Uva Ursi

Scientific names: Arctostaphylos uva ursi (Also referred to as Arbutus uva ursi). The related plants A. adenotricha and A. coactylis also have been termed uva ursi by some authors.

Common names: Uva ursi also is known as bearberry, kinnikinnik, hogberry, rockberry, beargrape, and manzanita.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Uva Ursi?

Uva ursi is a low-growing evergreen shrub with creeping stems that form a dark green carpet of leaves. The plant has small, dark, fleshy, leathery leaves and clusters of small, white or pink bell-shaped flowers. It produces a dull orange berry. The plant grows abundantly throughout the northern hemisphere from Asia to the US.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

“Uva ursi” means “bear's grape” in Latin, probably because bears are fond of the fruit. Uva ursi was first documented in a 13th century Welsh herbal. Teas and extracts of the leaves have been used as urinary tract antiseptics and diuretics for centuries. The plant has been used as a laxative, and the leaves have been smoked. Bearberry teas and extracts have been used as vehicles for pharmaceutical preparations. In homeopathy, a tincture of the leaves is believed to be effective in the treatment of cystitis, urethritis, and urinary tract inflammations. The berries are not used medicinally, they are juicy but have an insipid flavor that improves upon cooking.

Miscellaneous uses

Uva ursi has been used to treat urinary tract infections. Uva ursi is one of the best natural urinary antiseptics and has been extensively used in herbal medicine. The German Commission E monograph lists its use as “for inflammatory disorders of the lower urinary tract.” Uva ursi also has mild diuretic activity. It is also used to treat induced contact dermatitis, allergic reaction-type hypersensitivity, and arthritis in conjunction with prednisolone and dexamethasone. However, research reveals limited clinical data regarding the use of uva ursi to treat any condition.

What is the recommended dosage?

While there is no recently published clinical evidence to support specific dosage, uva ursi has been used for urinary tract infections at doses of up to 10 g of leaf daily, equivalent to arbutin 400 to 840 mg.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Ingestion of uva ursi in large doses has resulted in ringing of the ears, nausea, vomiting, cyanosis, convulsions, collapse, and death.

Pregnancy/nursing

Avoid use. The published report of the Expert Advisory Committee in Herbs and Botanical Preparations to the Canadian Health Protection Branch (January 1986) recommended that food preparations containing uva ursi provide labeling contraindicating their use during pregnancy and lactation because large doses of uva ursi are oxytocic (stimulates the uterus).

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Ingestion of uva ursi in large doses has resulted in ringing of the ears, nausea, vomiting, cyanosis, convulsions, collapse, and death. The product may also impart a green color to the urine and cause gastric discomfort.

Toxicities

Ingestion of 1 g of hydroquinone resulted in ringing of the ears, nausea, vomiting, cyanosis, convulsions, and collapse. Death followed the ingestion of hydroquinone 5 g. These symptoms are rare. Most commercial products have less than 1 g of crude uva ursi per dose.

References

  1. Uva Ursi. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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