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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  UVA URSI  (Arctostaphylos uva ursi; Ericaceae)

Other Names:  arberry, bearsgrape, kinnikinnick, mealberry, mountain box, mountain cranberry, redberry leaves, sagackhomi, sandberry, bearberry.  (2); arbutus, bearberry  (34); bearberry, rockberry, mountain box (57)

Character/Energetics:  Leaves taste bitter, astringent, metallic, sweetish  (2); bitter, astringent, cold  (6)                         

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  heart, bladder, small intestine, liver (6); kidneys and urinary tract (14)                       

Part(s) used: leaves  (6) (15)

Identification & Harvesting:     Flowers grow in 3-12 short, terminal, drooping racemes (rows of individual flowers growing on a single long stalk).  Corolla is ovoid, very small, 5-6 mm long, white or reddish with a red border.  Fruit is pea-sized, scarlet, with 5-7 tiny seeds.  Plant is creeping, vine-like, up to 6′ long with elastic red-brown branches.  Leaves are alternate, short-stemmed, blade-or wedge-shaped, margined, 1″ long, 1/2″ wide, smooth, glossy, evergreen.  Leaves are similar to those of cranberry, and are distinguished by the reticulate (net-like) vein structure.  Found in central Europe, up to Scandinavia, east to Siberia;  also in the Altai mountains, Himalayas and North America. (2)

Collect throughout the year, but preferably in spring and summer.    (8)

Leaves must be gathered only in fine weather, in the morning, after the dew has dried, any stained and insect-eaten leaves being rejected.  (34)  also, for identification see (34)          

Leaves are leathery, obovate or oblanceolate, rounded at the apex, dark green and shiny above, and tessellated by sunken veinlets, paler beneath and reticulated, with dark veinlets;  margin is entire and reflexed, about 3/4-1 inch long, and 1/4 to 3/8 inch broad. Tastes astringent. Odor is faintly tea-like.    (57)

A member of the heath family.  A trailing, low-growing evergreen shrub, found in cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  Most of the leaf is wildcrafted.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Hydroquinone glycosides:  arbutin (arbutoside 5-12%), methyl arbutin up to 2.5%, also 2-O-galloylarbutin, 6-O-galloylarbutin;  tannins 15-20%:  gallotannins, ellagic tannins, condensed tannins;  iridoide monoterpenes incl. monotropein;  flavonoids incl. hyperoside .8-1.5%, quercitrin, isoquercitrin, myricitrin;  triterpenes incl. ursolic acid .4-.8%, uvaol.    (2)

arbutin, methyl-arbutin, ericolin, ursone, gallic acid,  ellagic acid myricetin, and a yeIlow principle resembling quercetin. Tannin is present up to 6 to 7 percent.    (6)

glycosides incl. arbutin and ericolin;  6% tannin;  flavonoids;  resin.    (8)

Arbutin and methylarbutin are changed to hydroquinone in the intestine.  Then a chain of reactions results in an antiseptic effect in the urinary tract.    (61)

Actions:     An anti-microbial effect associated with the hydroquinones released from arbutin or arbutin waste products in the urine.  Maximum antibacterial effect occurs 3-4 hours after administration. (2)

diuretic, astringent, antiseptic  (6) diuretic, astringent, antiseptic, demulcent. (8) …alterative  (14)

Produces a potent antiseptic in the kidney tubules;  also very effective for acid urine.    (15)

Mucilaginous, astringent, diuretic. (57)  Astringent.  A mild diuretic, and urinary antiseptic if the urine is alkaline.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Used for urinary tract infections, inflammatory disorders of the urinary tract.    (2)

It is used as a urinary antiseptic for bladder infections, and to treat blood in the urine, kidney infection and womb problems (very good as a post-partum remedy to prevent infections).    (6)

A specific antiseptic and astringent effect upon membranes of the urinary system:  generally soothe, tone and strengthen.  Used for gravel or ulceration of the kidney or bladder.  Treats infections such as pyelitis and cystitis, or as part of a holistic approach to more chronic kidney problems.  With its high astringency it is used in some forms of bed wetting.  As a douche it may be helpful in vaginal ulceration and infection.    (8)

Uva ursi is a specific for nephritis, cystitis, urethritis or kidney and bladder stones. For these purposes it should be combined with other diuretics, but always add marshmallow root or some other mucilaginous diuretic. Uva ursi leaves are astringent and tonic and are particularly good for chronic diarrhea, dysentery and profuse menstruation, piles and diabetes. It  has a direct sedative and tonic effect to the bladder walls, imparting tone and decreasing excessive discharges.

Internal Uses:

Bedwetting: Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion;  Bladder diseases:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion

Bronchitis:  Infusion  * Cystitis: Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion;  Diabetes:  Tincture*, Fluid Extract*, Infusion*; Dysentery:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion;  Hemorrhoids:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion;

Kidney congestion:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion;  Leukorrhea:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion;

Liver problems:  Tincture*, Fluid Extract, Infusion*, Powder*;  Lumbago:  Tincture, Fluid Extract,  Infusion;  Piles: Tincture, Fluid Extract, Infusion

External Uses:

Dysentery:  Retention enema, Infusion;  Hemorrhoids:  Retention enema, Salve;  Leukorrhea:  Douche; 

Piles:  Retention enema      

* indicates that uva ursi is usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.     (14)

UVA URSI       (Arctostaphylos uva ursi; Ericaceae)

Conditions & Uses: (cont)

Has a specific action on the urinary organs and is especially useful in cases of gravel, ulceration of kidneys or bladder, catarrh, gleet, leukorrhea and menorrhagia.    (57)

Diarrhea, dysentery, bladder infections, other urinary afflictions.  Used to treat bronchitis in folk medicine.    (61)

Combinations:    Avoid combination with herbs or drugs that cause acidic urine, as the release of hydroquinones occurs in normal alkaline condition of urine. (2); Combine with couchgrass and yarrow for urinary infections.  (8); Uva ursi is a specific for nephritis, cystitis, urethritisor kidney and bladder stones. For these purposes it should be combined with other diuretics, but always add marshmallow root or some other mucilaginous diuretic. (14);  Combine with couchgrass and yarrow in urinary tract infections;  add horsetail or pellitory-of-the-wall to heal damaged mucous membranes.    (15)

Besides the simple infusion (1 oz. of the leaves to 1 pint of boiling water), the combination of  1/2  oz. each of uva ursi, poplar bark and marshmallow root, infused in 1 pint of water for 20 minutes is used with advantage.     (34)                                                                                                                                                          

Precautions: Taking with diuretic medicines like Lasix or hydrochlorothiazide could cause serious dehydration or loss of potassium, which could disrupt the heart’s rhythm. (1) ;   Should not be taken over a long period without physician’s advice;  liver damage is conceivable due to possible hepatotoxicity of the hydroquinones released.  Contraindicated for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under 12.  No known hazards with designated dosages, but individuals with gastric sensitivity may experience severe nausea due to high tannin content.  Overdose can lead to inflammation and irritation of the bladder and urinary tract mucous membranes.    (2)

Uva ursi should not be used in large quantities during pregnancy because it is a vasoconstrictor to the uterus (cuts down circulation to the uterus.)  (14);  High doses may cause nausea.    (15)

High in tannins, which can cause stomachache, nausea or vomiting.  Not recommended for children.  Use up to 1 week, or longer under the direction of a physician, as overuse may cause liver damage.  Avoid during pregnancy.  In cases of kidney disease, use only under physician supervision.   (61)

Tincturing Process:

Applications:   Infusion:   steep 30 minutes, 3 oz. as needed, up to 3 cups a day   (14);    pour boiling water over 2.5 g. (1 tsp.) finely cut or powdered drug and strain after 15 min.;  up to 4 x daily.    (2)

Tincture: 10 to 20 drops, 3 or more times daily;  Fluid Extract:  1/2 to  1 tsp. 3x daily; Powder:  3 to 10  #0  capsules (20 to 60 grains) 3x daily.  

The leaves  (one cup) put in a stocking and add to a hot tub of water makes a good bath for after childbirth, inflammations, hemorrhoids and skin infections. It is good for gonorrhea. Use as a douche (infusion) for vaginal infections and other problems in the pelvic region.    (14)

The usual form of administration is in the form of an infusion, which has a soothing as well as an astringent effect and marked diuretic action. Of great value in diseases of the bladder and kidneys, strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages.  The diuretic action 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: Bearberry leaves are, therefore, used in inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystitis, etc.  

Besides the simple infusion (1 oz. of the leaves to 1 pint of boiling water), the combination of  1/2  oz. each of uva ursi, poplar bark and marshmallow root, infused in 1 pint of water for 20 minutes is used with advantage.     (34) 


Dosage:  3-6 gms. Do not boil.   (6);  The infusion of an ounce to a pint of boiling water is taken in half-cup doses 3 to 4 times daily.  Liquid extract dose, 1/2-1 drachm.    (57)

Up to 4.5 g. capsules daily.  Safe and effective use is much more complicated than simply brewing a tea.  Soak 10 g. dried leaf in a quart of cold water for 24 hours.  Remove leaves and simmer liquid down to 1/2 quart.  Take 2-4 tbsp 3 x daily.  Only effective if the system is alkaline, so take 2 tsp baking soda in a glass of water each day while using the infusion.  Tincture 1:5, 50% alcohol, 30-60 drops in a cup of water 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes: In consequence of the powerful astringency of the leaves, Uva ursi has a place not only in all the old herbals, but also in the modern Pharmacopoeias. There are records that it was used in the 13th century by the Welsh “Physicians of Myddfai.” It was described by Clusius in 1601, and recommended for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerard of Berlin and others. It had a place in the London Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1788, though was probably in use long before. It is official in nearly all Pharmacopoeias, some of which use the name Arbutus.    (34)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “If You Take Herbs, Tell Your Doctor”, Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Mar. ’98

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 657-58

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 224

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 179

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 185-86

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 158-59, 180

(34) A Modern Herbal (Vol. 1 A-H) by Mrs. M. Grieve, pgs. 89-90

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 354-56

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 26-27