Cranberries are small, tart, bright-red berries that are a popular treat, especially during the holiday season.
They’re packed with antioxidants and provide many health benefits.
Cranberry pills, which are made from dried, powdered cranberries, offer an easy way to enjoy these benefits without having to eat cranberries every day.
This articles reviews the most common uses for cranberry pills, their potential health benefits and side effects, and recommended dosage.
Cranberry pills are small tablets or capsules made from dried, powdered cranberries.
They provide many of the same health benefits as fresh cranberries.
Specifics vary by brand, but one serving of cranberry pills is typically equivalent to an 8-ounce (237-ml) glass of pure cranberry juice.
Cranberry pills are available over the counter at drugstores or can be purchased online.
Summary Cranberry pills are made from dried, powdered cranberries and may contain additional ingredients to enhance their effects. They can be purchased over the counter and provide many of the same benefits as fresh cranberries or cranberry juice.
Cranberry pills may be an effective way to prevent recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Cranberries contain compounds called proanthocyanidins, which prevent E. coli bacteria from attaching to the lining of your urethra and bladder (, ).
If bacteria can’t stick to the tissues, they are unable to multiply and cause an infection.
Several studies have found that taking cranberry pills containing 36 mg of proanthocyanidins every day for two months can significantly reduce the frequency of UTIs, especially in women (, , , ).
Other studies have found no beneficial effects in different populations, including elderly people living in nursing homes or those with bladder disorders (, , , ).
It is unclear whether cranberry pills are as effective as traditional antibiotics at preventing UTIs, as studies have found conflicting results (, ).
These mixed conclusions could be due to differences in study design or because cranberry may not be as effective at preventing the 25–35% of UTIs caused by fungi or bacteria other than E. coli (, , , ).
Summary Cranberry pills contain proanthocyanidins, which prevent E. coli bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract and causing painful infections.
Cranberries are full of antioxidants, which protect your body from damage caused by free radicals.
Free radical damage has been linked to many chronic illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes (, ).
Interestingly, cranberries contain more antioxidants than many other commonly eaten fruits and berries ().
Some of the compounds in cranberries are even more effective than vitamin E, one of the body’s most important antioxidants, at fighting free radicals (, ).
Since cranberry pills are made from dried, powdered cranberries, they contain an even higher concentration of antioxidants than fresh fruit or prepared products like cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly ().
Even though cranberry pills are made from dried, powdered cranberries, their antioxidant content remains active. In fact, taking cranberry supplements every day for eight weeks has been shown to significantly reduce markers of oxidative stress in the body ().
Summary Cranberries and cranberry pills contain very high levels of antioxidants, which protect your body from free radical damage linked to various chronic illnesses.
While research on cranberry pills is somewhat limited, studies on cranberry juice and cranberry extracts suggest they have following benefits:
- Improved heart health: Regularly drinking cranberry juice may lower your risk of heart disease by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, reducing inflammation and preventing cholesterol oxidation (, , , ).
- Protection against stomach ulcers: Certain compounds in cranberry juice can help eliminate H. pylori bacterial infections in the stomach, reducing your risk of stomach ulcers (, , , ).
- Better blood sugar control: Several studies have found that cranberry juice can significantly reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (, , ).
- Cancer protection: Test-tube and animal studies have shown that compounds found in cranberries may protect against cancer and slow the growth of tumors (, , , ).
- Healthier teeth and gums: The same cranberry compounds that prevent bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract also prevent bacteria from overgrowing in your mouth, thus reducing cavities and gum disease ().
- Increased immunity: Several small studies have found that compounds in cranberry juice can boost immunity and reduce symptoms of the flu (, , ).
More studies are needed to determine whether cranberry pills would have the same benefits, but studies on other cranberry products are promising.
Summary Cranberry juice and extracts may boost immunity, lower blood sugar in people with diabetes and protect against cancer, heart disease, stomach ulcers, cavities and gum disease. Cranberry pills may have similar effects, but more research is needed.
Since cranberries are so tart, many cranberry recipes and products contain lots of sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends that women and men consume no more than 25 and 37.5 grams of added sugar each day, respectively ().
Just one-fourth cup of canned cranberry sauce or one cup of a cranberry juice cocktail contains over 10 grams of added sugar, making it difficult to stay within these guidelines.
Eating large amounts of added sugar has been linked to the development of heart disease and diabetes, so it is wise to keep your intake in check (, , ).
Cranberry pills can be a great way to enjoy the health benefits of cranberries without the negative effects of added sugar.
Summary Many cranberry products contain a lot of sugar to mask cranberry’s naturally tart taste, but eating too much added sugar is bad for your health. Cranberry pills offer a way to experience the health benefits of cranberries without consuming extra sugar.
Cranberry pills are relatively well tolerated, but a handful of people have reported stomach discomfort, abdominal pain or increased urination after taking the pills (, , , ).
Cranberries are also high in salicylic acid, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound (, ).
Anyone who is allergic or sensitive to salicylates, including aspirin, may want to avoid cranberry pills since an adverse reaction is theoretically possible ().
Furthermore, those with a history of kidney stones should consult their doctor before taking cranberry supplements. Some research suggests that they may increase the risk of developing calcium-oxalate stones (, , ).
There have also been a few reported cases of cranberry supplements increasing the effects of the blood-thinning drug Warfarin, so it is important to consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new supplements (, ).
Summary Cranberry pills are relatively safe but may cause stomach upset in some people. Anyone with a sensitivity or allergy to salicylates, a history of kidney stones or those taking the blood-thinning drug Warfarin may want to avoid cranberry supplements.
There is no standard dosage for cranberry pills, and amounts can vary widely between brands.
In general, research has found that taking 500–1,500 mg of dried cranberry powder per day prevents urinary tract infections. Moreover, 1,200 mg of dried cranberry juice powder can reduce oxidative stress (, , , ).
Newer research has focused on the concentration of proanthocyanidins, as they are one of the main active ingredients in cranberry pills.
Products containing at least 25% proanthocyanidins or 36 mg per serving appear to be the most effective at preventing urinary tract infections (, , , ).
More research is needed to determine the ideal dosage for cranberry pills for various purposes.
Summary There is no official recommended dosage for cranberry pills, but taking at least 500 mg of powdered cranberry or 36 mg of proanthocyanidins per day appears to prevent urinary tract infections.
Cranberry pills are a great option for people who want to experience some of the health benefits of cranberries without having to eat them every day.
They are packed with antioxidants and can help reduce the frequency of urinary tract infections in some people.
Also, they may promote heart health, improve blood sugar control, boost immunity and protect against cancer, cavities and stomach ulcers.
Dosages of up to 1,500 mg per day are safe for most.
Cranberry pills may be worth a try for those who get frequent urinary tract infections or want some extra antioxidant support.