Uva ursi

Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi), also known as bearberry (because bears like eating the fruit), has been used medicinally since the 2nd century. Native Americans used it as a remedy for urinary tract infections. In fact, until the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, uva ursi was a common treatment for bladder-related infections.

Through modern day scientific research in test tubes and animals, researchers have discovered that uva ursi's ability to fight infection are due to several chemicals, including arbutin and hydroquinone. The herb also contains tannins that have astringent effects, helping to shrink and tighten mucous membranes in the body. In turn, that helps reduce inflammation and fight infection.

Today, uva ursi is sometimes used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) and cystitis (bladder inflammation). One preliminary study found that uva ursi, when combined with dandelion root and leaf, helped prevent recurrent UTIs. But uva ursi can be toxic. Hydroquinone, a component of uva ursi, can cause serious liver damage. Conventional medications that have fewer risks are available to treat urinary tract infections.

Researchers believe the herb works best when a person's urine is alkaline since acid destroys its antibacterial effect. Uva ursi works best at the first sign of infection. However, more research is needed to see if uva ursi works in humans.

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Herbal medicine

Review Date: 2/4/2016  

Reviewed By: Reviewed by Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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