Uva ursi

Uva ursi, (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), also known as Bearberry, is a plant native to Europe, Asia and North America. It belongs to the Ericaceae family and is characterized by its small, evergreen leaves and red berries. Uva ursi has been used traditionally in herbal medicine for its potential medicinal properties.

History of Uva ursi

Uva ursi has a history of medicinal use dating back to the 2nd century. Folk medicine around the world has recommended Uva ursi for nephritis, kidney stones and chronic cystitis. Native Americans used it as a remedy for headaches, to prevent and cure scurvy and to treat 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.

Uva ursi has historically been used for various health conditions, primarily related to the urinary system and skin health. It has been widely used as a diuretic, astringent and antiseptic.

The herb has also been used as a general tonic for weakened kidneys, liver and pancreas. Through modern day scientific research in test tubes and animals, Uva ursi’s antimicrobial properties, which can help fight infection, and diuretic effects have been demonstrated.

Active Ingredients in Uva ursi

The leaves of the Uva ursi plant contain several bioactive compounds including; arbutin, hydroquinone, tannins, flavonoids and volatile oils, which are believed to contribute to its therapeutic effects.

The diuretic action of Uva ursi is due to the glucoside arbutin, which is largely absorbed unchanged and is excreted by the kidneys. During its excretion, arbutin exercises an antiseptic effect on the urinary mucous membrane. Therefore, it is used in inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, such as urethritis and cystisis.

Health Benefits of Uva ursi

Here are some potential uses and benefits of Uva ursi:

Uva ursi for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Uva ursi is most well-known for its traditional use in the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Uva Ursi is of great value in diseases of the bladder and kidneys, strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages. It contains arbutin, a compound that is converted into hydroquinone in the body. Hydroquinone has antimicrobial properties which may help inhibit the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract, potentially reducing the severity and recurrence of UTIs.

Uva ursi is believed to have urinary antiseptic properties, meaning it may help cleanse and disinfect the urinary tract. It is often used as a natural remedy for conditions such as cystitis, urethritis and kidney stones. Uva Ursi contains chemicals, primarily hydroquinone and hydroquinone derivatives, that make it potentially useful for urinary conditions and is used to treat infections such as cystitis, urethritis and nephritis.

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.

Interestingly, arbutin taken alone is not as effective as the whole Uva Ursi plant in controlling urinary tract infections. That’s because intestinal bacteria can break down arbutin, but they are less likely to do so in the presence of other Uva Ursi compounds.

Uva ursi has been approved for treating inflammation of the lower urinary tract by Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, which is the German governmental agency that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of herbal products. An astringent shrinks and tightens the top layers of mucous membranes, thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness.

Diuretic Effects of Uva ursi

Uva ursi has mild diuretic properties, meaning it may help increase urine production and promote the elimination of excess fluids and toxins from the body. This diuretic effect may be beneficial for individuals with fluid retention or mild edema.

Uva Ursi also contains diuretic chemicals including ursolic acid, powerful astringents and allatonin, a chemical that helps promote the growth of healthy new cells. In addition to its antiseptic and astringent actions, Uva ursi may help to flush out bacteria by promoting urination. It has been used to reduce the accumulation of uric acid and relieve pain of bladder stones. The diuretic action may relieve the bloating feeling associated with menstruation.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Uva ursi

Uva ursi contains tannins and other compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation and irritation in the urinary tract and alleviate symptoms associated with urinary conditions.

Astringent Properties of Uva ursi

Uva ursi helps prevent postpartum infection. It is also helpful for chronic diarrhea. As a nutritional supplement and muscle relaxant, Uva ursi soothes, strengthens and tightens irritated and inflamed tissues.

Uva ursi neutralizes acidity in the urine, increasing urine flow, therefore reducing bloating and water retention, making it beneficial for weight loss. Uva ursi’s astringent properties may also assist in the treatment of some bed wetting problems.

Antimicrobial Effects of Uva ursi

The antimicrobial effect of Uva ursi is associated with the aglycone hydroquinone released from arbutin (transport form) or arbutin waste products in the alkaline urine.

Preparations made from Uva ursi act as an antibacterial in vitro against; Proteus vulgaris, E. coli, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma hominis, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aerginosa, Friedlander’s pneumonia, Enterococcus faecalis and Streptococcus strains, as well as against fungal infection Candida albicans.

Uva ursi for High Blood Pressure and Heart Conditions

Diuretics are often prescribed to treat high blood pressure. However as they also deplete the body’s potassium, it is advisable to increase your intake of fresh vegetables and bananas at the same time as taking Uva ursi to top up the Potassium levels.

Diuretics are also prescribed for congestive heart failure, however consultation with a doctor before using Uva ursi if you have a heart condition.

Uva ursi for Skin Health

In addition to its urinary benefits, Uva ursi has been used topically in traditional medicine for various skin conditions. Allantoin is the main active ingredient. It is well known for its soothing and tissue-repairing properties.

Uva ursi has been used as an astringent wash for cuts and scrapes, wounds, burns, eczema and acne.

Allantoin is the active ingredient in many over the counter creams to treat cold sores, herpes and vaginal infections. Its astringent and antimicrobial properties help to soothe and heal the skin.

Uva ursi for Muscle and Back Sprains

Uva ursi can been applied externally for muscle and back sprains, as it is a muscle relaxant.

Uva ursi for Diarrhoea

Astringent tannins found in Uva Ursi are binding and help relieve diarrhoea.

How to Take Uva ursi

Uva ursi is commonly available in various forms, including dried leaves, teas, tinctures, capsules and topical preparations.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Uva Ursi Notes / Side Effects

Latin Names

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Common Names

Arberry, Arbutus, Bearberry, Bear’s Berry, Bear’s Grape, Carillo, Chipmunk’s Apples, Coralillo, Crowberry, Foxberry, Hogberry, Kinnikinnick, Manzanita, Mealberry, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Mountain Tobacco, Pinemat Manzanita, Red Bearberry, Rockberry, Sandberry, Sagackhomi, Sagakomi, Upland Cranberry, Uva-Ursi, Uva ursi, Whortleberry.

Properties of Uva ursi

Antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, muscle relaxant, tonic for kidneys, liver and pancreas.

Uva ursi is Indicated for:

Chronic diarrhea, cystitis, gonorrhea, nephritis, pyelitis, pyelonephritis, urethritis, urinary tract infections, reduce accumulations of uric acid, relieve the pain of bladder stone, soothes, strengthens, and tightens irritated and inflamed tissues, treats cold sores, herpes and vaginal infections.

Uva ursi Notes / Side Effects

It is advised to use Uva ursi under the guidance of a healthcare professional for prolonged or high-dose use, as it may have side effects and interactions with certain medications. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Uva ursi due to its potential risks.

Because of a lack of information regarding safety, children, people with kidney disease, pregnant women, and breast-feeding mothers should not take Uva ursi. Large doses may stimulate uterine contractions during pregnancy. People with high blood pressure should consult a doctor before using Uva ursi.

Many people experience urinary tract infections as a frequent urge to urinate and a burning or otherwise painful sensation when voiding. Consult a doctor if these kinds of signs or symptoms persist for more than 24 to 36 hours because potentially serious complications can develop, including kidney problems.

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. Prescription drugs such as ammonium chloride, non-prescription products such as vitamin C, herbals such as rose hips, and foods such as cranberry juice may all make the urine more acidic in nature. Potentially, taking a urine acidifier may lessen or destroy the antibacterial effects of Uva ursi.

On the other hand, urinary alkalizers, drugs such as antacids, Bicitra, K-lyte, Polycitra, and sodium bicarbonate; herbals such as alfalfa and peppermint; and foods such as molasses, raisins, spinach, and some dried beans reduce the acid levels in urine, which may increase Uva Ursi’s antibacterial effects.

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 some people with sensitive stomachs develop nausea and vomiting with Uva ursi, the herb appears to be quite safe for most people when taken at commonly recommended doses. However, high doses can cause a disconcerting, although apparently harmless, greenish-brown discoloration of the urine.

Extremely high doses of Uva ursi, in the range of 10 times greater than the commonly recommended amount, can cause vomiting, ringing in the ears, shortness of breath, convulsions, and collapse in some cases. Liver damage is also a risk with high doses taken over extended periods of time. In a dose of 6,000 mg (6 grams) or higher taken at one time, Uva ursi may cause seizures or cyanosis (a blue tint to the skin caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood). Single doses of 30,000 mg (30 grams) or higher have been reported to cause death. A case study of several individuals who regularly used large amounts of an oral product similar to Uva ursi for many years, found that they had a higher incidence of tongue and lip cancer than expected. Cancers of the nose and esophagus may also be more likely in people who use large amounts of tannin-containing products for long amounts of time.

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