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Volume 10 Issue 6
March/April 2005

Mandalas
Universal Symbols of Potential and Transformation

Cranberries: Food and Medicine

Wildcrafting
Harvesting Plants From a Native Wild Environment

Seeds of Zen in the Prairies
Introducing Maurine Stuart

The Healing Power of Zhong Guo Hui Gong Therapy
Chinese Wisdom Qi Gong

Editorial

Cranberries:
Food and Medicine

by Paulette Millis
Paulette Millis


The cranberry, sometimes called bounceberry, a small tart-tasting red berry, has been most popular in the past for the deep red sauce we traditionally make with our Thanksgiving turkey. It is said that Benjamin Franklin, visiting London to plead the case of the colonies, wrote and begged his daughter to send cranberries, one of the foods for which he was homesick. And in 1864, history says General Grant ordered tons of cranberries for his Army of the Potomac to celebrate Thanksgiving in proper fashion. Old clipper ships out of Gloucester, New Bedford, and the “Down East” ports, carried supplies of raw cranberries in casks to help sailors prevent scurvy. American Indians used cranberries as a source of dye and today, the Canadian First Nations people use the straight branches of the high bush cranberry to make the stems for traditional ceremonial pipes.

There are three types of cranberries available in Saskatchewan. The Canadian commercial crop (Vaccinium macrocarpon) grows on a small trailing evergreen shrub in low-lying acid bogs, mainly in B.C. and Nova Scotia.The low bush wild cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), known as the Northern or European Cranberry, are small firm berries found in Northern Canada, Northern Europe, and Northern Asia. These grow very close to the ground in sandy soil, usually in spruce and pine forest areas.The highbush cranberry or cranberry tree (Viburnum tribolum) is an ornamental plant, not a true cranberry. It grows in Northern United States and Canada.

Cranberries were an important part of my childhood. Mom would pack a lunch, and the family would walk a mile through the pasture to the forest, pushing the baby in the carriage, carrying the water, lunch and pails for picking the low bush cranberries and blueberries. When the fourth child was born, we began taking the truck and spent the entire day in the forest north of Prince Albert.

Mom canned countless quarts of cranberries to use as fruit during the winter, and dad enjoyed his fresh cranberry pies! Every fall we also picked high bush cranberries which have a flat seed and are much softer than the cranberries that grow close to the ground. Mom made a thick sauce with these which she then preserved by canning. We ate this with thick farm cream for desserts during winter months.

MEDICINAL VALUE

Curing Bladder Infection is the most common medicinal use of the cranberry. In one study, 44 females and 16 males with active urinary tract infections were given 16 ozs. of cranberry juice daily. Beneficial effects were produced in 73% of the subjects; infection returned when the juice was withdrawn in 61% of the subjects.
Earl Mindel, in his Anti-Aging Bible, states that drinking 1–2 glasses of cranberry juice daily will help prevent annoying and painful urinary infections from occurring, which are caused by the bacteria E. coli which adheres to the mucosal lining of the bladder and urethra. Researchers at Alliance City Hospital in Ohio discovered that cranberry juice prevented these harmful bacteria from sticking to the cells in the urinary tract, causing the potentially dangerous bacterium to be flushed out in the urine.

Cranberry juice bought at supermarkets is laced with sugar—1/3 cranberry juice with water and sugar—which depresses the immune system. To get the natural antibiotic effect of this juice you need to juice fresh, raw cranberries (organic is ideal). Buying pure unsweetened, organic cranberry juice or making the juice from frozen cranberries are also good choices. As this juice is sour to taste, I add it to organic apple juice. It may be mixed with other juice as well; try carrot juice. Dr. Zoltan Rona in Joy to Health advises us to add 1–2 tbsps. of pure ascorbic acid crystals (vitamin C in powdered form) to each 8 ozs. of cranberry juice for a natural anti-histamine and decongestant. He states that this drink could be taken 3–4 times daily or until bowel tolerance (very loose bowel movements) is reached, to enhance the antimicrobial effect. Cranberry extracts are also available in pill form.

One woman finds canned cranberry juice does nothing for bladder infection, so she grinds fresh cranberries in the food chopper, mixes it with enough unheated honey to taste and stores it. At the first sign of bladder irritation, she eats it with plain yogurt for a bedtime snack. Her symptoms are relieved in 6 hours and gone in 12 hours.

High urinary calcium levels greatly increase one’s risk of Kidney Stone Formation. Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., in Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, report that cranberry juice actually reduces the amount of ionized calcium in the urine in patients who tend to have recurrent kidney stones. Again, it is ideal to use organic unsweetened juice, or the pill form.

Dr. Bernard Jensen, in Foods That Heal, states that cranberries are a remedy for Rectal Disturbances such as piles, hemorrhoids, and inflammation of the rectal pouch. He advises to place slightly cooked cranberries in the rectum after each movement. Reports have also been made that hemorrhoids can be helped by chopping a small handful of cranberries in the blender, wrapping about 1 tbsp. in cheesecloth and placing it over the area and leaving it in place. One individual, after 30 minutes reports the pain being drawn out; after 1 hour applied a new compress; and after 2 hours felt great and slept well.

Boiled cranberries and seal oil will reduce the severity of a Gallbladder Attack, according to New England folk medicine. Medical science has not confirmed this although it is known that the high level of acid in cranberries and fat (seal oil) stimulate the release of bile. Stagnation of bile sometimes leads to the formation of gallstones.

Cranberry juice is said also to help prevent bedwetting, and the Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia tells us the aboriginal people used cranberries in a Poultice for Wounds, as they have an astringent effect which contracts tissues and stops bleeding.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Cranberries are high in carbohydrates (sugars, indigestible gums, pectins, and cellulose, but no starch), nearly 90% water, and have traces of protein and fat. The less ripe berries contain more pectin than the very ripe ones as pectin dissolves as the fruit ripens. Carol Rinzler’s, The Complete Book of Food, says that 1 oz. of fresh, raw cranberries has 13.5 mg. of vitamin C. It follows then that the most nutritious way to eat these berries is in a raw relish to preserve the vitamin C (destroyed by heat). Put the berries through a food chopper with peeled, seeded oranges to improve taste and add vitamin C. Cooked sauce has about 1/3 the vitamin C of fresh cranberries.

Cranberries are high in oxalic acid, and a high acid forming food (Zoltan Rona, M.D., The Joy of Health), and according to Bernard Jensen, the following nutrients are in one pound of cranberries: calories - 218; protein - 1.8 g.; fat - 3.18g.; carbohydrates - 54.4g.; calcium - 63.5mg.; phosphorus - 50mg.; iron - 2.7mg.; vitamin A - 182 i.u.; thiamine - .13mg.; riboflavin - .09mg.; niacin - .45mg.; ascorbic acid - 55mg.

BUYING STORING AND COOKING

When buying fresh commercial bog berries, choose firm, almost bullet-like, shining red berries that are not dull or soft. The best berries have been ripened on the vine, although ethylene gas is sometimes used to ripen them. A unique method of judging whether or not the cranberry is ripe is to drop it on a hard floor and the berries, at the peak of their perfection, will bounce several inches into the air.

Dried cranberries are available in most health food stores. They are very good in oatmeal, or other cooked cereals, in trail mixes and snacks and in any baked goods. They are best soaked in water and drained for muffins, breads etc. Be aware the commercial dried berries usually contain sugar. Refrigerate or freeze cranberries for long-term storage. At zero degrees F they will keep till next season. Wash and place cranberries in containers to freeze or use immediately.

Cooking ideas for cranberries are sauce, juice and juice cocktails, loaves, muffins, scones, cakes, snack mixes, soups, stuffings, canning, jams, jellies, marmalade, pies, cooked in stew, baked with chicken, and great added to applesauce. The American Indians often used maple syrup to sweeten their cranberry sauce, and used a mixture with crushed wild berries for pemmican.

The cranberry swells as it cooks, so will burst eventually. They are red due to the anthocyanin pigments (a type of bioflavonoid) and this will make the cooking water red. Cooking them in lemon juice and sugar preserves the color. This anthocyanin pigment is said to accelerate the regeneration of visual purple—the pigment in the eyes that is involved in vision.


RECIPES

Cranberry Sauce**

1 lb. commercial bog berries (about 1 quart) cooks down to about 3 cups of sauce.
- - or - -
l lb. fresh rinsed cranberries
orange juice, honey to taste
grated organic orange rind (optional)

Place all ingredients in saucepan. Cover and cook about 10 minutes till cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. It will be quite thick.


Cranberry Juice or Punch**

Raw Juice:

If you have a juicer, use raw cranberries and mix the juice with apple, or any other blend you desire; or add liquid honey and pure water to desired taste. May freeze the juice if doing a large amount of berries at once.


Cooked Juice:

2 cups cranberries
3 cups water
honey to taste

Simmer or slow boil till skins pop. Strain and use or freeze.
Punch is wonderful! Use soda water, other juices, experiment.


Cranberry Cornbread*
“ My favourite loaf!”

Soak 1 cup of dried cranberries overnight

Mix together and set aside:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flaxmeal
3 tsp. baking powder

Blend together:
1/3 cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup pureed squash or pumpkin

Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Strain the 1 cup of cranberries and add them and the following to flour mixture:
1 cup chopped raw cashews
1 1/2 cup yogurt thinned with a bit of the cranberry juice

Grease stainless steel loaf pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 1 hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Remove. Cool and refrigerate. Serve with extended butter. Drink the remainder of the cranberry juice!


*taken from Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, P. Millis
**adapted by P. Millis.

References: Natural Home Remedies, Mark Bricklin; Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition; The Food Chronology, James Trager; The Cooks Dictionary and Culinary Reference, Jonathon Bartlett; Cooking With Berries, Margaret Woolfolk.
The above is information regarding nutritious foods and is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Note: The above article was first published in WHOLifE: November/December 1998 (Volume 4, Issue 4).

Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a counsellor and nutritional consultant. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, is available in health food stores, or by calling Paulette at
(306) 244-8890, or visit www.geocities.com/paulettemillis.

 

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