Cranberry for Cystitis

by Savvas Ioannides N.D.

CranberryCranberry or, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is a trailing, evergreen shrub, which bears glossy red fruit 1–1.5 cm wide. It is native to eastern North America and northern Asia, and favours an acidic wet area. The fruit is used for medicinal and culinary purposes (juices and sauces). Cranberry fruit contains proanthocyanidins, catechins and other polyphenols. Cranberries also contain vitamin C, sugars, amino acids and peptides. Traditionally cranberries were thought to be useful for the treatment of cystitis.

How it works

It has been proposed that cranberries may reduce bacterial adherence to mucosal surfaces (Sobota, A E: J Urol 131, 1013- 6, 1984). Exposure of pathogens, either in the gut or the urinary bladder, to an isolated but unidentified compound in cranberries may inhibit their adhesive capacity (Ofek, I et al: N Eng J Med 324, 1599, 1991). Pharmacological studies suggest that this is probably due to the activity of proanthocyanidins. Some scientists have proposed in the past that proanthocyanidins inhibit the adherence of organisms such as E. coli to the bladder wall, thereby reducing the likelihood of bladder infection.

Cranberry consumption definitely does create urine, which is capable of preventing adhesion of pathogenic bacteria. But the compounds responsible for this are yet to be found and are unlikely to be proanthocyanidins. Another possibility is that, rather than containing compounds or precursors, which prevent adherence, cranberry induces the body to produce its own factors which prevent adherence.

Clinical Trials

  1. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was initiated to determine the effect of regular intake of cranberry juice on bacteriuria and pyuria in elderly women (Avorn J et al: JAMA 271, 751- 4, 1994). A volunteer sample of 153 women, mean age 78.5 years, took either 300 mL per day of a commercial cranberry drink or a specially prepared placebo. Subjects taking cranberry demonstrated a significantly reduced incidence of bacteriuria (defined as organisms numbering = 105/mL) and pyuria (presence of white blood cells). This effect appeared after 4 to 8 weeks of regular cranberry intake. The average pH of urine in the cranberry group (6.0) was higher than the placebo group (5.5).
  2. The results of a controlled study suggest that cranberry juice (150 mL twice a day) may prevent relapse in chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS). Fifty male patients diagnosed with CPPS were initially treated with the antibiotic levofloxacin and supportive treatment for 8–12 weeks. Twenty-six patients were then administered cranberry juice and 24 patients served as a control group. All fifty patients were evaluated after 3 months. None of the patients in the cranberry group experienced aggravation of symptoms, but five from the control group did. The parameters measured after antibiotic and supportive treatment (including white blood cell count in prostatic secretions) remained reduced and were even slightly further reduced in the cranberry group (Park SJ, Yoon HN, Shim BS. Korean J Urol 2005; 46(1): 63-67).
  3. Standardised, concentrated cranberry extract was evaluated in an uncontrolled pilot study involving 12 women with a history of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). To be eligible the women had to have experienced a minimum of six UTIs in the preceding year. Cranberry extract (corresponding to 100 mg/day of proanthocyanidins) was taken for 12 weeks and the women were available for follow-up 2 years later. None of the women developed a UTI during the 12 weeks of treatment, on the basis of symptoms or laboratory results. Eight women who continued to take cranberry products remained free from infections 2 years later. Of the four women who stopped taking cranberry products, one patient remained free of UTIs and two developed symptoms (Bailey DT, Dalton C, Joseph Daugherty F et al. Phytomedicine 2007; 14(4): 237-241).


The value of cranberry as a preventative for UTIs is now well established, especially for the extract in tablet form. Cranberry treatment has distinct benefits compared to prophylactic antibiotic use, most notably fewer side effects (when given as the extract), reduced cost and no risk of resistant organisms or super infection.

Who should not take Cranberry juice or Cranberry tablets

  1. Individuals who have or who ever have had kidney stones should not consume very large amounts of cranberries (more than a litre a day) or use supplemental cranberry products.
  2. The use of supplemental cranberry products is not recommended for individuals who are taking warfarin.

About Naturopathy by Savvas Ioannides
Savvas Ioannides is a Naturopathic, Herbal and GAPS Diet practitioner who studied at Nature Care College in Sydney. Savvas uses holistic and natural therapies including Herbal remedies and Nutrition to boost your vitality and help you achieve optimum levels of health.

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