Cranberries as Medicine
Today many people rely on cranberry’s antioxidant power, thanks to a high level of proanthocyanidins, a class of polyphenols that gives the berry it's red color and are also associated with helping to prevent just about every chronic disease we can think of. In fact, cranberry has one of the most powerful antioxidant loads of any food and our busy scientists are creating units of measure for such things: so "1750 ORAC units per 100 grams of cranberry" is considered "off the chart". The anticancer activities of cranberry proanthocyanidins are currently under study and recent reports suggest that apoptosis (programmed cell death) may play a key role in cranberry’s ability to limit tumor cell growth. This is so interesting to me because the 'programmed cell death' of apoptosis, which is in the functioning of all of our healthy cells, is often shifted in cancer cells so they don't die. Could it be that cranberries help our cells (yes even our cancer cells for they are 'ours' too) get back on line as part of the whole? Is it possible, and that simple, for plants to remind our cells of such things when things are going awry? I actually believe this to be true and that it happens all the time. And you?
Yes, it's also true that when you go to the ER or many doctor's offices today with a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) it's becoming routine to be asked when you started taking cranberry. This is what progress looks like! However, they're usually unaware of the best ways to work this sour red jewel into our bladder healing dose wise and sweetener wise too. It has to be sour my friends, and this is not a favorite taste among many. Our kidneys love sour. The medicine travels to them via our blood stream through the sour components that are anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antimicrobial. This deters bacteria from staying attached to the mucous linings and making their way deeper up to the kidneys where we can court urosepsis (bacteria entering the blood through the urinary tract) if allowed to fester even further.
So in speaking to cranberry as a medicine, finding ways to get cranberry into the body in a sour form begins with dropping the need for comfort through taste as the top priority. Too much sugar or corn syrup is added to many cranberry products. Read labels. My children were schooled early on this over-rated flavor thing when it comes to 'medicine'. Chug it down with a water and grape juice chaser if need be. Capsules are an option but yes, it's expensive. You need at lease twelve 500mg caps per day for a week or more. They work. Tinctures are an option too but many nutrients do not translate through the extraction process like they do with apple cider vinegar, and I do believe this is part of the medicinal qualities.
The good news is cranberry doesn't always have to be taken in medicinal doses. Of course you already know this with all the ways it's woven into holiday seasonal foods. It all comes back to the beauty way of Nature here too. Intense antioxidant power offered ripe at a time of year when needed most. Perfect, eh? One year I made a cranberry gin, which is basically a cranberry tincture, and we enjoyed it with spicy ginger beer and fresh lime. So delicious! Period. Even gin haters tried it and loved this one.
So we created a holiday oxymel recipe (oxymels are apple cider vinegar and honey based herbal elixirs) this year that can be taken in small sips or diluted in sparking or warm water as a way to support restoration at the end of the year while we enter deeper hibernation ways of the mind, the body, and the soul. This is potent too in higher doses if needed for something like a UTI or adrenal and kidney fatigue. Yes, I know it's too late to drink this now if you haven't made it for the Solstice, but when you follow the old calendars set to Nature's rhythms, you celebrate a holiday every 6 weeks! It seems the soul needs this as a good medicine way to off set the harsh realities we weather in life and to stay entrained with the cycles of Nature. So the next holiday is Imbolc on February 1st or 2nd and this would be great for that night of true intention setting for the year. New Year's eve, and all of January for that matter, are to help us get clear on what we really want to say, create, and commit to at Imbolc. So I say start a batch of this as part of the Winter Solstice celebration and it will be ready for then at Imbolc. Just a thought on how to keep it simple. Drink a newly created one each holiday while putting up a fresh new one for the next holiday sounds good.
Cranberry & Juniper Oxymel - The Recipe
Intention: Restoration and rejuvenation of all adrenals and kidneys within our home this winter. Yes, we're more than these parts but we're honoring then upfront today by speaking kindly, honoring rest, adjusting what we 'do', and making medicine for them. It's been a busy, long, turbulent year here, and for many this calls for some good easy restorative medicine that can fall into 'tasting good' too.
Yield: Makes just shy of one quart and you can easily double it to get your whole household supported to spring time.
INGREDIENTS: (helpful properties)
So Easy! Takes 15 minutes to put together and most of that is some wait time. Read through before starting so it's super clear.
Enjoy! Our third son Cyrus was born today 14 years ago. Sweet memories with tangy sweet notes all along the way to now infuse this tribe with the real essence of who he is. We're sipping this one together like the good old times. I love him forever.
May your Solstice be tangy and sweet with a bit of something extra you love. xo-Jen
Jennifer Costa, Herbalist, Teacher, BS, RN, CST, and Founder of ElderMoon School of Herbs & Earth Medicine