Uva Ursi Herb Overview
The uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) plant grows throughout the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a small groundcover shrub with evergreen leaves and a white-pink flower, which produces a bright red berry. The berries can be consumed, but the plant is best known for the medicinal qualities of its leaves, which are often used in Traditional Medicine for:
- urinary tract infections
- kidney stones
General Information on the Uva Ursi Herb
The uva ursi plant is commonly known as bearberry, since bears are fond of eating the berries that the plant produces; “uva ursi,” translated from Latin, means “bear grape.” The uva ursi plant has been used throughout history by Native Americans, who used uva ursi as a diuretic for congested kidneys, and as a urinary aid and tonic for bladder and kidneys (Grinnel 1972). The leaf of the uva ursi plant has been prepared for use as an antiseptic for hundreds of years, particularly for treating mild, uncomplicated infections of the bladder, kidneys, and urinary tract (urinary tract infections) when antibiotic therapy is not considered essential (Mills & Bone 2000). It has also been used as a diuretic to treat kidney stones, and to treat urinary incontinence, cystitis, and ulceration of the bladder and prostate gland. Uva ursi is effective at helping to soothe, strengthen and tone the urinary passages, and reduce inflammation of the urinary tract.
Uva ursi contains a chemical called arbutin. When metabolized in your body, arbutin is converted to hydroquinone, which passes through your kidneys into your urinary tract, where it helps to relieve pain and inflammation in the bladder or urinary tract. Hydroquinone may also prevent harmful bacteria from growing within the bladder and urinary tract (de Arrabia et al. 2013).
Health Canada (2019a) monograph encompasses the oral use of Uva ursi leaf preparations Traditionally in Herbal Medicine as a mild diuretic and to help relieve symptoms associated with minor urinary tract infections.
What Is the Uva Ursi Leaf Used for?
In Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, Dr. Aviva Romm writes “Uva ursi remains one of the most important and commonly used urinary tract disinfectants in modern herbal medicine, widely used in the treatment of uncomplicated acute and recurrent urinary tract infections. … Traditionally, it has been used for cystitis, urethritis, dysuria, pyelitis, lithuria, and, specifically, acute catarrhal cystitis with dysuria and highly acidic urine.”
Uses & Effectiveness of Uva Ursi Herb
The antiseptic and tonic properties of uva ursi have made the herb particularly useful in Traditional and modern Herbal medicine for:
- urinary tract infections
- chronic irritation of the bladder
- inflammation of the urinary tract
- congestion and ulceration of the bladder and prostate gland
- renal or urinary calculi
- congested kidneys
- urinary incontinence
Precautions of Uva Ursi Herb
Individuals who are pregnant should not use uva ursi, as it may start labour. There is insufficient evidence to know whether individuals who are breastfeeding can safely take uva ursi, so use should be avoided.
Those with thin retinas should avoid the use of uva ursi, as it contains a chemical that can cause retinal thinning.
Individuals with kidney or liver disorders, heart disease, edema, or those taking other products that contain diuretics should avoid uva ursi.
Children should not take uva ursi, as it contains a chemical that may cause severe liver problems.
Herbal Benefits of Uva Ursi Leaf
1) Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) Treatment
In controlled clinical studies, uva ursi has proven effective as a treatment for urinary tract infections due to its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. This is due to hydroquinone, which may also prevent harmful bacteria from growing within the bladder and urinary tract.
2) Bladder Infections (Cystitis) Treatment
Bladder infections are caused by a surplus of harmful bacteria in the bladder or urinary tract. As a mild urinary antiseptic, uva ursi can be used to treat moderate inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract and bladder, such as cystitis (WHO 2002).
3) Swelling of the Bladder and Urethra
Uva ursi is reported to have diuretic, urinary antiseptic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been approved for use for urinary tract inflammation or swelling by the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Trill et al. 2007).
4) Kidney Infections
Kidney infections, caused by a surplus of harmful bacteria buildup in the kidneys, can be soothed by the arbutin in uva ursi. Uva ursi is also shown to soothe aching kidneys when pain is caused by a kidney infection and can be used as a diuretic to treat kidney stones (Grinnel 1972).
Because uva ursi has anti-congestive properties, it may prove effective at soothing the bronchial congestion that causes bronchitis (Jellin 2004).
Can Children Take It?
No, uva ursi is not safe for children.
How Can the Urine Be Alkalized to Ensure the Optimal Effects of Uva Ursi?
Taking calcium citrate may help to alkalize your urine, which can help optimize the effects of uva ursi. It is also important to avoid taking uva ursi with highly acidic foods, such as citrus fruits.
How Can Stomach Upset Be Minimized When Taking Uva Ursi?
Those taking uva ursi may find it helpful to eat meals when they medicate to help minimize or avoid any stomach discomfort.
Uva Ursi Tea Benefits
Uva ursi can also be purchased dried and prepared as a tea. As a dried herb, no more than 2 to 4 grams of uva ursi need to be consumed per day. To make dried uva ursi into a tea, soak 3 grams of dried leaves in 5 ounces of water for 12 hours, then strain. Drink the tea three to four times each day.