Bearberry (Uva Ursi) Information, Uses and Cautions

Uva Ursi grows on sunny and damp grasslands. The plant bears bell shaped flowers and dark green leaves. The berries are red, glossy and small. These are available throughout the winter and spring and are eaten by bears (and also by deer, grouse) and hence it is named Bearberry in English. The literal meaning of word Uva ursi in Latin, is also Bear's Grape. Arctostaphylos uva-urs, is a European plant found in cooler climate. It is distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Bearberry Uses

It is a medicinal plant and used since ancient times in Europe for treatment of stones and urogenital disorders. It has significant prophylactic effect on recurrent cystitis. The leaves have diuretic properties and used in retention of fluid, swelling, bloating, and urinary infections.

In Homeopathy it is recommended for cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), dysuria (painful or difficult urination), hematuria (presence of blood in urine), incontinence (involuntary loss of urine from the bladder), pyelitis (inflammation of the renal pelvis), urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), and urogenital (urinary and genital organs) disorders.

It is also used for cervical ulcerations, blennorrhea (mucous discharge, especially from the urethra or vagina), enuresis (involuntary urination, especially by children at night), gallstones, gonorrhea (venereal disease involving inflammatory discharge from the urethra or vagina), gout and UTI.

General Information

Bearberry is native to North America, Europe and Asia. It is a prostrate, evergreen shrub reaching upto height of 6 inches. It has dark green, leathery leaves and twisted stems.

Leaves are obovate and smooth edged. Bark is reddish brown in colour. Flowers appear in cluster and are white-pink in colour. After flowering berries develop.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Bearberry is Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. It belongs to plant family Ericaceae. Ericaceae, commonly known as the heath or heather family is found in acid and infertile growing conditions. To this family, many well-known and economically important plants belong such as cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry and rhododendron.

Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Dilleniidae
  • Order: Ericales
  • Family: Ericaceae – Heath family
  • Genus: Arctostaphylos Adans. – manzanita P
  • Species: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. – kinnikinnick


Arbutus uva-ursi L.

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Leaves

Plant type: Shrub

Distribution: Found across the northern hemisphere, North American, Canada, Europe, Alaska, Russia, New England

Habitat: At altitudes from 3000 to 9000 feet; in open, rocky slopes and sandy areas.

Propagation: Seeds, softwood cuttings or pre-rooted stem cuttings

Vernacular names / Synonyms

Scientific name: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Spreng

English: Arctostaphylos, Beargrape Bearberry, Kinnikinnick, Hog Berry, Mealberry, Mountain Box, Rock Berry, Upland Berry

Unani: Inbud-dub, Angur-e-khiras, Rechh Dakh

Constituents of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Bearberry contains phenols, tanning agents and flavonoids. The leaves gave a flavanol glucoside, isoquercitin, arbutin and methyl arbutin. The main flavonoid found in leaves is quercetin-3-0-galactoside.

Main phenolic constituent is arbutin. Total arbutin content varies from 5-18%, tannins 15-20%.

Arbutin 5-18%

Tannins 6-40%

Arbutin hydrolyses to hydroquinone, a urinary antiseptic. It has antimicrobial, astringent, antiseptic, disinfectant effects on the urinary mucous membrane.

Arbutin is also used as a stabilizer for color photographic images.

It is an inhibitor of melanin formation and is use in some skin lightening products.

It also contains methyl arbutin, ericinol, ericolin, allantoin, isoquercetin, gallic acid, malic acid, quinic acid, ursolic acid, ursone, ellagic acid, uvaol, hyperin, myricetin, myricitrin, corilagin, and pyroside.

Important Medicinal Properties

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it. For example it has emmenagogue action and should not be used in pregnancy.

Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

  1. Astringents: Constrict tissues; styptic.
  2. Antibacterial: Active against bacteria.
  3. Antiseptic: Preventing the growth of disease-causing microorganisms.
  4. Anti-inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
  5. Antitussive: Prevent or relieve a cough.
  6. Depurative: Purifying agent.
  7. Diuretic: Promoting excretion of urine/agent that increases the amount of urine excreted.
  8. Emetic: Causes vomiting.
  9. Emmenagogue: Stimulates or increases menstrual flow.
  10. Laxative: Tending to stimulate or facilitate evacuation of the bowels.

Main Indications of Uva Ursi

Uva Ursi has diuretic properties and has urinary antiseptic properties. It is used for treatment of disorders of urinary and genital organs. It works only when the urine is alkaline so while on treatment one should not use the foods which increases acidity of urine.

  1. As a diuretic
  2. Antiseptic for Urinary tract
  3. Inflammatory conditions of Urinary Tract
  4. Kidney stones
  5. Mild Acute UTI (Urinary Tract Infections)
  6. Recurrent Cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder; caused by infection and accompanied by frequent painful urination)
  7. Urinary tonic
  8. Weight control

Uses of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Uva Ursi)

  1. It is used to get relief from symptoms of mild recurrent lower urinary tract infections such as burning sensation during urination and/or frequent urination in women.
  2. Infusion of leaves is used for urinary tract infections and in venereal disease.
  3. The tea prepared from the leaves is used in congestion, cold and cough.
  4. The leaves are also used traditionally to treat pain in kidney.
  5. The leaves of plant have astringent action and used to wash sores.
  6. Leaves are used for tanning.
  7. The poultice of leaves in applied on sprains and swellings.

Uva ursi Fluid extract, Uva-ursi complex drops, Uva Ursi capsules, are available in market and used as urinary tonic and to treat urinary tract infections and bladder related conditions.

Dosage of Uva Ursi

5 grams of fresh leaves or 3-6 grams of dried leaves can be taken only for few days.

2-4 ml tincture (1:5) / 1-3 (500 mg) capsules, can be taken thrice a day.

For preparing herbal tea / infusion, 1.5-4 gram of the herb is soaked in 150 ml of boiling water. It can be taken 2 to 4 times daily corresponding to the maximum daily dose of 8 g.

Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings of Uva Ursi

  1. It is contraindicated in irritated digestive conditions and acidic urine.
  2. Its intake should be avoided by lactating mother, pregnant woman, or patient of inflammatory disease of kidney.
  3. Its use is not recommended in children and adolescents under 18 years of age.
  4. It is emmenagogue and must not be used in pregnancy.
  5. Do not use if suffering from kidney or liver disorders.
  6. Do not take in chronic kidney diseases, peptic ulcers, and duodenal ulcers.
  7. Do not use continuously or in high quantities.
  8. Due to high tannin content and the hydroquinones it can damage the liver when taken in excess or for longer duration.
  9. It contain tannins. Intake of tannins in large doses, can cause stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, and liver damage.
  10. Longer duration use can cause chronic liver impairment.
  11. It should not be taken more than 2 weeks or at a time or more than 5 times a year.
  12. It can reduce the effectiveness of digestive enzymes.
  13. Very large doses containing hydroquinone are oxytoxic and can lead to collapse, convulsion, delirium, nausea, and possibly lethal.
  14. It may cause a greenish-brown coloration of the urine. This is harmless.
  15. It may cause nausea, vomiting, stomach-ache.
  16. While on treatment increase intake of alkaline food. Avoid intake of acidic food.
  17. It may aggravate gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  18. It may aggravate tinnitus or Ringing in the ears. If the herb has caused this condition, it will go away 2-3 after the herb in discontinued.
  19. Do not take iron along with the herb.
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