Uva Ursi is an ancient herb that has been extensively used by Native American tribal members, and was also considered an important component of the European folk medicine. The herb is used for the treatment of urinary tract infections and bladder problems.
What is Uva Ursi?
Uva Ursi is botanically known as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. The term Uva in Spanish means grape or berry and Ursa is the term used for bear. The berries of Uva Ursi are a favorite among the bears and that is the reason why it is also known as Bearberry. Other common names by which Uva Ursi is known include the following – Arberry, Chipmunk’s Apple, Crow berry, Mountain Cranberry, Rock berry, Whortle berry, Sandberry etc.
As a plant, Uva Ursi is an evergreen shrub that is small and woody in nature. The plant can grow up to a height of 20 cm and has pink & white colored flowers. The berries of Uva Ursi are red in color and often resemble the American Cranberry fruit. Uva Ursi can grow in sub arctic regions and therefore can be seen more in Central and Northern parts of Europe and also in the high latitude areas of Asia & North America. Only the leaves and stems of this plant are used in herbal medicinal preparations.
How does it work?
Uva Ursi has the following known medicinal properties – anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-septic, diuretic, tonic and relaxant. These properties of the herb have special significance for the proper working of the urinary and digestive systems in our body. Uva Ursi has the following known compounds – hydroquinone, arbutin, tannins, ursolic acid, isoquercetin components etc.
Health Benefits of Uva Ursi
Health benefits include the following:
Urinary Tract Infections
The leaves of Uva Ursi have been used as a popular herbal medicine in treating Urinary tract infections for the past 2000 years. The mild diuretic and astringent effect of the herb helps in treating problems such as cystitis, pyelitis, nephritis, urethritis, pyelonephritis etc. The hydroquinone and hydroquinone derivatives found in the herb are the major reasons for these properties of Uva Ursi.
The hydroquinone present in the herb combines with glucuronic acid in the digestive system and converts into another derivative compound that acts on the mucus membranes of the urinary tract and reduces inflammation of the tissues. The diuretic property of the herb helps in flushing out harmful bacteria from the body by promoting more urination. The herb has been approved by the German Commission E for solving Urinary tract infections.
Uva Ursi is also known as a natural fighter against the following strains of bacteria – E-Coli, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas aerginosa, Candida albicans, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Proteus vulgari, Friedlander’s pneumonia and Mycoplasma hominis. Many in-vitro clinical studies have proven this feature of the herb.
High Blood Pressure
Uva Ursi is mildly diuretic in nature and for this reason it is prescribed by herbal experts in treating cases of high blood pressure.
Uva Ursi also helps in treating minor skin related conditions such as – herpes, cold sores, infections and in treating wounds & burns.
It is said that the Allantoin content present in the herb helps in solving such skin related conditions. May be due to this reason most of the OTC skin creams have Uva Ursi as one of the main active components.
According to many, Uva Ursi is also popular for its effects against chronic diarrhea problems. It is said that the tannins found in the herb are the major reasons for this activity of the herb.
Many claim that Uva Ursi helps in weight loss treatments. This action can be attributed to the fact that the herb helps in promoting more urine flow and also reduces overall bloating in the body.
The herb has been used by tribal members in preventing problems of miscarriage in pregnant women. An infusion prepared using the stems of Uva Ursi and Blueberry is used to prevent postpartum infection and is considered useful for the overall recovery of new mothers after childbirth. The herb also helps in reducing the general feeling of bloating before and during menstruation.
For Treating Pain
Uva Ursi also helps in treating headache, backache, rheumatism and arthritis problems. The herb helps in relaxing the muscles and reduces inflammation of the tissues in the body.
In some parts of the world, the leaves of this herb are smoked to prevent headache.
Uva Ursi has been used as a tonic for the kidneys and the pancreas. It also helps in reducing the accumulation of uric acid in the body and thereby reduces the formation of bladder stones.
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To make an infusion using the leaves of Uva Ursi, boil about 10 grams of the herbal extract in a cup of water and steep for 15 minutes. This solution can then be taken four times in a day. The herb usually works when the urine is alkaline in nature. Therefore, some herbalists recommend taking a teaspoon of bicarb soda in water along with the herb to make the urine alkaline. The above dosage of the herb should only be taken for a short period of time. In cases of skin infection, poultices using the herb can be made and applied externally.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
Side effects include the following – nausea, vomiting, greenish-brown discoloration of the urine etc. The herb is considered safe for consumption only for a short period of time. Uva Ursi should be discontinued if the following symptoms are observed – burning sensation while passing the urine, frequent urination, pain during voiding etc. Overdose of the herb may lead to the following symptoms – vomiting, convulsions, breathlessness, seizures, liver damage etc.
Since the herb works best when the urine is alkaline in nature, avoid acidic environment in the body by reducing the intake of acidic foods in the diet. In case the herb is used for treating high blood pressure, it must be remembered that all diuretics lead to potassium loss in the body. Therefore, use more fresh vegetables and fruits such as banana while using the herb. Uva Ursi should be avoided by pregnant women, lactating mothers and those with kidney problems.
Uva Ursi is an herb with a very long and significant usage history. It is an active component of the folk and tribal medicine. The herb is mainly used to treat urinary tract infections and chronic cystitis. Even though the herb is approved by the German Commission E, it is not yet sanctioned for medical use by the US FDA.
Uva Ursi may interact with the following – antacids, urinary alkalizers, Bicitra, Polycitra and K-lyte.