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Uva ursi (bearberry)

What is uva ursi? What is it used for?

Uva ursi is a small shrub that grows in colder northern climates. The shrub contains small, thumb-shaped green leaves and red flowers. The shrub also contains red berries which bears are reportedly quite find of (hence the nickname of "bearberry"). The leaves and berries are used medicinally.

The active ingredient in uva ursi is called arbutin, which has been shown to kill bacteria in the urine. It also works in conjunction with a substance called hydroquinone in the intestines to aid in the transport of water to the kidneys. Although no human studies have been published on the subject, uva ursi is believed to help treat urinary tract infections.

How much uva ursi should I take?

The German Commission E monograph suggests three grams of uva ursi taken in 150 millileters of water as an infusion three to four times daily. For alcohol-based tinctures, five millileters TID can be taken. For herbal extracts or capsules (containing 20% arbutin), 250-500mg TID can also be taken. However, use of uva ursi should be limited to no more than 14 days consecutively.

What forms of uva ursi are available?

Uva ursi is available in several forms, including powders, tinctures, extracts, capsules and tablets.

What can happen if I take too much uva ursi? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Some patients may become nauseous after taking uva ursi. Prolonged use (more than two to three weeks) is not recommended, as it may cause intestinal disorders. In addition, people should not take acidic liquids such as cranberry juice or prune juice, or more than 500mg of vitamin C, while using uva ursi. It should not be used by pregnant or lactating women, and it should be used in children only with the guidance of a healthcare professional.

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  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine
  • Communications, 1998, 224—5.
  • Hincha DK, Oliver AE, Crowe JH. Lipid composition determines the effects of arbutin on the stability of membranes. Biophys J Oct 1999;77(4):2024-34.
  • Jahodar L, Jilek P, Pakova M, Dvorakova V. Antimicrobial effect of arbutin and an extract of the leaves of arctostaphylos uva-ursi in vitro. Ceskoslov Farm 1985;34:174—8.
  • Kamei H, Koide T, Kojima T, Hashimoto Y, Hasegawa M. Inhibition of cell growth in culture by quinones. Cancer Biother Radiopharm Jun 1998;13(3):185-8.
  • Matsuda H, Nakamura S, Tanaka T, Kubo M. Pharmacological studies on leaf of arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L) spreng v. Effect of water extract from arctostaphylos uva-ursi (l) spreng (bearberry leaf) on the antiallergic and antiinflammatory activities of dexamethasone ointment. J Pharm Soc Japan 1992;112:673—7.



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