Many people are taking cranberry pills as a healthy whole food supplement for better skin and hair and other anti-aging benefits.
(It's also widely used to prevent and treat bladder infections, ulcers and tumors)
You see, when you take a whole food and powder you bring in not just one ingredient like they do in other supplements. You bring in active components, cofactors, and other supportive nutrients that amplify absorption and the end result.
Plus there are thousands of phytonutrients, or plant-specific chemicals, you are ingesting that researchers haven’t even isolated and discovered yet.
A great example of this is with cranberry supplements found as juices, fresh and frozen fruit, tablets, and pills. As you’ll see cranberry is one of the most versatile supplements out there showing that sometimes nature gets it right all by itself.
Our research team found the best cranberry supplements:
1. PureCo Cranberry Concentrate
If all you want is a cranberry extract with no added ingredients, PureCo Cranberry Concentrate is a winner. The dosage is high, at 500 mg of cranberry extract per serving, and there are zero extraneous ingredients, save for the bare minimum needed to keep the vegetarian capsules together.
Ellura is a cranberry extract made specifically for urinary tract health. It contains 36 mg of proanthocyanidins per pill, which are the active ingredient in cranberries that help urinary health.
It’s a strong, highly pure and refined form of cranberry extract that you might call “medical-grade,” even though it’s available over the counter.
3. Sunergetic Kidney Cleanse
This is a prime example of a targeted cranberry extract pill. The main ingredient is still cranberries, but it has a wide array of other ingredients that are targeted towards the same task; namely, a kidney cleanse. It’s a strong candidate for a kidney cleanse, but shouldn’t be used as a general purpose cranberry supplement.
4. Schiff Cranberry Extract
Each serving of Schiff Cranberry Extract provides 500 mg of the raw cranberry extract, making it a good choice for general-purpose supplementation.
It may not have the purity of the highly refined forms, but those lack some of the other active ingredients that likely have ancillary health benefits.
5. Puritan’s Pride Natural Cranberry Fruit Concentrate
Puritan’s Pride makes a great cranberry pill that provides 500 mg of a 50:1 cranberry concentrate with no additives or superfluous ingredients. The only drawback? The capsule is gelatin-based, so strict vegans will have to look elsewhere.
6. AZO Cranberry
With 500 mg of cranberry extract per serving, plus 120 mg of vitamin C, AZO Cranberry is a good cranberry supplement for general health and well-being. With the extra antioxidant power of vitamin C, the supplement will fight oxidative damage and inflammation even better.
The downside with an all-purpose supplement like this is that it doesn’t have the purity you may need for specific uses, like bladder or kidney cleansing.
7. Zhou Nutrition Cranberry Extra Strength
Though Zhou Nutrition's cranberry offering claims it is “extra strength,” it’s more like half strength compared to several of its competitors.
It does have some vitamin C and vitamin E, but doesn't really distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.
8. Pure Healthland Cranberry Concentrate
Whenever a new supplement makes a splash, lots of smaller companies try to cash in by creating their own version of the supplement.
That seems to be the case with Pure Healthland; there’s nothing particularly unique or different about their product, and it’s at half-strength compared to the better cranberry pills out there.
9. Nature’s Bounty Cranberry Fruit
Nature’s Bounty appears to provide a very high dosage of cranberries, but the actual amount of extract is fairly low.
Each serving contains 168 mg of a standardized extract, and while this is equal to 8.4 grams of cranberries, other products offer far higher concentrations.
10. Nature Made Super Strength Cranberry Plus
Unfortunately, this supplement is a case of a big company cutting some cash by offering a supplement with a low concentration.
Quality cranberry extracts use a 50:1 concentrate, while Nature Made only uses a 15:1 concentrate. That means you are getting a far lower dosage of the active ingredients in the cranberries.
Cranberry benefits and side effects
Prevents 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 bladd infections (2).
Cranberry treats 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).
Cranberry treats 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).
Cranberry fights cavities. 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.
Cranberry shrinks tumors. On the Petri dish, cranberry is seen to crush cancer cells and spare healthy cells (7).
Adding a bit more complexity, studies in rats show that cranberry juice can slow down human breast cancer cell growth (8). Your best option is to consume cranberry before you know you have cancer to prevent it in the first place. While cranberry juice may not kill cancer, it can prevent it from growing or slow down the growth giving you more time to fight the tumor and end up thriving.
Cranberry fights respiratory infections. Turns out that cranberry also inhibits bacteria from sticking to the walls of your respiratory system (9).
There's even evidence that cranberry can lower the chance of the flu virus invading your cells and getting you sick (10). All these benefits and NO needles, sounds like a win to me.
Cranberry has potent anti-aging benefits. Along with anthocyanins, red cranberries also pack a super nutrient called resveratrol (11). 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 (12).
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.
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 (13).
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 (14).
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.
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 (15).
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 (16).
Cranberry can treat and prevent acne. Another great reason to use cranberry juice topically is because it fights acne. Because cranberry tends to loosen bacterial binding it is seen to remove bacteria from pores and reduce the occurrence of acne (17).
You can dab cranberry juice on with a cotton ball to quickly and easily start seeing results.
Cranberry promotes healthy hair growth. Cranberry is a significant source of fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A and E. Three vitamins are key for healthy hair growth (18).
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 (19). At the same time, it is also nourishing and strengthening your hair with its abundance of vitamins A, E, and C.
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 (20). Now, this isn't a big issue for most of the population, so might not have to worry. In fact, it may even help lower blood pressure and improve heart health a bit.
On the other hand, there are some men and women out there who are sensitive to salicylic acid will have the same allergic reaction to therapeutic doses of cranberry (21).
Another caution against supplementing with cranberry is that the salicylic acid can amplify the effects of blood thinners like warfarin (22). Drug interactions from whole foods are dangerous because they’re often underreported. The average person is either unaware that everyday foods can interact with the drugs they take OR they don’t think it’s worth mentioning to their doctor.
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.
Cranberry can cause kidney stones in tablet form. Cranberry tablets, by their nature, need to include binders and other additives. Research shows that this can increase the strain on your kidneys and actually increase your risk of getting kidney stones (23).
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 (24).
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.
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 (25). 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 (26).
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 is a whole food supplement that may interact with some medications but is generally very safe.
The biggest benefit to cranberries is that they seem to work all over the body in dislodging dangerous bacteria that can cause infections in your gut, urinary tract, lungs, and even cause acne.
Cranberry can easily be added to your diet, but spray-dried powder pills or cranberry juice are the two most convenient options for you to consume significant amounts of cranberry each and every day.