Common Name: Bearberry | Scientific Name: Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi

Family Name: Ericaceae

Resources

Fact Sheet 1
Fact Sheet 2
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Fact Sheet 1

Part used: Leaves

In a Word: Urinary tract infection plant

Uses: Urethritis, cystitis, pain and discomfort following urethritis or cystitis, chronic urethritis or cystitis

Though contemporary physicians are mystified by the chronic nature of urinary tract infections and even more mystified as to what to do about them, this was not always the case. In the last century doctors were well acquainted with problematic urinary tract infections.

Before discussing Uva-Ursi two points must be made plain. The first is that once a person has one urinary tract infection, they are predisposed to getting urinary tract infections. In essence, they become a sitting ducks for a urinary tract infection. This is the way it is. So, rather than being “surprised” you have come down with a second urinary tract infection, it would pay to do something to avoid the second urinary tract infection. But, make no mistake; you will have to do something to avoid getting another urinary tract infection.

Most herbalists recommend the use of an immune stimulant (something like echinacea) and a urinary tract disinfectant (something like Uva-Ursi) to beat the odds.

The second point of importance is that part of having a urinary tract infection is discomfort that continues after the urinary tract infection has cleared up. For some reason, doctors fail to tell 90% of their patients to expect post infection discomfort. As a result, people go back to their doctor convinced they have another urinary tract infection when in fact they are still exhibiting signs of the last one. Another round of antibiotics is not going to make this discomfort go away, though millions of people give it a try. Something like Uva-Ursi, on the other hand, often helps reduce post infection discomfort.

History
If you take a look at the medical text, Kings Dispensatory, written in 1898, you realise that this is not a new medicine. It has been used for thousands of years, mostly by women, to get rid of an unpleasant urinary tract infection. Let’s read what the doctors of the last century had to say about Uva-ursi. The text is right out of Kings’ Dispensatory.

Specific Indications and Uses – Relaxation of the urinary tract, with pain and mucous or bloody secretions; feeling of weight and dragging in the loins and perineum, when not due to prostatic enlargement; chronic vesical irritation, with pain, tenesmus, and catarrhal discharges.

In chronic affections of the kidneys and urinary passages, it is frequently useful; in vesical catarrh, chronic gonorrhoea, strangury, leucorrhoea, and excessive mucous and bloody discharges with the urine. Its tannic acid becomes oxidised and converted into gallic and pyrogallic acids, and humus-like substances, which communicate a dark colour to the urine. The keynote to its use is relaxation of the urinary membranes, as is evidenced by catarrhal discharges and a feeling of weight and dragging in the loins and perineum. There is always a feeble circulation and lack of innervation in the urinary tract when uva-ursi is indicated. It undoubtedly lessens lithic acid deposits in the urine. In gonorrhoea, with bloody and mucous discharges, and pain in the vesical region, it speedily allays all these unpleasant symptoms. Cystic-spasm is relieved by it, and, when calculi are present, it obtunds the cystic membranes to such an extent that the offending material is comfortably borne.“

That was a lot of old doctor talk, but, the message from Kings Dispensatory is that Uva-ursi can be used to clear up a urinary tract infection, end chronic urinary tract infections, and reduce the unpleasant sensations experienced in both instances.

Science
On the science side of Uva-Ursi, part of the picture is well known. We say part because herbal medicines are so complex it is virtually impossible to fully understand their activity. But, we do know something. The leaves contain a chemical known as arbutin, which is absorbed through the gut and passes via the blood to the kidneys. The kidneys filter it out and it ends up in the bladder. This is where the fun starts. Once in the bladder, arbutin breaks down and one of the resulting compounds is called hydroquinone. Well, this bad boy kills the bacteria responsible for a urinary tract infection. More than that, Uva-ursi leaves are loaded with tannins, complex compounds which deaden nerve endings and reduce inflammation. So, you get a bug killer and pain killer all in one when use with this one.

Practitioners’ Opinion
Uva-ursi works well, which is why it is still used today. Herbalists use it and speak highly of it. However, from a practitioner’s standpoint there are several issues that need to be raised. The first is that though most urinary tract infections are entirely benign, they can lead to kidney infections that are not. If high temperature sets in, back pains, and the shakes, run, don’t walk to the emergency room. Kidney infections are serious and are not anything you want to deal with on your own. End of story. If any of those symptoms pop up, you are in trouble and act accordingly.

The other issue is that the compounds that make Uva-Ursi work are not the kinds to be used long term. It is well used for one week, but it should not be used for more than one week at a stretch. It can be used to clear up an infection, to stop a string of infections, and or to end the discomfort associated with an infection, but in all instances it should not be used for more than seven days in a row. Are we clear?

QUICK REVIEW
History: A medicine popular amongst the Native Americans
Science: Contains arbutin, which makes it active
Practitioners Opinion: Effective, but should not be used for more than one week

Fact Sheet 2

Parts Used: Leaves

Remember This: Urinary Tract Infections

Reasonable Uses: Cystitis and urethritis,

History and Traditional Uses
Uva-ursi is a plant native to Northern Europe and America. A kissing cousin to the cranberry, it has been collected and used to treat urinary tract infections since the earliest day. A midwifes’ age old treatment for problems with the water works, uva-ursi is one of the classics for this type of infection. It became accepted by the medical community in the first part of the 19 th century and was an official treatment until the age of antibiotics.

Healing Potential
Uva-ursi leaves contain arbutin, a urinary antiseptic discovered in 1852. Once in the urinary system, arbutin breaks down and produces a potent microbe killing compound known as hydroquinone. Uva-ursi leaves also contain anesthetic properties, which help numb urinary tract pain, and other microbe killing compounds. Herbalist say that uva-ursi is one of the best herbs to use for cystitis and especially if the problem has become chronic.

Herbalists Use It To…
Treat first time urinary tract infections
This herbal remedy has a specific use and that is to treat urinary tract infections. Cystititis and urethritis are both effectively treated with this herb.

Treat chronic urinary tract infections
Many women suffer from chronic urinary tract infections. One infections follows another for years on end. For reasons that allude herbalists, whereas antibiotics do not seem to do much to end the cycle, uva-ursi does! It must be used religeously, but, many women have found a way off the merry-go-round with this native American plant.

Shopping Tips
Avoid products containing herbal remedies.

Warnings
Uva-ursi leaves contain generous amounts of tannin, a natural compound that can irritate the stomach, it should not be used for more than 2 weeks.

Uva ursi should not be used if there is a known history of kidney disease or kidney damage.

Don’t use it during pregnancy, since it can stimulate the uterus.

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

1854: JOHN KING
This is used by some for table tea, and is much better than that obtained from stores. It is astringent, useful in bowel complaints.

1895: Watkins
Dragging pains in loins, irritation of the bladder, muscular weakness and relaxation, diabetes. Ten to twenty drachms of tincture every four hours.

1898: Felter and Lloyd - UVA URSI (U.S.P.)
Action, Medical Uses,and Dosage – The effects of this medicine depend entirely on its stimulant, astringent, and tonic powers, though, in the smaller doses, it tends to relieve chronic irritation of the bladder. As an astringent, it is applicable to all the pruposes for which astringents are used, as in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, menorrhagia, diabetes, enuresis, etc. In chronic affections of the kidneys and urinary passages, it is frequently useful; in vesical catarrh, chronic gonorrhoea, strangury, leucorrhoea, and excessive mucous and bloody discharges with the urine. Its tannic acid becomes oxidized and converted into gallic and pyrogallic acids, and humus-like substances, which communicate a dark color to the urine. The keynote to its use is relaxation of the urinary membranes, as is evidenced by catarrhal discharges and a feeling of weight and dragging in the loins and perineum. There is always a feeble circulation and lack of innervation in the urinary tract when uva ursi is indicated. It undoubtedly lessens lithic acid deposits in the urine. In gonorrhoea, with bloody and mucous discharges, an dpain in the vesical region, it speedily allays all these unpleasant symptoms. Cystic-spasm is relieved by it, and, when calculi are present, it obtunds the cystic membranes to such an extent that the offending material is comfortably borne. It is also a remedy for passive hemorrhage, small in amout, an din chronic affections of the larynx, bronchiae, and pulmonary tissues, with excretion and cough. In large doses, uva ursi may cause emeto-catharsis. Arbutin, while undoubtedly diuretic, does not fully represent uva ursi, and the latter is said not to exert a diuretic action in health. Arbutin, in its passage through the system, is decomposed, and gives rise to hydroquinone, to which body has been attributed the retardation of putrescent changes in the urine of persons taking uva ursi. Arbutin may be given to the extent of 10 or 15 grains a day, usually mixed with sugar. Dose of powdered uva ursi, 10 to 60 grains; of the decoction, 1 to 3 fluid ounces, made by boiling 1 ounce of uva ursi with 1 1/2 pints of distilled water down to 1 pint; of the extract, 5 to 15 grains; of the tincture, 5 to 30 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses -Relaxation of the urinary tract, with pain and mucous or bloody secretions; feeling of weight and dragging in the loins and perineum, when not due to prostatic enlargement; chronic vesical irritation, with pain, tenesmus, and catarrhal discharges.

1919: Ellingwood
Synonym – Bearberry.
Constituents – Gallic acid, tannin, resin, sugar, arbutin, ericalin.
Preparations – Extractum uvae ursi fluidum, fluid extract of uva ursi. Dose, from ten to sixty minims.

Physiological Action – Uva ursi has long been in general use as a diuretic and sedative to the general urinary apparatus. It exercises both an astringent and tonic influence also, and it is prescribed when there are calculi present.

Specific Symptomatology – Its direct influence is upon relaxed conditions of the bladder walls, to which it imparts tone and induces normal contraction. It restrains excessive mucous discharges.

Therapy – It is curative in ulceration of the bladder wall, in cystitis, in pyelitis and in pyelonephritis. It is of much benefit also in the general treatment of gonorrhoea. It has been prescribed with much confidence in diabetes, in which condition its influence is more general than specific. It exercises a soothing influence upon the urinary apparatus, and for that reason, is a common constituent of very many prescriptions for diseased conditions of these organs.

1911: LLOYD
Bearberry, Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) (Linne), which takes its name from the fact that its berries are eaten by bears and other animals, is a low evergreen shrub common to the Northern countries of Europe and America . The leaves, which are used in medicine, are an article of commerce in the northern sections of Europe, America , and some parts of Asia . Being used in tanning, in Sweden and Russia , according to Rafinesque (535), they established the well-known Russia leather. The astringent leaves were once highly valued in Europe , but have since fallen into disuse. The domestic employment of the drug introduced it to American medicine, Drs. Wistar, Barton (43), and Bigelow (69) recommending a decoction of it as a wash for leucorrhea and as an injection in gonorrhea and catarrh of the bladder. For these purposes, as based on its domestic employment, the plant has its professional record, but has never been very important in any school of medicine.

1921: Lloyd
Official in every edition of U.S.P., from 1820 to 1910.

Bearberry, uva ursi, (Arctostaphylos Uva ursi) (Linne), which takes its name from the fact that it berries are eaten by the North American bear, is a low evergreen shrub, common to the northern countries of Europe and America. The leaves, which are used in medicine, are an article of commerce in the northern sections of Europe, America , and some parts of Asia . Being used in tanning, in Sweden and Russia , according to Rafinesque (535), they established the well-known ” Russia ” leather. The astringent leaves were once highly valued in Europe , but have since fallen into disuse. The domestic employment of the drug introduced it to American medicine, Drs. Wistar, Barton (43) and Bigelow (69) recommending a decoction of it as a wash for leucorrhea and as an injection in gonorrhea and catarrh of the bladder. For these purposes, as based on its domestic employment, the plant has its professional record, but it has never been very important.



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