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  • Jovita Turan

Biologically Active Compounds And Health Benefits of Cranberry (Vaccinium Oxycoccus L.)

by Jovita Turan, April 12, 2020


The cranberry plant grows vigorously in acidic sandy bogs, all across the temperate and cooler parts of Europe, Asia, Northern states in the United States and Canada.

Cranberry belongs to Ericaceae family and Vaccinium genus. The plant is a dwarf, creeping shrub, or vine, which can grow up to 10 to 20 cm in height and features slender, wiry, not so thick, woody stems bearing small, evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink. The fruit is a small, round, red color berry. Each berry features four centrally situated tiny seeds enclosed inside capsules. The berry is very acidic in taste, having pH in the range of 2.3 to 2.5. Cranberry season generally lasts from October until December.


Over 350 compounds have been identified in cranberry. The plant is rich in phytonutrients (naturally derived plant compounds), particularly proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which are essential for all-round wellness. However, there are at least 5 key categories of health-supportive phytonutrients in cranberries, as summarized in the following Table below:

Benzoic and phenolic acids represent 0.57% of the weight of fresh cranberries. Benzoic acid forms 80% of the total organic acids contained in cranberry juice and much lower contents of 2,4-dihydroxybenzoic, p-hydroxybenzoic and o-hydroxybenzoic acids. The main hydroxycinnamic acids in cranberry are p-coumaric, caffeic, cinnamic, and ferulic acids, with contents ranging from 8.8 to 25 mg/100 g FW. Many of these acids are bound to glucose and polysaccharides.

Proanthocyanidins are the largest class of potential bioactives in cranberries. The PACs are also commonly called condensed tannins or poly flavan-3-ols, and are responsible for the bitter astringent taste of cranberries due to the binding of saliva proteins. Cranberries have the most dimers, trimers, 4–6mers, and 7–10mers compared with any other fruit studied. The most unique aspect of cranberry polyphenols is the occurrence of A-type linkages (C2→O→C7) between epicatechin units. These linkages are found elsewhere only in peanuts, blueberries, and plums. The average concentration of PACs is 419 mg/100 g (0.4%) by weight in cranberries.

Anthocyanins are responsible for the red and purple pigments present in cranberry and consist primarily of three glycosides of cyanidin and three of peonidin, delphinidin, malvinidin, and pelargonidin glycosides. The predominant anthocyanins are the 3-O-galactosides and 3-O- arabinosides of cyanidin and peonidin; a total of 13 anthocyanins, mainly 3-O-monoglycosides, have been detected. Anthocyanin content has been reported to be as high as 91.5 mg/100 g ripe fruit at harvest. Cranberry anthocyanin content increases with ripening and is also dependent on the cultivar and size of the fruit.

The total amount of flavonoids in cranberry ranges from 20 to 40 mg/g. Flavonoids in cranberries consist mainly of glycosides of quercetin, myricetin, and to a lesser extent, kaempferol. Quercetin 3-galactoside is the predominant form, but at least 11 other glycosides are present in lower concentrations.

Terpenes include the volatile compounds that are responsible for the flavor and aroma of cranberries. Ursolic acid is abundant in American cranberry at 46–109 mg/100 g FW. Cranberry also contains 2 rare derivatives of ursolic acid: cis-3-O-p-hydroxycinnamoyl ursolic acid (12–16 mg/100 g FW) and trans-3-O-p-hydroxycinnamoyl ursolic acid (42–60 mg/100 g FW). Cranberries also contain the carotenoid lutein, as well as other carotenoids in lesser quantities.

As we see, cranberry provides us with an astonishing array of phytonutrients. However, beside them, we can find a lot of other main and important nutrients such as vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese, as well as vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, and pantothenic acid

Moreover, cranberry includes all 22 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids as well as a high level of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.


Urinary tract Infections (UTI): Research studies suggest that drinking cranberry juice can protect against gram-negative bacterial infections such as E.coli in the urinary system by inhibiting bacterial-attachment to the bladder and urethral mucosa. Proanthocyanidins prevent these bacteria from multiplying and further and flush them out of the body through urination. Research shows that drinking cranberry juice regularly can help prevent recurring UTIs in middle-aged women and pregnant women. The study also suggests that cranberry juice may even help in preventing pediatric urinary tract infection

Cardiovascular Health: Cranberry juice can help lower the risk of heart-related ailments and assist in sustaining cardiovascular health. The flavonoids present in cranberries have antioxidant properties and may decrease the threat of atherosclerosis. These compounds have been shown to delay and suppress the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and beneficially stimulate the blood platelets.

Prevents Tooth Decay: Cranberry helps prevent the development of cavities. Proanthocyanidins inhibit the harmful bacteria from clinging to the teeth. These components inhibit acid production and protect the teeth from periodontal disease by preventing the growth of plaque.

Avoid Respiratory Infections: Cranberry juice helps to inhibit certain strains of Haemophilus influenza, which is a common cause of ear and respiratory infections in children. The juice inhibits the bacteria’s hair-like structures, inhibiting them from adhering to the surface of the skin

Prevents Cancer: Cranberry contains proanthocyanidins, which inhibit the growth of various cancer cells. Cranberry juice contains anti-carcinogenic components that interfere with the growth of cancer cells. Proanthocyanidins can stop micro-tumors from developing in the blood vessels. Cancer-preventive benefits of cranberry are especially likely in the case of breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.

Strengthens Bones and Teeth: Although cranberry juice is a natural source of calcium which reduces the risk of getting osteoporosis.

Cures Cold: Fresh cranberry juice is effective at fighting against infections. It cures sore throats and colds.

Good for Obesity: Cranberry juice is rich in organic acids, which have an emulsifying effect on the fat deposits in our body.

Prevents Kidney Stones: The high amount of urine acid in cranberry juice together with inhibition of bacterial adhesion actions (proteusbacterial-infections), can help prevent the formation of alkaline (calcium-ammonium- phosphate) stones inside the urinary tract.

Peptic ulcers: Foods rich in flavonoids, a category that includes anthocyanins, flavonols, and proanthocyanidins, like cranberries, apples, and garlic helps reduce the risk of stomach disorders, including stomach ulcers, by inhibiting the growth of H. pyloribacteria.

Scurvy: Deficiency of vitamin-C in an individual can result in scurvy. Cranberries provide high levels of vitamin-C, which is also vital for the body to make collagen, the main component behind the healthy functioning of tissues.

Lung inflammation: The anti-inflammatory effects of cranberry juice have been proven to be effective against the inflammation caused in the lungs by the influenza virus.

Anti-Aging Benefits: Cranberries have a multitude of therapeutic properties that protect the cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals that contribute to aging, thereby making the skin look younger.


· Benzie, I. F. F. and Wachtel-Galor, S. (editors), 2011, Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, Second Edition, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, p. 500.

· Blumberg J. B., Camesano T. A., .., and Vita J.A., 2013, Cranberries and Their Bioactive Constituents in Human Health, Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Juornal, p. 15.

· Turner. A., 2006, The pharmacognosy of cranberries (vaccinium macrocarpon aiton) as a urologic dietary supplement (disertation), Chicago, Illinois, p. 149.


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