As a foreign observer of American culture, I am bemused by the nation's relationship to cranberries. About this time of year, boxes of cranberries can be found stacked ceiling high in every food store before they make it to groaning Thanksgiving tables. Yet, Americans clearly, secretly detest cranberries. Only 5% of cranberries produced every year are sold fresh to consumers, presumably to accompany the annual turkey. So, I started musing on whether this bitter berry could become our cosmetic friend.
Cranberries are a source of vitamin C, but they really come into their own as an antioxidant due to the high presence of polyphenols. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of 100g of cranberries is 9,584. A University of Maine study compared cranberries to 22 other fruits and found that they had the highest number of phenols, leaving red grapes standing. And in a University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth study of 20 different fruit juices, cranberry juice had the highest total phenol content and "the highest radical scavenging capacity among the different fruits studied".
There are several flavonoids in cranberries, including quercetin. According to Cornell University, quercetin has the highest antioxidant capacity of all the flavonoids. Furthermore, cranberries are a good source of tocotrienols, a member of the vitamin E family that protects the skin from sun damage.