|| Arctostaphylos uva ursi
|| Bearberry, beargrape
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.
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
The leaves, and not the berries, are used in medicinal
|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
Uva ursi is commercially available as crushed leaf or powder
|How to Take It|
Uva ursi is not recommended for use in children under 12 years of age.
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
Uva ursi should not be taken for more than one week at a time; see
Precautions section for more details.
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.
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
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.
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|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,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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