The uva-ursi, or common bearberry, was once considered a magical plant whose
powers included protection against ghosts. Its name referes to the bears' fondness for the
plant's red fruit; uva-ursi means "bear's grape" in Latin. Because of its disinfectant
capability, uva-ursi is a potent remedy for infections of the urinary tract.

About 50 species of hardy, deciduous or evergreen shrubs make up this genus that occurs mainly in western N America. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry) is widely distributed on acidic, scrubby, rocky and sandy areas. It is a fast-growing shrublet that can be grown on the rock garden, and on banks to control erosion. The name is from the Greek arkton staphyle, "bear's grapes"; the fruits are an important food for bears. Bearberry contains hydroquinones, notably arbutin, which is strongly anti-bacterial. It is effective against a number of pathogens, including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

This perennial plant produces red berries that look like cranberries but are not as tasty. Yet bears don't seem to mind; they eat large amounts of the uva ursi berries whenever they can find them, which is why one of this herb's common names is bearberry. Test-tube studies indicate that the herb can combat Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and other bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and other common ailments.

Mat-forming, evergreen shrub with rooting branches, and obovate, dark green leaves, about 6cm (2½in) long. Racemes of white, pink-flushed flowers appear from early spring, followed by glossy, spherical, red fruits.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Arberry, Bear's Grape, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Rockberry, Upland Cranberry, Uva Ursi
Botanical Name:
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Plant Facts:
Uva-ursi, a grassland plant, is a dwarf shrub that grows 12-16 inches high and has low, trailing stems. The leathery evergreen leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Bright red, sour berries develop from pink flowers.
Moist, peaty or sandy, acid (pH5) soil in sun or partial shade.
By seed sown fresh into a mixture of peat and sand in the autumn; by layering of long branches in early spring; by semi-ripe cuttings with a heel in summer. Dipping seed in boiling water for 20 seconds before sowing speeds germination.
Leaves are picked individually at any time during spring and summer, and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, medicinal tea bags, and tablets.
Native Location:
Europe, the Alps, northern Asia, North America. N Eurasia
10-15cm (4-6in)
30cm-1.2m (1-4ft)
Vancouver Jade
Has a low, arching habit, with glossy foliage and pink flowers.
Height: 15cm (6in)
Width: 45cm (18in)
Uva-ursi grows in northern Europe, the Alps, northern Asia and North America. It can be found in light, dry pine and larch forests, in dwarf shrub areas, in bogs and in the mountains among dwarf pines.
Parts Used:
For medicinal purposes, only the leaves—finely chopped or coarsely ground—are used.
An astringent, anti-bacterial herb that is an effective urinary antiseptic, possibly with some diuretic action.
The most medicinally significant ingredient in uva-ursi is arbutin, which, when transformed by the body into hydroquinone, acts as a strong disinfectant. The leaves also contain tannins, bitters, flavoglycoside and triterpene.
Largely because of hydroquinone's disinfectant property, uva-ursi is very effective against acute inflammations of the ureters, bladder and urethra. It may be even more effective if the urine can be kept alkaline, so it helps to avoid acidic foods while taking uva-ursi. When cystitic or other urinary tract infections must be treated with antibiotics, uva-ursi is still valuable as a supplementary therapy. However, uva-ursi should not be taken if there is also a kidney infection. Traditional medicine has treated vaginal infections with douches made of uva-ursi leaves.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for urinary infections (especially cystitis) and vaginitis. Needs alkaline urine to work, therefore acidic fruits and juices may be excluded from the diet during treatment. Often combined with Althea officianalis (see marshmallow), Elymus repens (See quack grass), Zea mays (See corn), and Agathosma spp. (see oval-leaf buchu). Recently found useful in treating cystitis in paraplegics (a recurrent condition, frequently resistant to conventional antibiotics). Contains irritan substances and is not given to pregnant women, children, or to patients with kidney disease.
To treat urinary problems, constipation, and bronchitis. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of uva ursi to treat urinary tract infections.
Take Care:
Uva-ursi contains tannins, which generally improve resistance to infections. However, too many can irritate the mucous lining of the stomach and cause indigestion. Boiling the leaves increases tannin's potency, so make a tea via cold infusions.
Methods of Administration:
  • Cold Infusion:
    Pour 3 cups of cold water over about 3 tsp. dried or fresh uva-ursi leaves. Let the herbs stand for 12-24 hrs., stirring occasionally; strain. Warm up (do not boil) and drink 2-3 lukewarm cups over the course of the day. Don't exceed 3 cups per day. A harmless side-effect is that your urine may become discolored.
  • Tincture:
    Pour 1/3 cup of vodka (70 proof) over ¾: oz. of uva-ursi leaves. Let it stand, tightly covered, for 4-6 weeks, shaking it several times a day. Then strain out the residue. Use 3 drops 3 times a day.
  • Commercial Preparations:
    Various commercial remedies are available at health-food stores in the form of tablets and drops. Follow the recommended dosages on the label.
    Use only products with standardized mixtures containing arbutin. These products should not be used for more than 1 week, and never exceed approved dosages without the advice of a physician. Do not take if you are pregnant or have kidney disease.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of uva ursi is 10 gm of finely cut or powdered herb.
Possible Side Effects:
Uva ursi's side effects include nausea, vomiting, and liver damage.
Drug Interactions:
Taking uva ursi with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug:
Azosemide, (Diat)
Benazepril, (Lotensin)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
Ethacrynic Acid, (Edecrin)
Etozolin, (Elkapin)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, (Dyazide, Maxzide)
Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
Taking uva ursi with these drugs may reduce or prevent absorption of the drug:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Furmarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (Fero-Grad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Taking uva ursi with these drugs may increase the therapeutic and/or adverse effects of the drug:
Acemetacin, (Acemetacin Heumann, Acemetacin Sandoz)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Choline Magnesium Trisalicylate, (Trilisate)
Choline Salicylate, (Teejel)
Diclofenac, (Cataflam, Voltaren)
Diflunisal, (Apo-Diflunisal, Dolobid)
Dipyrone, (Analgina, Dinador)
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)
Etoricoxib, (Arcoxia)
Fenoprofen, (Nalfon)
Flurbiprofen, (Ansaid, Ocufen)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indomethacin, (Indocin, Novo-Methacin)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Magnesium Salicylate, (Doan's, Mobidin)
Meclofenamate, (Meclomen)
Mefenamic Acid, (Ponstan, Ponstel)
Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
Nabumetone, (Apo-Nabumetone, Relafen)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Niflumic Acid, (Niflam, Nifluril)
Nimesulide, (Areuma, Aulin)
Oxaprozin, (Apo-Oxaprozin, Daypro)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Salsalate, (Amgesic, Salflex)
Sulindac, (Clinoril, Nu-Sundac)
Tenoxicam, (Dolmen, Mobiflex)
Tiaprofenic Acid, (DomTiaprofenic, Surgam)
Tolmetin, (Tolectin)
Valdecoxib, (Bextra)
Taking uva ursi with these drugs may increase the risk of hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood):
Acetazolamide, (Apo-Acetazolamide, Diamox Sequels)
Azosemide, (Diat)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
Ethacrynic Acid, (Edecrin)
Etozolin, (Elkapin)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Mannitol, (Osmitrol, Resectisol)
Mefruside, (Baycaron)
Methazolamide, (Apo-Methazolamide, Neptazane)
Methychlothiazide, (Aquatensin, Enduron)
Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Urea, (Amino-Cerv, UltraMide)
Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
Taking uva ursi with this drug may be harmful:
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)—May cause or increase liver damage.
Lab Test Alterations:
May confound results of diagnostic urine test that rely on color change by discoloring urine a greenish brown.
Disease Effects:
May worsen gastrointestinal ailments by irritating the gastrointestinal tract.
The Complete Natural Guide to Healing Copyright © 1999 International Masters Publishers AB™ Group 1 Card 24
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 127
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.456-457