While you may be used to eating cranberries as a sauce at Thanksgiving or dried and tossed into a salad, many people also drink cranberry juice.
These sour fruits are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, and their juice is often said to offer a variety of benefits for women, in particular.
In fact, many people claim that cranberry juice helps prevent or treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Although scientific results are mixed, some studies suggest that cranberry juice is effective for this purpose - and may even have other benefits for women's health.
This article explores how cranberry juice affects women's health.
Rumors abound that cranberry juice may improve people's sex lives by changing the flavor of vaginal secretions.
While these claims are scientifically unfounded, some evidence suggests that cranberry juice may positively affect postmenopausal health, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, and signs of aging.
Some sources assert that drinking cranberry juice may improve sexual experiences by enhancing the flavor of vaginal secretions.
While one study list diets as one of several factors that influence the vagina's microbiome, no scientific evidence supports the claim that cranberry juice can improve vaginal taste ().
Thus, drinking cranberry juice is unlikely to boost your sex life.
Menopause marks the cessation of menstruation. It comes with a host of hormonal changes that may lead to unpleasant symptoms, such as mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and an increased risk of UTIs (, ).
Interestingly, animal studies indicate that cranberry juice may support postmenopausal health.
One older study in rats that had their ovaries removed found that regular cranberry intake reduced total cholesterol and other heart-health biomarkers. The removal of the rats' ovaries imitates the reduction in hormones after menopause in women ( 4).
All the same, human studies are needed.
May help prevent signs of aging and promote immunity
Cranberries are incredibly high in antioxidants, which are powerful compounds that help neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals in your body. These berries' antioxidants include vitamin C, quercetin, flavonoids, and anthocyanins ( 5, 6).
Processing berries into juice may cause some loss of antioxidants, but cranberry juice is still fairly high in these compounds. In fact, 1 cup (240 mL) of cranberry juice contains over 78% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C ().
This vitamin promotes immune health and proper collagen formation, which may increase your skin's elasticity and reduce signs of aging ().
Some studies also suggest that vitamin C supports heart health in women by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which may contribute to blockages in your arteries (, ).
Yet, studies have observed conflicting results, and more research is needed to understand the relationship between vitamin C and heart health.
Furthermore, test-tube studies indicate that quercetin may help prevent pancreatic, breast, and colon cancer, but human research is lacking ( 11).
May help ease PMS symptoms and prevent osteoporosis
Cranberry juice is a decent source of magnesium, containing 4% of the DV in 1 cup (240 mL) ().
This mineral - which many people don't get enough of - is essential for many body processes, including healthy bones and proper muscle function. A deficiency may contribute to muscle cramps ().
Increasing your magnesium intake may help muscles contract more effectively, resulting in less pain. As such, this mineral is thought to help ease PMS symptoms, which may include cramps ( 14).
What's more, magnesium is necessary for regulating bone density. Women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis - or bone density loss - later in life, especially after menopause when estrogen's protective effects on bones decrease (, ).
Thus, magnesium may help alleviate this condition.
During PMS, you may also experience anxiety, depression, lower back pain, and breast tenderness. One older review showed a significant decrease in these symptoms when women supplemented with magnesium ().
Still, the amount of magnesium in this review was far higher than what you'd get from drinking cranberry juice. As such, specific research on cranberry juice is needed.
While more human studies are necessary, cranberry juice may have several benefits for women's health. These include easing PMS symptoms, preventing osteoporosis, aiding postmenopausal health, and reducing signs of aging.
Cranberry juices and supplements have long been a popular folk remedy for treating or preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs).
This condition occurs when bacteria like E. coli enter and grow in your urinary tract - your ureters, bladder, urethra, or kidneys.
People with a vagina are at greater risk of these infections, in part due to their anatomy. Sexual activity and pregnancy also increase your risk (, ).
Mild UTI symptoms include a painful, burning sensation when urinating, while a UTI left untreated may cause serious complications like a kidney infection.
The most common treatment for a UTI is antibiotics, though these antibiotics may have long-term side effects and kill some of the good bacteria in your gut (, , 22, ).
Therefore, many people are interested in preventing these infections in the first place.
Proanthocyanidins, a type of tannin found in cranberries, inhibit bacteria like E. coli from adhering to the wall of your urinary tract. In turn, this may help stop bacteria from increasing in number and causing infection ().
Evidence about cranberries and UTI prevention is mixed, but studies tend to suggest a moderate correlation between cranberries or cranberry juice and UTI prevention (, ).
However, no evidence shows that cranberry juice can treat UTIs. If you suspect you already have an infection, you should visit your doctor ().
Some evidence suggests that cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs, though results are mixed - and no research indicates that this juice can treat UTIs.
There's very limited data on how much cranberry juice is effective for UTI prevention or other potential health benefits. The same is true for supplements, so you'll likely find differing dosages.
One review on UTI prevention used a variety of doses.
For example, a group in one study drank 0.23 ounces (6.8 mL) of Ocean Spray cranberry juice per pound (15 mL per kg) of body weight. In another study, people took NOW beetroot capsules containing 8 grams of cranberry extract once per day ().
If you take cranberry pills, never exceed the dosage recommendation on the label.
If you want to know a specific amount of juice to drink or need a particular dosage, consult a doctor or registered dietitian (RD).
There's no set dosage of cranberry juice for UTI prevention or any other potential health benefits. To determine a safe and effective dosage, talk to a doctor or RD.
The main downside of cranberry juice is that store-bought blends often contain other juices or add a lot of sugar to make the drink more palatable, as cranberry juice is very sour on its own.
As such, you should avoid any cranberry juice blend that's less than 100% juice, contains added sugar, or lists a different juice as its first ingredient.
Pure, unsweetened cranberry juice is the most straightforward, healthiest option. Still, it may be expensive.
You can also purchase cranberry supplements, which are more concentrated than juice. While these may seem more effective, a greater quantity doesn't necessarily provide a greater benefit or faster result.
Finally, large doses of cranberry extract may enhance the effects of warfarin, a blood thinner. Even if you don't take this medication, it's imperative that you check with your doctor before starting any new supplement ( 29).
Commercial cranberry juices are often loaded with added sugar or sweetened with other fruit juices. Aim to buy pure, unsweetened cranberry juice if possible.
Rumors about cranberry juice boosting vaginal flavor are unfounded.
All the same, this juice boasts vitamin C, magnesium, and various antioxidants. Evidence suggests that these nutrients may boost immune health, ease PMS symptoms, and promote bone density in women.
Cranberry juice may also help prevent UTIs, though scientific results are mixed.