Although it is also known as Gayuba and has the scientific name of Arctostaphylos. It translates as “bear’s grape” or “bear berry” and the fact is that these animals are very interested in the fruit of this shrub in autumn, as it is a basic part of their diet, as well for other animals such as thrushes and capercaillies. And, because “nature is wise”, you can already imagine its benefits…
However, we will focus on its properties for humans, as its many benefits for the organism were already well known since the Middle Ages due to its astringent, anti-diarrhoeal, anti-inflammatory and haemostatic properties…
- 1. What is Uva Ursi?
- 2. Origin and history of uva ursi
- 3. What are the properties and benefits of bearberry?
- 4. Other health benefits
- 5. Its role in urinary infections
- 6. Side effects of uva ursi
- 7. Contraindications
- 8. Keep the following interactions in mind
- 9. How to take uva ursi?
- 10. Uva Ursi supplements
- 11. Related Entries:
What is Uva Ursi?
Uva ursi is, roughly speaking, an extraordinary remedy for urinary problems.
It is small in size and can be considered a low growing plant, since the maximum height it can reach is two metres, and it does not even grow very often. It flowers around May.
Regarding more morphological features, its white or pinkish flowers grow in clusters. On the other hand, its berries are similar to cranberries. In fact, they are round, measure between 6-8 millimeters of diameter and they become red when they are ripe.
Origin and history of uva ursi
When it comes to its geographical distribution, uva ursi is a plant that adapts really well to subarctic territories. Therefore, it grows specially in the northern areas of Europe, as well as in the mountains of Asia and the Canadian tundra. Nevertheless, it is also quite common to see the fields of the Pyrenees mountains covered with this plant.
It is also very common to see a beautiful mantle formed by its tiny leaves in the clearings of pine and oak forests in the Pyrenean mountain range and on the high plateaus of the Iberian system.
Traditionally, uva ursi has been used as a natural remedy to treat urinary system problems both in American and Europe. In fact, physicians used to prescribe arbutin, its most relevant active ingredient, as an antiseptic against urinary infections such as: nephritis, pyelonephritis, cystitis and urethritis.
But that is not its only renowned therapeutic property. For 2000 years, people have used it as a smooth diuretic, astringent and treatment against urinary tract diseases.
In fact, it seems that Native Americans used it extensively as a natural remedy for headaches and when vitamin C deficiency took its toll in the form of scurvy. Such was the faith they had in it.
What are the properties and benefits of bearberry?
Allantoin, on the other hand, is a plant factor associated with its sedative properties and its ability to stimulate tissue repair. It also aids healing by promoting the growth of healthy cells.
What’s more, bearberry leaf has an external use you may not have heard of and that is that, in the form of a skin wash, it accelerates the skin regeneration process after cuts and scrapes.
At the same time, allantoin also helps to eliminate bacteria and undesirable substances such as toxins, uric acid, fat and excess mineral salts. In addition, it is particularly effective in treating cold sores and vaginal infections.
Apart from all these pharmacologically active substances, uva ursi also has ursolic acid, a powerful diuretic and astringent.
Bearberry acts as a tonic for several viscera, mainly the kidneys, liver and pancreas, but also the ureters and urethra. It has also been shown to reduce the formation of uric acid crystals, which are responsible for painful attacks of gout. And their benefits do not end there, as they even act as an analgesic in cases of colic caused by bladder stones.
- Preventing postpartum infections.
- It works perfectly to treat chronic diarrhoea due to malabsorption by promoting the formation of the faecal bolus, thanks to its high concentration of tannins.
- Promotes muscle relaxation, helping to aid recovery of irritated and inflamed tissues, if taken as a dietary supplement.
- It helps to combat high blood pressure because it is a diuretic and, as such, stimulates the flow of urine and urination. From this effect, it is useful as an adjunct to weight-loss diets, as it counteracts water retention.
- Attention! If you are going to use it in this way, remember that producing a higher than normal volume of urine on a sustained basis leads to an excessive elimination of potassium which you will have to compensate for via food or supplementation.
- It is used to treat nocturnal enuresis, a problem that is not often brought to light but affects a good percentage of older children.
Other health benefits
In addition to everything we have said so far, and expressly excluding its function on the excretory apparatus, which we will discuss in the following section, one of the main benefits of uva ursi is that it helps to reduce the accumulation of uric acid and, consequently, the formation of urate stones in the bladder.
Let us finish this point by mentioning two uses of bearberry that have nothing to do with human health: its berries can be used to make jam and its leaves are used as flavoring for pipe tobacco.
Its role in urinary infections
However, its most outstanding substance is arbutin, which produces an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effect on the urinary system. Arbutin is a glycoside which is hydrolysed by bacterial flora in the gut.
The consequence of this hydrolysis? The resulting metabolites are sugar and hydroquinone, a very pharmacologically active substance which, once released by the liver, is released into the bloodstream and reaches the kidneys. It is at this point that its antiseptic effects unfold, and it is completely eliminated in the urine.
There is a very important phase in the metabolic cycle of hydroquinone. That is the combination with glucuronic acid released by the digestive system. Consequently, this produces another component that works on the mucous membranes from the urinary tracts, reducing the inflammation.
Although the therapeutic process starts with the intake of arbutin, hydroquinone is the substance that makes bearberry an impressive urinary antiseptic, responsible for most of the effects aimed at fighting infections in this part of the body.
In any case, it is important to be aware that for hydroquinone to be effective in this action, the urine must be alkaline, because when the pH is low, it tends to inactivate.
The next option to keep in mind is the intake of sodium bicarbonate, although the problem is that this substance can trigger certain side effects, so ideally you should opt for the dietary route to alkalinise your urine.
To support the efficacy of uva ursi even further, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy has included it in its list of substances suitable for treating cystitis when it is not indispensable to use antibiotics.
Side effects of uva ursi
Although there is little doubt about the safety of taking bearberry for short periods of time, if you notice that you are urinating too frequently or feel any of the symptoms described below, you should stop taking it.
These side effects include:
- Dyspnoea (shortness of breath)
Taking high doses can trigger nausea and vomits, even gut irritation as a consequence of its high tannin content.
As a diuretic, it can reduce the amount of potassium in the body, as mentioned above, so it is advisable to enrich the diet by eating fresh vegetables and fruit, especially bananas.
Regarding whether pregnant women can take bearberry, in principle there is not enough data known to support or deny possible adverse effects of uva ursi on foetal development and on the composition of breast milk.
Certain pathological situations are susceptible to the consumption of uva ursi, in any form, aggravating the symptoms. These include kidney disease, high blood pressure, stomach and duodenal ulcers and Crohn’s disease.
Therefore, if you are suffering from any of them, you should be cautious about taking this substance because even temporary gastrointestinal disturbances could be aggravated.
The reason? They are supplements that contain high amounts of tannins, as mentioned above, which can irritate the membrane that “lines” the inside of the stomach and intestines.
If you are taking diuretics, you should also be aware that the simultaneous intake of uva ursi may contribute to an imbalance in electrolytes (mainly calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium), resulting in disorders of nerve reactions and muscle function.
Keep the following interactions in mind
When considering the possible interactions of uva ursi, which are not few, despite the fact that it is a natural substance, you have to distinguish between interactions with medicines and with plant species. Let us look at the main ones.
Interactions of Uva Ursi with medicinal products
- On the one hand, there are those known as non-steroids. Among the best known are ibuprofen and indomethacin. The effects of both are accentuated by the presence of arbutin due to the exacerbation of hypersensitivity to the latter.
- On the other hand, within the corticosteroid group, it is again the same active ingredient, arbutin, which potentiates the effects of prednisolone and dexamethasone, when applied for contact dermatitis or oedema.
For this reason, extreme caution should be exercised if uva ursi is taken in combination with any type of anti-inflammatory medication, both corticosteroids and non-steroids.
Secondly, bearberry has been shown to interact synergistically with pharmacological agents that enhance urine production, and in the case of urine acidifiers (one of which is vitamin C or ascorbic acid), which can produce a masking of the antibacterial effect of uva ursi.
Medicines such as ammonium chloride or rosehip produce similar effects, as does cranberry juice, which can acidify the urine too much.
Conversely, the alkalinising effect of certain foods such as mint, honey, sultanas, beans, spinach and certain antacid medicines or bicarbonate of soda should be highlighted.
Interactions with other vegetable species
Don’t lose sight of the fact that combining bearberry and aloe vera, given the aloesin or aloin contained in the latter substance, stimulates the natural capacity to inhibit the enzyme thyronase, which is responsible for oxidising phenols, intensifying the depigmenting function of uva ursi.
How to take uva ursi?
We have already mentioned that uva ursi works best in alkaline urine, so when considering a diet, you should avoid anything that promotes acidification of the organic fluids, as it is logical that the urine will be influenced.
What does this mean? Well, to proscribe for the most part the consumption of foods that are too acidic, although it is worth remembering that most foods are slightly acidic, with the exception of egg whites.
It may also happen that you start taking uva ursi for the treatment of high blood pressure. In this case, we reiterate the importance of consuming more fresh vegetables and fruit, especially those rich in this macromineral.
However, bear in mind that the most widespread use of bearberry is to combat urinary tract infections. It is true that there is no reliable clinical evidence to support a specific dosage, but a daily dose of 8-10 g of leaf is usually recommended.
Important: the basic rule regarding the consumption of uva ursi isn’t to consume it for more than one week or five weekly treatments in a single year.
The producers have tried to reach some kind of agreement in terms of the composition of the products that are sold. The European Pharmacopoeia suggests a minimum of a 7% of arbutin regarding the weight of the dry leaf. Although it is common to find concentrations that are close to a 15%.
Studies have shown that doses ten times the recommended dose lead to nausea, vomiting, convulsions and tinnitus (ringing in the ears caused by the concentration of hydroquinone), difficulty in breathing and cyanosis, which is a bluish tinge to the body. On the other hand, taking a dose of 30 grams or more can have fatal consequences.
Uva Ursi supplements
As for the forms of presentation, there are several at your disposal, and you can choose according to your preferences and the purpose for which each one is recommended:
- Infusion: It is as easy as boiling uva ursi on its own or in combination, with several possibilities. A first example is one teaspoon of bearberry leaves per cup of water, of which you can drink three cups a day. Another is to prepare a tablespoon of thyme, bearberry, goldenrod and heather in a litre of water. You can also do the same but with thyme, horsetail, bearberry, calendula and linseed. To tackle vaginal infections, mix equal parts horsetail, thyme, bearberry and chamomile.
- It is particularly suitable for combating inflammation of the bladder and urethra if you combine it with other plant species with antibacterial action, the best examples being corn silk, mallow flowers and cat’s tail. To do this, combine 20 grams of each. Boil the mixture for a few minutes and drink 3-4 cups a day.
- Uva ursi tea: Highly reputed for its lethality on several bacterial species such as: Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus spp, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Proteus vulgaris and Friedlander’s mycoplasma, responsible for causing severe pneumonia, as well as the yeast Candida albicans. This tea is used for the treatment of urate accumulation in kidney stones, bronchitis, nephritis, backache and cystitis.
- Powder, capsules and tincture (applied 5 ml 3 times a day).
You can buy Uva Ursi Supplements at an unbeatable price on the HSN website. We recommend:
- Urinary tract infections, how to prevent them
- Natural Diuretics