August 08, 2010

Crazy Cranberry Cures

The Boston Globe ran an article this week about a worldwide cranberry surplus. Farmers are growing more berries than in the past, and prices are dropping! To help increase global demand, the Cranberry Marketing Committee has been touting the alleged anitbacterial and antiaging powers of this tart little berry.

Cranberries are indigenous to New England, and their health benefits been speculated about for centuries. For example, I recently purchased a copy of the Lydia Marie Child's 1828 book, The American Frugal Housewife, which contains home remedies as well as recipes and household tips. Are you suffering from a corn on your foot? Use a cranberry, Mrs. Child says!

A corn may be extracted from the foot by binding on half a raw cranberry, with the cut side of the fruit upon the foot. I have a known a very old and troublesome corn drawn out in this way, in the course of a few nights.

I suppose I can see how this might work. Cranberries are acidic, so maybe the acid helps to dissolve the corn? However, I don't think this next cure would work at all.

The Indians have great belief in the efficacy of poultices of stewed cranberrries, for the the relief of cancers. They apply them fresh and warm every ten or fifteen minutes, night and day. Whether this will effect a cure I know not; I simply know that the Indians strongly recommend it.

OK, not even the Cranberry Marketing Committee would say that's an effective cure for cancer. Part of me wants to laugh at how quaint this cure is, but it also makes me realize how primitive medicine was in the early 19th century. There was no chemo, radiation or surgery available for cancer, so why not apply a poultice of cranberries? It probably couldn't hurt, and there weren't any other effective options.

Although Mrs. Child's medical knowledge seems simple by today's standards, she was quite progressive for her day. Born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1802, she wrote a scandalous novel about a white woman who marries an Indian (Hobomok), was an advocate for women's rights and the abolition of slavery, and published the first monthly American magazine for children. She also wrote the Thanksgiving poem Over the River and Through the Woods, for which she is perhaps most famous.


Tinky said...

Hi, Peter--As long as you're venturing into food here (I love cranberries, although I'm not about to try them for corns, let alone cancer), I'm hoping to persuade you to participate in an upcoming blogathon I'm hosting with some help from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and Mass Farmers Markets.

Loving Local: Celebrating the Flavors of Massachusetts invites bloggers to write about SOMETHING to do with food and the state during the week of August 22-28. It's a fund raiser for Mass Farmers Markets but also just a fun, informative entity.

Please consider joining the feast.

Information may be found on my blog at or on our Facebook page at

Tinky for Loving Local

Tinky "Dakota" Weisblat
Hawley, MA

Rich Clabaugh said...

Thanks for the post Peter! Although I can't vouch for these remedies, I do believe there are some natural remedies/cures to be had from nature, whether it was lost to time or yet to be discovered.