Medicinal Uses of Uva Ursi

Hi everyone! It's Adrienne Lea. This is my script that I wrote for my Youtube video, "Medicinal Uses of Uva Ursi." I hope this is helpful!

Uva ursi’s genus is Arctostaphylos. When broken down, acto in Greek means “bear” while staphyles means “bunch of berries or grapes” (Staphylus, son of Greek wine-god Dionysus) & in Latin uva means “grape” & ursi means “of the bear.” Bears are fond of this berry, which is why deriving translations & its common name, bearberry pay tribute to bears. To help give a visual of its appearance, Artostaphylos (again, the genus) is called “manzanita,” meaning “little apple” in Spanish; the berries look like apples.

The evergreen leaves & occasionally the fruit of this small shrub is found in the “mountains of Europe, Asia, & America, and in the hills of Scotland & Ireland” (Zak, 1999). It has been used in herbal folk medicine since the 13th century as a mild diuretic, & astringent. Some traditional notions include- Welsh physicians prepared the uva ursi as teas for the bladder, kidney, & uterine disorders, as well as to cleanse the pancreas & spleen. The Lenape from the Algonquin Nation also used in their ceremony smoking mixture called “Kinnikinnick.” The Cheyenne & Sioux used it to simulate labor contractions, & it was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 until 1936 (Uva Ursi Leaf Whole Bulk, n.d.). In Scandinavia, uva ursi’s astringency (tannin content) was used to tan leather, to toughen feet when hiking, as a yellowish-brown dye, & as a waterproofing agent on cedar baskets.

Uva Ursi has an active constituent called arbutin, which acts as a sedative & also gives uva ursi it’s diuretic effect (along with the natural triterpene compound ursolic acid in uva ursi). Once consumed, arbutin converts to hydroquinone- O- beta- D- glucose as an antiseptic herb & continues as a bladder tonic. Arbutin exerts this effect after undergoing changes in the liver & then traveling through the kidneys (Weil, 2010). The hydroquinone cleanses the urinary tract as it’s being excreted, prevents many urinary tract infections, such as cystitis in women & urethritis in men, & inflammation by alkalinizing the urine while soothing, strengthening, tightening & promoting healing of urinary tissue (Uva Ursi Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, n.d.). Uva ursi’s mild vasoconstricting abilities are also effective on the endometrium of the uterus & is useful to alleviate painful menstruation (Bearberry, n.d.). Uva ursi has a wide range of uses; Other examples are that it’s helpful for chronic diarrhea, effective against e. coli (antibacterials- kill bacteria, or halts their reproduction/ antiseptic- inhibit the growth/ reproduction of many microorganisms), helps with diabetes, bronchitis, & helps prevent postpartum infection.

Uva ursi can cleanse excess uric acid, & get rid of/ relieve the pain of kidney/ bladder stones, depending on the location of the stones. Uva ursi can treat other kidney related problems i.e. heat (high body temperatures can indicate decreased kidney function) & toxins, stimulating kidney activity, & again, help reduce inflammation & infection.

Uva Ursi can be combined with dandelion Taraxacum officinale to increase the antiseptic effects.

Allantoin is another active constituent that’s in some over- the- counter creams that treat cold sores, herpes, & vaginal infections (Uva Ursi Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, n.d.). For other topical uses, uva-ursi can be made into a compress, poultice, or wash to treat boils, bruises, burns, hives, skin rashs, wounds, & more. It can be used as a mouthwash to treat canker sores, thrush, & weak gums, used as a hair rinse for dandruff, & as a sitz bath for after childbirth to prevent excessive bleeding & to promote tissue repair.

Uva ursi can be eaten, though the leaves generally aren’t considered edible, aside from making tea. The berries can be eaten raw or cooked, but are bland. The berries can quench thirst & stimulate saliva flow.

It’s recommended to not take uva ursi for more than 2 weeks at a time. Its tannin content can cause an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, & constipation (Weil, 2010). Other potential side effects are liver damage, eye problems, breathing problems, convulsions, & death. Uva ursi isn’t recommended for children, people with kidney disease, pregnant women, & breast-feeding mothers because there isn’t much information on this herb regarding safety. Some contradictions are with individuals talking lithium, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) & corticosteroids, iron supplements, etc. Those with high blood pressure & general health concerns can consult their doctor if they’re interested in taking uva ursi.


Bearberry. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Christiansen, S. (2019, February, 11). The Health Benefits of Uva Ursi: An Herbal Supplement. Retrieved from

Uva Ursi. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Uva Ursi Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Uva Ursi Leaf Whole Bulk. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Weil, A., et. al. (2010). National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, DC: National Geographic Books

Zak, V. (1999). 20,000 Secrets of Tea, The Most Effective Ways to Benefits from Nature’s Healing Herbs. New York, NY: Dell Publishing


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For any questions you have, you can reach me here:

Adrienne Lea, Certified Tarot Reader, Herbalist

Salem, Massachusetts

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