If you haven’t already, read my short news article in “The Herb Companion” this month; “Cranberry Juice Soothes Stomachs.” Cranberries, as well as other fruits including blueberries, bilberry, black currant and chokeberry contain polyphenol compounds known as proanthocyanidins. These proanthocyanidins are beneficial flavonoids that help maintain collagen and elastin; important proteins found in skin. They are also anti-stick agents for bacteria. This property has previously been documented as being responsible for inhibiting urinary tract infections and has now been found to inhibit stomach infections due to Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Before a bacterial infection can occur, the bacterial cells must adhere or stick to the epithelial surface of the urinary tract. Bacteria are able to do this through a specific molecule on its cell wall called adhesin. These molecules bind to a specific receptor on the surface of the epithelial cell of the body which is usually a type of carbohydrate. Once bound to this mucosal surface, replication of the bacteria begins and the infection grows. By interfering with that interaction, infection can be greatly reduced.
Treating urinary infections early while they are still in the lower urinary tract is important because they tend to move up the urinary tract towards the kidney. Obviously a kidney infection is much worse than an infection in the urethra. So, if you get those first tell tale signs of an infection in the urethra, such as itching or slight pain on urination start drinking cranberry juice immediately to prevent its movement up the urinary tract. Oftentimes the success of herbal or food medicine is in getting to it right away.
However, if there are signs that the infection is worsening; cloudy urine, back, side or groin pain, fever, urine retention or frequent urination with pain, seek medical help for antibiotic treatment as kidney infection are serious.
Here is my Mom’s cranberry relish recipe that she made every Thanksgiving and Christmas and now I make (but do continue to have cranberry relish after the Holidays!).
1 orange, grated whole
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
3 cups fresh cranberries
½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
2-3 whole cloves
Put everything in a pan and boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. If you want a thicker relish, simmer longer to decrease water. Cool and refrigerate for flavors to mix.