Bearberry or Uva Ursi
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Bearberry or Uva UrsiBEARBERRY
(commonly known as Uva Ursi)
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Botanical:  Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Family:  Ericaceae (blueberry/heath)
Other common names:  Uva Ursi, Bear's Grape, Crowberry, Foxberry, Hog Cranberry, Kinnikinnick, Mealberry, Arbutus, Manzanita, Mountain Cranberry, Mountain Box, Hogberry

Bearberry has been used for centuries as a mild diuretic with powerful antiseptic qualities that help to remedy the full range of bladder disorders and urinary tract infections, such as prostatitis, cystitis, urethritis and vaginitis, among others.  Bearberry helps to remove waste and toxins from the body and the accumulation of uric acid in the blood to relieve gout, arthritis and kidney stones - and it is great for reducing excess water weight.

The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Bearberry is a low, trailing, multi-branched, irregular-stemmed, evergreen shrub that resembles a vine and forms a matted, dense mass of ground cover, which may grow to a height of eighteen inches. This low-maintenance perennial creates a protective carpet in the barren, sandy, sunny (yet damp) soils of the heaths and thickets in which it is found.  Bearberry is said to be a native to Eurasia, but is naturalized throughout the Northern Hemispheres, northward to the Arctic Circle.  It is distributed over the greater part of northern Europe, Asia and North America, where it may be found as far south as Virginia, and it is rare or protected in some states. The shrub produces brilliant red berries that are often mistaken for cranberries (hence, several of its common names) that remain on the plant all winter, affording survival food for bears, birds and other fauna.  Noting the fact that bears were fond of the berries, the plant received the name Bearberry; and its botanical name, Uva ursi, is derived from the Latin, meaning “bear's grapes.”  The leathery-textured leaves of Bearberry hold a centuries-old place of honor in herbal medicine as a diuretic and tonic with very astringent qualities.  Kublai Khan knew of the plant's medicinal properties, and it was used in China for incontinence.  Records dating from thirteenth-century Welsh herbals describe Bearberry's medicinal properties, and other medicinal uses were recorded by Clusius in 1601, Gerhard of Berlin in 1763; and ultimately, Bearberry rated a place in the London Pharmacopoeia   by 1788.  It has been included into the Pharmacopoeias   of Ireland, Scotland and the United States, where it was listed from 1820 to 1936 and in the National Formulary from 1936 through 1950.  Folk healers have used Bearberry for centuries.  In North America, the Cheyenne Indians made a tea that helped back sprains.  The Algonquians (as well as the Colonists) mixed the dried leaves of Bearberry with tobacco for smoking purposes, giving the herb another of its common names, kinnikinnick, meaning “mixture.”  The Thompson tribe of British Columbia wisely used it to promote the flow of urine and to strengthen the bladder and kidneys, and the Menominees added the leaves to their menstrual remedies.  The Cheyenne and Sioux used it to promote labor contractions, and many other Native Americans understood its antiseptic properties and used it to treat venereal diseases.  Bearberry's tannins were also valued for their commercial use in tanning leather, and a Swedish species provided an ash colored dye.  Bearberry was honored in all old herbals and still holds a place in modern herbal medicine for its great value in helping diseases of the bladder and kidneys and strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages.  Bearberry is said to be more effective when not taking foods with an acidic content, such as citruses, sauerkraut, etc.  Some of the constituents included in Bearberry are glycosides (including the powerful arbutin and also methylarbutin and ericolin), flavonoids (quercetin and myricacitrin), resinous ursone, hydroquinone, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, allantoin, tannins, ellagic acid, gallic acid, hyperin, oleanolic acid, malic acid, many important minerals, B-vitamins and vitamins A and C.

Beneficial Uses:
Bearberry has been used for centuries to promote the excretion of fluids, while at the same time exerting a powerful antiseptic action that helps to combat bacteria of the urinary tract.  The arbutin content is a strong astringent and herbal antiseptic that has a curative effect on disorders of the bladder, kidneys, spleen, liver, pancreas and small intestine, and it is also a tonic that strengthens and imparts tone to the urinary mucous membrane, which may serve certain bed-wetting problems.  As an herbal remedy for urinary tract infections, Bearberry combats urethritis, prostatitis, vaginitis, chronic diarrhea, as well as infections of the uterus, ureter, bladder and kidneys.

The ability of Bearberry to promote the excretion of fluids has made it valuable in reducing excess water weight or bloating.  Moreover, it helps to reduce the accumulation of uric acid in the blood and promotes the flushing and elimination of wastes and toxins from the system, which helps to ease rheumatism and other diseases marked by the accumulation of acids and waste products, such as gout, arthritis, nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) and kidney stones.  There have been reports that Bearberry may also help to dissolve kidney stones.

Current research shows that Bearberry may possess antiviral qualities that might be particularly strong against herpes and flu viruses.

Bearberry has shown promise in relieving Cardiac edema.  As a natural diuretic, Bearberry appears to relieve the fluid accumulation and swelling of the limbs due to congestive heart failure (although not around the heart per se) and also in cases of pulmonary edema (excess water in the lungs). There are reports that Bearberry may also strengthen the heart muscle.

With regard to female health, Bearberry's tannins act as mild vasoconstrictors that help to reduce infection and inflammation after childbirth and are said to eliminate inflammation of the perineum if torn during delivery.  The herb is used to treat vaginal discharge by reducing infection and has been given topically in Sitz baths following childbirth for relief of swelling, further bleeding and inflammation and to prevent infection. The allantoin content in the herb soothes and accelerates the healing of irritated tissues.

Pregnant women, nursing women, and children under the age of twelve should not use Bearberry Herbal Supplement. As per the German Commission E, use of Bearberry should be limited to no more than fourteen days at a time, and your overall use of this herb should be limited to no more than five treatment cycles each year.  Excessive amounts (many times the recommended dosage) should not be taken, as it may be irritating to the stomach mucosa.  People with chronic kidney disease, peptic ulcers or duodenal ulcers should avoid this herb, and its use may aggravate gastro-esophageal reflux disease.  Use of this herb may turn the urine a greenish color, which is not harmful. Bearberry is said to be more effective when not consuming foods with an acidic content, such as citruses, sauerkraut, etc. 

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