Parts used and where grown: The uva ursi plant is found in colder, northern climates. It has red flowers and red berries, which bears like to eat. The leaf is used medicinally.
Uva ursi has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Urinary tract infection|
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
An herb is primarily supported by traditional use, or the herb or supplement has little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies): The leaves and berries were used by numerous indigenous people from northern latitudes. Combined with tobacco, Native Americans sometimes smoked uva ursi. It was also used as a beverage tea in some places in Russia. The berries were considered beneficial as a weight-loss aid. It was found in wide use for infections of all parts of the body because of its astringent, or “drying,” action.
Active constituents: The glycoside arbutin is the main active constituent in uva ursi and comprises up to 10% of the plant by weight. Hydroquinone derived from arbutin and methylarbutin is a powerful anti-bacterial agent and is thought to be responsible for uva ursi’s ability to treat urinary tract infections. It is believed to be most effective as a urinary tract antiseptic agent if the urine is alkaline.1 No human trials have been published confirming the effectiveness of uva ursi in people with urinary tract infections.
How much is usually taken? The German Commission E monograph suggests 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) of uva ursi steeped in about 5 ounces (150 ml) of boiling water and drunk as an infusion three to four times daily.2 For alcohol-based tinctures, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) three times per day can be used. Standardized extracts in capsules or tablets (containing 20% arbutin), 700–1,000 mg three times per day, can also be taken. Use of uva ursi should be limited to no more than 14 days. To ensure alkaline urine, about 1 1/2 teaspoons (6–8 grams) of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) mixed in a glass of water can be taken. Baking soda should also not be taken for more than 14 days. People with high blood pressure should not take baking soda. Uva ursi should not be used to treat an infection without first consulting a physician.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Due to the high tannin content in uva ursi, some people may experience cramping, nausea, or vomiting. It is also not recommended for long-term use. Uva ursi should not be taken by pregnant or breast-feeding women and should be used in young children only with the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Are there any drug interactions? Certain medications may interact with uva ursi. Refer to the drug interactions safety check for a list of those medications.
1. Matsuda H, Nakamura S, Tanaka T, Kubo M. Pharmacological studies on leaf of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L) Spreng. V. Effect of water extract from Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L) Spreng (bearberry leaf) on the antiallergic and antiinflammatory activities of dexamethasone ointment. J Pharm Soc Japan 1992;112:673–7.
2. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 224–5.
Copyright © 2002 VitaminLore, Inc. All rights reserved. www.VitaminLore.com
The information presented in VitaminLore Online is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over-the-counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2006.