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Alpine Cranberry

  • Vaccinium vitis idaea L.
  • Vaccinium macrocarpon
  • Heath family

Common Names

herbsRed bilberry
herbsWhortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L. or bilberry)

Parts Usually Used

Leaves, berries

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Alpine cranberry is a small evergreen plant; grows from a creeping rootstock to a height of 4-10 inches. The leaves are alternate, obovate, pale green with brown spots underneath, and have rolled edges. Its reddish-white, bell-shaped flowers grow in a terminal cluster from May to August. The fruit is a red berry.

Where Found

Grows in European coniferous forests with dry soil and also in mountain marshes.

Medicinal Properties

Leaves: antiseptic, astringent, diuretic

Berries: astringent, refrigerant

Legends, Myths and Stories

The common cranberry is called "Mui" by the Chinese because the shape of the fruit resembles a small plum or tiny peach. Bottled commercial cranberry juice (not cranberry drinks) can be substituted for fresh when the fresh cranberry is not available. Drink 4 to 6 oz. of juice 3 times a day for urinary infections. Repeat this dosage at least 2 to 3 weeks until results are obtained, or longer if necessary. Bedwetting conditions can be treated with 4 ounces of the juice once a day, around 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Commercially prepared cranberry juice beverages are often laden with sugar and high in calories. Be sure to obtain the pure juice.


The infusion of the leaves is used for bladder problems. Alpine cranberry can be substituted for bearberry in recipes and formulas, using double the amount of leaves and it tastes much better. A decoction of the leaves is used for gout and rheumatism. The berries are good to eat and help increase the appetite; can be used for diarrhea.

Formulas or Dosages

Gather leaves after the berries are ripe.

Cold extract: use 1 tbsp. leaves with 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 hours.

Decoction: use 1 heaping tsp. dried leaves to 1/2 cup water. Take unsweetened, a mouthful at a time.

Nutrient Content

Vitamins A and C

How Sold

Commercially prepared cranberry juice beverages are often laden with sugar and high in calories. Capsules of cranberry extract are available in health food stores and are not only more potent but fewer calories.

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