Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): Contains the glycoside arbutin, which has antimicrobial properties and acts as a mild diuretic. It has been used for urinary tract complaints, including cystitis and urolithiasis.
Bearberry has also the following claimed properties: Antilithic, aromatic, astringent, sedative (renal), stimulant (mild), tonic and urinary antiseptic.
The plant contains arbutin, methylarbutin, a bitter principle, ursolic acid, tannic acid, gallic acid, some essential oil and resin, hydroquinones (mainly arbutin, up to 17%), tannins (up to 15%), phenolic glycosides and flavonoids. The leaves are picked any time during the summer and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, medicinal tea bags and tablets.
It has been used to treat arthritis, back pain (lower), bed wetting, bile problems, bladder infections, bloating, bright's disease, bronchitis, cararrh of the bladder, cystitis, diabetes (by removing excessive sugar from the blood), diarrhea, fevers, fluid retention, gallstones, gonorrhea, headache (smoked), haemorrhoids, indigestion, kidney stones, kidney infections, liver problems, lung congestion, excessive menstruation, nephritis, obesity, pancreatitis, prostate gland weakness, rheumatism, chronic urethritis, vaginal discharge, vaginal diseases, and water retention.
It is claimed to strengthen the heart muscle and urinary tract, return the womb to its normal size after childbirth, and prevents uteral infection. It is also claimed to be a powerful tonic for the sphincter muscle of the bladder so it helps with bladder control problems. It has a strong bacteriostatic action against Staphylococci and e. coli. The leaves have strong astringent properties.
Bearberry is relatively safe, although large doses may cause nausea, green urine, bluish-grey skin, vomiting, fever, chills, severe back pain, ringing in the ears (some people can withstand up to 20g and others show signs of poisoning after just 1g); take no more than 7–10 days at a time.
History: Bearberry was first documented in The Physicians of Myddfai, a 13th century Welsh herbal, it was also described by Clusius in 1601, and recommended for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerhard and others. Often called uva-ursi, from the Latin uva, "grape, berry of the vine", ursi, "bear", i.e. "bear's grape". It first appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1788, though it probably was in use long before.
Other uses: A yellowish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, it does not require a mordant. A grey-brown dye is obtained from the fruit. The dried fruits are used in rattles and as beads on necklaces etc. The leaves are a good source of tannin. The mashed berries can be rubbed on the insides of coiled cedar root baskets in order to waterproof them. A good ground-cover for steep sandy banks in a sunny position or in light shade. A carpeting plant, growing fairly fast and carpeting as it spreads. It is valuable for checking soil erosion on watersheds. This is also a pioneer plant in the wild, often being the first plant to colonize burnt-over areas, especially on poor soils.
It should not be used by people who are pregnant, breast feeding, nor in the treatment of children (under 12) and patients with kidney disease. Drug interactions have been recorded with diuretics, as well as drugs that make the urine acidic (such as ascorbic acid and Urex).
From The Spanimax List: "15 Top Herbs"
- RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement; F. Chittendon. Oxford University Press.
- Edible and Medicinal Plants; Launert. E.
- Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants; Grae. I.
- Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses; Bown. D., Dorling Kindersley.
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