Food and Medicine
by 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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**
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.
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.
“ My favourite loaf!”
Soak 1 cup of dried cranberries
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
1/3 cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
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
*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
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
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.