Uva ursi (bearberry) is described as a small evergreen shrub with clusters of small white or pink bell-shaped flowers and dull orange berries. Although the berries do not seem to possess any medicinal benefits, the leaves have been used traditionally as an herbal remedy for mild, uncomplicated cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).
Grown throughout Asia, North America and Europe, uva ursi has a long history of medicinal use dating back to the 13th century. The leaves have been used worldwide as a diuretic, astringent, antiseptic and a treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs). A tea brewed with the leaves has also been used as a laxative.
Arbutin, the main chemical constituent of uva ursi, is a phenolic glycoside that becomes hydrolyzed to hydroquinone. Both chemicals contribute to the antiseptic effects in the urinary tract. Arbutin alone has been reported to relieve pain from kidney stones, cystitis (bladder infection) and nephritis (kidney inflammation). However, due to its high tannin content, uva ursi may cause acute nausea and intestinal irritation.
Uva ursi leaf was listed on the U.S. National Formulary as a urinary antiseptic from 1820 to 1950 but it is no longer listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) lists uva ursi as a treatment for uncomplicated cystitis where antibiotics are not warranted. The German Commission E Monographs recommend it for inflammatory conditions of the lower urinary tract.
Arberry, arbusier (French), arbutin, Arbutus uva ursi, arctostaphylos, Arctostaphylos adenotricha, Arctostaphylos coactilis, Arctostaphylos coactylis, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, arctuvan, barentraube (German), bearberry, bear grape, bear's grape, bearsgrape, beerendruif (Holland), bousserole (French), common bearberry, common beargrape, coralillo (Spanish), creeping manzanita, crowberry, Cystinol akut®, Dunih'tan (Carrier people), Ericaceae (family), foxberry, gayuba (Spanish), hog berry, hydroquinone, kanya'ni, kwica (American Indian), kinnikinnick (American Indian), macnicy (Polish), manzanita, mealberry, mehlberre (German), melbaerblad (Norweigan), melbarrisblade (Danish), methyl arbutin, mjolonrisblad (Swedish), mossberre (German), mountain box, mountain cranberry, phenolic glycoside, ptarmigan berry, raisin d'ours (French), redberry, red bearberry, rock berry, rockberry, sagsckhomi (American Indian), sand berry, sandberry, Solvefort, s'qaya'dats, tannin, toloknianka (Russian), upland cranberry, Uroflux, uva d'orso (Italian), UVA-E, Uvae ursi folium, Uvalyst, uva-ursi, uva ursi leaf, whortle berry, wilder Buchsbaum (German), Wolfstraube (German).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
The chemical constituents of the herbal product uva ursi have been used for a variety of conditions such as chloasma, a skin condition that appears as a blotchy, brownish discoloration on the skin, especially the face. Females are usually targeted for the condition because it occurs as a result of oral contraception use, or during pregnancy or menopause. The clinical usefulness of uva ursi has not been well established in the current literature.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Uva ursi has long been used as a folk remedy to treat urinary tract infection. The active ingredients in the herb are believed to be ursolic acid and isoquercitrin. Additional study is needed to make a strong recommendation.