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Name(s): Bearberry , Kinnikinnik , Hogberry , Rockberry , Beargrape ,
“Uva ursi” means “bear's grape” in Latin, because bears love to eat the fruit. It was first written about in a 13th century Welsh herbal book. Teas and extracts of the leaves have been used as urinary tract antiseptics and diuretics for hundreds of years.
It is commonly used as a laxative, and the leaves have been smoked. In homeopathy, a tincture of the leaves is thought to be helpful in the treatment of cystitis, urethritis, and urinary tract inflammations. The berries are not used medicinally. They are juicy but have an bad taste.
It is an evergreen bush with creeping stems that form a dark green layer of leaves. It can grow to twenty inches in height. It has small, dark leaves and clusters of small white flowers. It blooms from April to May and produces an orange berry. The plant grows throughout the northern parts of the world from Asia to the United States.
The leaves contain hydroquinone derivatives, mainly arbutin and methyl-arbutin in concentrations ranging from 5% to 15%. Tannins are also present including hydrolysable, ellagic and gallic acid tannins. Because of this high concentration of tannin, teas prepared from this plant are usually made by soaking the leaves in cold water which reduces the extraction of the tannins.
Flavonoids including hyperoside, myricetin, quercetin, and glycosides such as hyperin, isoquercitrin, myricitrin, and quercitrin are also found.
Triterpenes, monotropein, piceoside, phenol-carboxylic acids such as gallic, p-coumaric, and syringic acids can be found. Terpenoids such as alpha-amyrin and ursolic acids are present in the plant, as malic acid, allantoin, resin, volatile oil, and wax.
Arbutin is hydrolyzed in gastric fluid to hydroquinone. In alkaline urine, hydroquinone is mildly astringent and is an effective antimicrobial agent. In theory, large amounts must be taken for any significant effect to occur, and the urine must be alkalinized.
While there is no published evidence to support a specific dose, it has been used for urinary tract infections at doses of up to 10 g of leaf daily, equivalent to 400 to 840 mg arbutin. 1
It should not be used if pregnant or breast feeding.
Do not use if suffering from kidney disease. Do not take for more than seven to ten days at a time.
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