of cranberries were due to these antimicrobial acids. As early as 1914, a report suggested that bacterial suppression was not related to either hippuric acid excretion or pH. In 1966, researchers revealed that the effects of pH of urine by cranberry juice were transient and that acidification may not be the main mechanism of action. Currently, researchers are thinking that cranberry juice contains a polymer that prevents the adherence of bacteria to the lining/walls of the bladder and urinary tract, and this helps to prevent urinary infections. Cranberries can also be used to decrease recurrence of urinary stones and as a urinary deodorant.
Today, over 52 million households consume cranberry products. The early uses of cranberries to maintain urinary health is continually being thought about, and physicians are still recommending cranberry products to avoid urinary tract infections.
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