Uva Ursi
   

Uva Ursi
Botanical Name:  Arctostaphylos uva ursi
Common Names:  Bearberry, beargrape
 
Overview
Plant Description
Parts Used
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi), also known as bearberry, has a history of medicinal use dating back to the 2nd century. Native Americans used it as a remedy for urinary tract infections; in fact, until the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, uva ursi was the treatment of choice for such bladder and related infections. Through modern day scientific research in test tubes and animals, uva ursi's antimicrobial properties, which can fight infection, and diuretic effects have been demonstrated. No studies on people have been done yet, however.


Plant Description

Uva ursi is a trailing evergreen shrub that flourishes in alpine forests in many regions, including North America, Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Siberia, and the Himalayas. The plant thrives in humus-rich soil. Uva ursi is a dwarfed evergreen perennial with short, creeping, red-brown branches. Pink or white bell-shaped flowers bloom in the spring. Bears are said to be fond of the shiny, bright red or pink berries, which are edible but sour tasting.


Parts Used

The leaves, and not the berries, are used in medicinal preparations.


Medicinal Uses and Indications

Uva ursi is used to treat urinary tract infections, cystitis (bladder inflammation), and kidney stones. The hydroquinone derivative, arbutin, is the chief active compound in uva ursi. It is absorbed in the stomach and converted into a substance with antimicrobial, astringent, and disinfectant properties. During urination, as it passes out of the body, it acts on the mucus membranes of the urinary tract to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation, and fight infection.


Available Forms

Uva ursi is commercially available as crushed leaf or powder preparations.


How to Take It

Pediatric

Uva ursi is not recommended for use in children under 12 years of age.

Adult

Recommended adult doses are:

  • Dried herb (available in capsules): 1.5 to 2.5 grams, three to four times per day
  • Tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 heaping teaspoon of dried herb. Steep for 15 minutes. Drink up to four times per day.
  • Dry extract: 100 to 210 milligrams hydroquinone derivatives (as water-free arbutin) one to four times per day
  • Liquid extract (1:1, 25% alcohol): 1.5 to 2.5 mL (30 to 75 drops), three to four times per day
  • Tincture (1:5): 2 to 4 mL (60 to 90 drops), three to four times per day

Uva ursi should not be taken for more than one week at a time; see Precautions section for more details.


Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

Because uva ursi requires an alkaline urine for its antimicrobial properties to work, those taking uva ursi should avoid eating acidic foods like citrus, pineapple, tomato. Taking some baking soda is a good way to keep the urine alkaline. Uva ursi should only be taken for short periods (no longer than a week), and not repeated more than five times in one year.

While uva ursi is considered generally safe when taken in recommended doses and for brief periods, side effects have been reported. These include nausea and vomiting, irritability, insomnia, and an increased heart rate.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take uva ursi. It is also not recommended for those with high blood pressure.


Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use uva ursi without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Corticosteroids
Based upon animal studies conducted in Japan, uva ursi may increase the anti-inflammatory effects of corticosteroid medications (such as prednisolone and dexamethasone) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; commonly used for pain and inflammation, including ibuprofen and indomethacin). Additional studies are needed to confirm whether uva ursi could increase the effects of these medications in people.


Supporting Research

Beaux D, Fleurentin J, Mortier F. Effect of extracts of Orthosiphon stamineus Benth, Hieracium pilosella L., Sambucus nigra L. and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. in rats. Phytother Res. 1999;13(3):222-225.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:389-393.

Bradley P, ed. British Herbal Compendium. Vol. I. Dorset, England: British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992:211-213.

Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:375-376.

Grases F, Melero G, Costa-Bauza A, Prieto R, March JG. Urolithiasis and phytotherapy. Int Urol Nephrol 1994;26(5):507-511.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al., eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2000:779-782.

Matsuda H, Nakamura S, Tanaka T, Kubo M. [Pharmacological studies on leaf of arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. V. Effects of water extract from arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. (Bearberry leaf) on the antiallergic anti-inflammatory activities of dexamethasone ointment.] Yakugaku Zasshi-J Pharm Soc Jpn. 1992;112(9):673-677.

Matsuda H, Nakata H, Tanaka T, Kubo M. [Pharmacological study on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. II. Combined effects of arbutin and prednisolone or dexamethazone on immuno-inflammation] Yakugaku Zasshi. 1990;110(1):68-76.

Matsuda H, Tanaka T, Kubo M. [Pharmacological studies on leaf of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.). Spreng. III. Combined effect of arbutin and indomethacin on immuno-inflammation.] Yakugaku Zasshi. 1991;111(4-5):253-258.

Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:258-259.

Ottariano, SG. Medicinal Herbal Therapy: A Pharmacist's Viewpoint. Portsmouth, NH: Nicolin Fields Publishing; 1999:83.

Parejo I, Viladomat F, Bastida J, Codina C. A single extraction step in the quantitative analysis of arbutin in bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) leaves by high-performance liquid chromatography. Phytochem Anal. 2001;12(5):336-339.

Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York: Churchill Livingstone; 1999:989-990, 1187.

Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:95-96.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, Penn:Hanley & Belfus, Inc. 2002:351-354.

Shimizu M, Shiota S, Mizushima T, et al. Marked potentiation of activity of beta-lactams against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus by corilagin. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2001;45(11):3198-3201.


Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; R. Lynn Shumake, PD, Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
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