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Dr. Neal’s Top Herbs for Women’s Health: Maca Root and Cranberry

Wait — May isn’t over quite yet!

June is looming on the horizon and with it the promise of vacations and vitamin D boosts, but we’re still firmly in Women’s Health Month for another few days. While we’d need the whole year, at least, to really do the topic justice, we’re going to use the time we have to talk about herbs for women’s health. 

Didn’t we already talk about a few popular plants for ladies this month? We sure did, but you might have noticed that two big ones were missing from that blog. If you didn’t, don’t worry, we’re not maca-ing you for forgetting about these two heavy hitters: Maca root and cranberry

These particular herbs deserved their own post — there’s just too much pertinent information to share about them to cran it in somewhere else. 

And before you close this tab: We’ll check the plant puns here so you can read on, fellow supporters of women’s health, and learn more about using these two herbs properly unencumbered by our bad jokes.

In This Article

Cranberry Supplements for Women: Are They Worth the Hype?

Fortunately for women all across the country, cranberry supplements and products have become widely accessible. Unfortunately for those same women… they now can’t buy an innocent bottle of cranberry juice without alerting all cashiers and passersby to the fact they might have a UTI. 

Cranberry has found its way to the supplement aisles of every major health foods store in the last year, labeled and sold as an herb for urinary tract health. This is all fine and good, but it’s important to remember that cranberry is also a plant and a food, so the lines can get blurry. 

Should you drink the juice? Every day? Or should you eat cranberries like they’re going out of style?

How do you compare and contrast the dozens of near-identical cranberry supplements lining the shelves? And what the heck is d-mannose? 

There’s a lot of confusion around the role of the cranberry and how it can help stop a UTI in its tracts. (Sorry, we promised a pun-free experience, please disregard.) 

So let’s break it down! There are two important ingredients in cranberry that you need to know: proanthocyanidins and d-mannose.

Understanding Proanthocyanidins (PACs) in Cranberry Supplements

We perceive cranberries as red. The chemical compounds that contribute to the red color we see in cranberries are called proanthocyanidins, or PACs for short. 

PACs belong to the flavanol family and were first studied for their role as plant pigments. The PACs in cranberries are special, though, as they have a different structure than the ones we see in other colorful fruits. This difference in structure is likely what gives cranberry its anti-adhesion properties, which play a key role in its UTI support functions. 

By preventing the adhesion of gross bacteria in the urinary tract, the PACs in cranberry can help keep things like E. Coli from taking root on cell walls. 

Understanding D-Mannose in Cranberry Supplements

D-mannose, on the other hand, is a monosaccharide, or sugar, found in the cranberry plant. This cousin of glucose is found in many other fruits and even the human body, so there’s no need to be frightened by the S-word in this context.

While we typically associate sugar with detrimental health effects, d-mannose and its ability to support UTIs has been studied extensively in recent years. Turns out, it can not only help with acute infections, but also with recurrent or chronic UTIs, too.

How? D-mannose, like the PACs, prevents the adhesion of harmful bacteria to the surface of the urinary bladder.

Picking the Right Cranberry Supplements for UTIs

Knowing the names of these two compounds in cranberry makes choosing the right supplement, juice, fruit, or powder much more simple. It automatically eliminates most of the cranberry food, powder, and juice products available as these forms won’t have information on the PACs and d-mannose content in them. 

So we turn to supplements, and more specifically, the cranberry supplements that clearly list the doses of these two things. Like our formulation

Can you still eat cranberries and drink the juice to expand your palate and get more diverse nutrient sources? Absolutely! 

But if you’re suffering from acute or chronic UTIs, a comprehensive supplement with PACs and d-mannose that can flush out the icky stuff is the way to go. For major infections that need major doses, Dr. Neal recommends pure d-mannose powder down the hatch. 

Everything You Need to Know About Maca Root

Maca root, while relatively unheard of up until recent years, has now become the catch-all recommendation for everything women’s health (besides UTIs): hormones, menopause, fertility, etc. 

Like cranberry supplements, the marketing of maca root products has lead to a lot of misinformation in the natural health industry. Which is particularly unfortunate, given what a helpful and potent herb maca root is. 

Maca root is typically represented as a totally safe, totally natural option for uplifting everything from libido and fertility to heart and brain function. While the herb has been shown to act as a “toner of hormonal processes,” balancing hormones and relieving menopause symptoms, we have to be careful to not paint with broad strokes. 

Why? Because much like how every body is different, every phenotype of maca root is different, too. 

There are 10+ different phenotypes of the maca plant and the particular kind of phenotype you ingest will dictate the response your body has. Some phenotypes have strong male-hormone expression and some have stronger female-hormone expression. 

But what all the maca supplements you can find these days will have in common is a complete lack of information on the particular phenotype used in each formulation. 

Finding the Right Maca Root Supplement

It’s for that reason, and others, that herb-literate practitioners like Dr. Neal don’t recommend one particular maca root supplement for all people. (But for those who are dying to know, his favorite brand is Femmenessence.)

If you want to experience the benefits of this potent plant, you’ll have to play it safe. The dosage, phenotype, duration, and frequency of maca supplementation are all things that should be individualized for your specific needs with the help of a supplement expert or medical professional. 

So if you supplement cabinet is overflowing with various types of maca-matcha powders and miracle pills, it might be time to do some spring cleaning. 

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Whether you’re rushing to stock up on d-mannose powder or pondering the potential benefits of maca powder, our team of science-focused supplement strategists are here to help.

Because, though we do our best to condense complex ideas into scrollable blogs, women’s health is a complicated topic with no one-size-fits-all approach available. So let’s chat about what you — and your body, health, history, goals — need to thrive, from supplements to wellness practices and everything in between.


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