Vaccinium macrocarpon, which is also known as the cranberry, is part of the Ericaceae family. This plant is native to the northern region of the western hemisphere in areas such as the United States as well as Canada. The plant grows as a short shrub or vine that at maturity is about seven meters long and up to eight inches high. The flowering parts of the plants include petals that are tube like or as wide and shaped like bowls allowing for the most direct sunlight and exposure the pistils and stamens. These flowering parts produce pollen in order to sexually reproduce with the aid of either wind or other organisms in the area like bees. The fruit produced from these plants are berry. The fruit itself is larger than the leaves of the flowers that produce them. The cranberry is a small round fruit red in color and sweet in taste when ripened. The cranberry is used today as an ingredient in foods and beverages worldwide along with its use in medicinal remedies ("Cranberry", n.d.).

Ericaceae Family

The Ericaceae family of plants exists today as one of the most diversely developed plant families. There are over 4000 species ranging over 126 genera that demonstrate qualities of the Ericaceae family. The species of the Ericaceae family are likely to be distubutied and found worldwide. These plants flourish in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the world. The areas of the world that these plants are likely not to be found are those closest to the northern and southern poles of the world as well as the Southern Hemisphere. The regions where the Ericaceae family does not exist are best described as Antarctica, central Australia, central Greenland in addition to other land bodies sharing these geographical locations. The reasoning for the Ericaceae family’s placement in areas besides those listed is because of the need for acidic soil. Acidic soil is the key to these plants success in growth and production. The short, low to the ground structure of these shrubs or bushes ercallows for the production of mycorrhiza . This allows for the fungi that grow around the roots to create a beneficial relationship with the plant providing it with the nut
Ericaceae Flower
rients that it needs to create fruit and stay alive. The members of the Ericaceae family develop into herbs, dwarf shrubs, or trees but are found most commonly in shrub or bush form. These plants exhibit characteristics that distinguish them from other flowering plants. Their leaves are alternate, simple, with hermaphrodite flowers. Although all part of the Ericaceae family the flowers of the different species have varying characteristics regarding their shape as well as size. The petals on these flowers vary in shape from being as narrow and tubular as a funnel to as wide as something resembling a bowl. Some of the most commonly known as well as the most important products of these types of plants include cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, azalea, rhododendron, and various common heaths and heathers ("Ericaceae Family" n.d.).

Cranberry Distribution

Purposes and Uses

The fruit produced by Vaccinium macrocarpon, the cranberry bush, are used in many different ways today. Cranberries are used in the production of many foods. Cranberries hold a very sweet and sometimes bitter taste. When reduced down the may be used as an ingredient in several different foods such as cranberry sauces, gelatin,
Cranberry Sauce
and puddings. The juice extracted from cranberries is extracted from the fruit itself to be used to create juices and cocktails (Craig, W.). Today with the dependency on dietary supplements cranberries have been manipulated into the form of tablets, capsules, and extracts. These uses of cranberries are the primary uses for the red, sweet fruit. However, the use of cranberries in herbal remedies must not be overlooked. The juice of the cranberry has been used to treat wounds, diarrhea, and urinary tract complications ( Foster,2005).

Cranberry Juice

Medical Uses

Cranberry juice is commonly used to detox the body of bacteria brought upon by toxic substances. The use of this juice “flushes” ones system if consumed in the right quantity over an extended period of time. The most common use of cranberry juice is to prevent and treat urinary tract infections. It is perceived that the acidity of the juice combats the bacteria that are the cause of these urinary tract infections. It is used to prevent these infections from reoccurring. The consumption of cranberry juice creates a high level of acid in the urine which kills the bacteria (Craig, W.). The mixture of quinic, malic, and citric acids in cranberries allow for this to occur. These acids work together with Proanthocyanidin which are phenol compounds attached to an alcohol that prevents E Coli from attaching to the urinary lining. The attachment of E Coli to the urinary tract lining has been determined to be the cause of most UTI’s (Chandler,J.).

Active Compounds

The active compounds found in cranberrys include proanthocyanidins, flavonols and quercetin. These compounds have shown activity that aid in cranberries medical uses. The compound of pranthocyanidin is also present within the chemical structure of cranberries (Chandler, J.).


Cranberry juice has been proven to reduce the risk of reoccurring UTI. It can help prevent these infections but it is not efficient enough to treat the inflection once it has already been established. Other medication is required once the infection has developed. It is considered to be a safe remedy to use for prevention. The use of cranberry juice must be frequent and consumed within proper dosage, one to three cups a day or ten to twelve capsules, has proven to be effective by several medical studies and by the National Medicine Comprehensive Database. No reliable evidence has been developed on whether its use can treat the infection once the bacteria has formed and colonized ("How Cranberry Juice,").

Side effects

Consuming more than the directed dosages may cause stomach pain and/or diarrhea. Long term uses or use of cranberry juice may increase the risk of Uric acid kidney stone formation. Cranberry tends to react with Coumadin which thins your blood and cause your INR to rise ("How Cranberry Juice,").


Cranberry (n.d.). Retrieved on January 11, 2012 from the Cranberry Wiki:
Ericaceae(n.d.) Retrieved January 11, 2012 from the Ericaceae Wiki:
Berry(n.d.) Retrieved January 11, 2012 from the Berry Wiki: Http://
How cranberry juice prevents urinary tract infections. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Craig, W. (n.d.). The Cranberry Cure. Retrieved from
Chandler, J. (n.d.). The truth about cranberry juice preventing urinary tract infections (uti). Retrieved from
Foster, S. (2005). Herbs at a glance. Retrieved from