Cranberry pills are a super-convenient way to get the health benefits of cranberry, which span everything from bladder health to fighting bacterial infection and preventing ulcers.
Cranberry is a highly targeted supplement, so if you want a supplement to take for bladder function, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and overall antioxidant levels, cranberry pills could be a smart choice.
Here’s what the latest research says about how you can make the most of cranberry pills.
Cranberry pill benefits
1. Cranberry pills may help prevent bladder infections
Bladder and urinary tract infections are cranberry’s biggest claims to fame.
Cranberry works by keeping bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder, turning a potential infection that a bacterial water slide because your urine will flush them all out (1).
Taking cranberry on a regular basis works to prevent bacteria from turning bad and sticking to your bladder as seen in one review of 77 patients taking cranberry juice to prevent bladder infections (2).
2. Cranberry could also treat bladder infections
If you haven’t been taking your cranberry on a regular basis and have come down with a bladder infection don’t worry, cranberry still has your back.
Researchers tested out how cranberry affects men and women with a bladder infection and saw that cranberry juice can treat bladder infections in addition to preventing them (3).
3. Cranberry has been used to fight ulcers
Facts are that 1 out of 2 men and women are estimated to be housing H. pylori bacteria in their stomach.
This is not the good kind of bacteria. In fact, H. pylori leads to ulcers, gastric cancer, and other complications. Just as cranberry keeps bacteria from sticking to the walls of your bladder and urinary tract, it also shakes H. pylori loose from your stomach walls in just one week (4).
4. Cranberry fights cavities thanks to its antibacterial properties
Due to cranberry’s ability to stop bacteria from planting their flag on the walls of your body, cranberry is also useful for fighting cavities.
Without a place for bacteria to attach too, you have a lower incidence of cavities (5).
Similarly, you have a lower incidence of gum disease when you regularly enjoy cranberry as illustrated in the research (6).
The one drawback for oral health with cranberry use is that cranberry is acidic. If you consume cranberry before brushing your teeth you can weaken a brush off the enamel.
I recommend either waiting at least an hour between consuming cranberry juice and brushing your teeth.
5. Cranberry fights respiratory infections
Turns out that cranberry also inhibits bacteria from sticking to the walls of your respiratory system (7).
There’s even evidence that cranberry can lower the chance of the flu virus invading your cells and getting you sick (8).
6. Cranberry has potent anti-aging benefits.
Along with anthocyanins, red cranberries also pack a super nutrient called resveratrol (9). Resveratrol is so popular because it’s seen to pack in many benefits in terms of anti-aging, both in terms of making you look younger and improving your internal health to fight certain types of cancer (10).
Finally, although cranberry is good for your health, it does not prevent heart disease. Researchers back up this claim by giving two groups of women a drink for two weeks. One group had cranberry juice while the other just had a placebo. As a result, researchers found no significant differences.
While these antioxidants showed promise in the test tubes, it may be that they are less effective in the human body.
Going deeper, it may be that I source of cranberry may have been mixed with sugar or other ingredients to reduce the sour taste of cranberry juice and interfering with the effects.
The bottom line here is that more research is needed to claim that cranberry does or doesn’t prevent heart disease.
7. Cranberry is high in antioxidants
It turns out that many of the same benefits that blueberries (they’re cousins) have also carry over to cranberries. Sure, blueberries and blue and cranberries are red BUT both have anthocyanin and high antioxidant levels (10).
8. Cranberry is a great for fat loss
Another great option is to simply drink unsweetened cranberry juice. This by itself has many benefits for weight loss. Part of what makes cranberry juice so sour are all the organic acids inside. These acids actually help to increase metabolism and promote fat oxidation, in other words, they speed up fat burning (11).
Similarly, you can replace your soda habit with cranberry juice and carbonated water to add flavor to your drinks but avoid all the added sugar to dramatically boost your fat burning results.
Tip: When you combine them with other fruits, protein powders, or different ingredients you can hide the taste and still reap the benefits.
9. Cranberry works to strengthen skin
Cranberry is a big source of vitamin C. In fact, it has many different yes of vitamin C, or ascorbic acids, which increases absorption into your body compared to your typical vitamin C supplement (12).
Vitamin C works to improve connective tissue, which translates to better skin health- and no scurvy!
With cranberry as a part of your daily diet you’ll notice that your skin becomes tighter, softer, and more youthful (13).
10. Cranberry fights dandruff
Due to the acidity and variety of vitamins and nutrients in cranberry, cranberry juice can also fight dandruff.
Dandruff is an issue with the pH of your scalp. Basically, your skin is not putting out the right amount of oils and becomes dry, flaky, and can halt hair growth in its tracks.
Because cranberry is acidic it can rebalance the pH and promote your scalp to produce more oil naturally (14). At the same time, it is also nourishing and strengthening your hair with its abundance of vitamins A, E, and C.
11. Cranberry might raise HDL cholesterol
While much of the scientific research on the benefits of cranberry pill supplementation is focused on its applications in urinary tract health, its wider antioxidant abilities have attracted some attention recently.
A paper published by a group of researchers in Iran examined the effects of a cranberry pill supplement on overweight and obese women (15).
The researchers found an increase in HDL cholesterol in the cranberry pill group. HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, is so named because higher levels of HDL are associated with a decreased risk for a number of chronic diseases, like heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Cranberry pill side effects
Cranberry pills may amplify effects of blood thinners. Salicylic acid is a natural substance most popularly taken in the form of aspirin but is found in other natural foods.
It turns out cranberry is one of those foods (16). Salicylic acid can amplify the effects of blood thinners like warfarin (17).
Definitely ask a physician if any medications you take could react with common foods, herbal supplements, or other supplements you take on a regular basis, since cranberry pills could trigger that interaction as well.
Cranberry may cause kidney stones. Some research indicates that cranberry pills can cause oxalate formation, which can increase the strain on your kidneys and lead to kidney stones (18). This was just one case report, but it might be smart not to take cranberry pills without talking to your doctor if you have a history of kidney stones.
Cranberry can trigger aspirin allergies. Another downside of cranberries is that the salicylic acid we talked about earlier. Remember, salicylic acid is the main component of aspirin as well.
This means that those men and women suffering from aspirin allergies can also be allergic to cranberries (19).
Cranberry pill dosage
For best results take twice a day. With these food based supplements, the effects are usually dose-dependent, meaning is the more you consume the more apparent the effects.
Aim for 300-400 mg per day. According to the top research studies out there, the ideal amount of cranberry you want a day is 300 mg – 400 mg twice a day (20). If you’re favoring cranberry juice over the capsules then you’ll want 8-16 ounces a day split up into at least two cups (21).
Of course, this is only up to a point where the side effects can negate all the positive results we’re looking for. Cranberry juice can have blood thinning effects and those get amplified too with dosage, so you want to be careful about going too high as well.
Cranberry pills benefits FAQ
Q: How are cranberry pills made?
A: Cranberry pills are made by powderizing the extract of the cranberry fruit, which is made by taking raw cranberries, crushing them and soaking them in a solvent, then filtering off the solid material left in the solution.
This liquid cranberry extract is then dried into a powder, which is pressed into tablets or formulated into a capsule. Some companies take the extra step of measuring the proanthocyanidin content at this point.
Proanthocyanidins are thought to be responsible for the antibacterial effect of cranberry, which is why their concentration in a cranberry extract is important.
Q: Are cranberry pills safe when pregnant?
A: One study published in the Journal of Population Therapeutics & Clinical Pharmacology in 2008 argues that there is no direct evidence of safety or harm to the mother or the fetus due to consuming cranberry (22).
The authors of this paper cite experimental evidence, plus a survey of 400 pregnant women which did not find any adverse effects associated with cranberry juice consumption.
A randomized controlled trial also published in 2008 did note that a substantial proportion of the women in the study who were assigned to take cranberry juice withdrew due to an upset stomach, which they attributed to the aggressive dosage protocol (drinking cranberry juice three times per day) (23).
Finally, a 2013 cohort study of women in Norway found no adverse birth outcomes associated with cranberry juice consumption during pregnancy (24).
Still, you should talk to your doctor first.
Q: What do cranberry pills do?
A: Cranberry pills contain powerful antioxidants, but they are unique because they contain high concentrations of a type of compound called proanthocyanidins.
These molecules seem to have the ability to inhibit the natural mechanisms that harmful bacteria use to adhere to your cells, which has led to a surge of research into whether this mechanism could help prevent infections or improve the bacterial microbiome inside your body.
On the infection front, some (but not all) research shows that cranberry pills do seem to exert a small but measurable protective effect compared to placebo when it comes to preventing urinary tract infections among people at risk for developing a UTI.
Q: Can you take cranberry pills every day?
A: Most studies on using cranberry pills, particularly for preventing UTIs, use a daily dose of cranberry pills.
Older research used large volumes of cranberry juice, consumed two or even three times per day, but these studies had problems with high dropout rates, because of the upset stomach that you can get from consuming a lot of cranberry juice every day.
However, the good news is that even in the context of these studies, there are no reports of serious adverse effects.
Related: Our best cranberry pill picks
Cranberry pills are an all-natural supplement that target bladder health and combat harmful bacteria in your body.
Cranberry pills work by inhibiting the ability of harmful bacteria to adhere to your body’s cells and to each other, making them easier for your immune system to eliminate.
Research indicates that when taken on a regular basis, cranberry might help fight urinary tract infections (UTIs), improve bladder health, and reduce GI problems from bacteria in your digestive tract.