The uva ursi plant is found in colder, northern climates. It has red flowers and red berries, which bears like to eat. The leaf is used medicinally.
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Urinary Tract Infection
Refer to label instructions
Uva ursi may help treat UTIs by killing bacteria in the bladder and urinary tract.
An extract of uva ursi is used in Europe and in traditional herbal medicine in North America, as a treatment for UTI.1 This herb is approved in Germany for treatment of bladder infections.2 The active constituent in uva ursi is arbutin. In the alkaline environment of the urine, arbutin is converted into another chemical, called hydroquinone, which kills bacteria. A generally useful amount of uva ursi tincture is 3–5 ml three times per day. Otherwise, 100–250 mg of arbutin in herbal extract capsules or tablets three times per day can be used. Uva ursi should only be used to treat a UTI under the close supervision of a physician.
The leaves and berries were used by numerous indigenous people from northern latitudes. Combined with tobacco, Native Americans sometimes smoked uva ursi. It was also used as a beverage tea in some places in Russia. The berries were considered beneficial as a weight-loss aid. It was found in wide use for infections of all parts of the body because of its astringent, or “drying,” action.
The glycoside arbutin is the main active constituent in uva ursi and comprises up to 10% of the plant by weight. Hydroquinone derived from arbutin and methylarbutin is a powerful anti-bacterial agent and is thought to be responsible for uva ursi’s ability to treat urinary tract infections. It is believed to be most effective as a urinary tract antiseptic agent if the urine is alkaline.3 No human trials have been published confirming the effectiveness of uva ursi in people with urinary tract infections.
The German Commission E monograph suggests 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) of uva ursi steeped in about 5 ounces (150 ml) of boiling water and drunk as an infusion three to four times daily.4 For alcohol-based tinctures, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) three times per day can be used. Standardized extracts in capsules or tablets (containing 20% arbutin), 700–1,000 mg three times per day, can also be taken. Use of uva ursi should be limited to no more than 14 days. To ensure alkaline urine, about 1 1/2 teaspoons (6–8 grams) of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) mixed in a glass of water can be taken. Baking soda should also not be taken for more than 14 days. People with high blood pressure should not take baking soda. Uva ursi should not be used to treat an infection without first consulting a physician.
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.
Due to the high tannin content in uva ursi, some people may experience cramping, nausea, or vomiting. It is also not recommended for long-term use. Uva ursi should not be taken by pregnant or breast-feeding women and should be used in young children only with the guidance of a healthcare professional.
1. European Scientific Cooperative for Phytotherapy. Proposal for European Monographs, Vol. 3. Bevrijdingslaan, Netherlands: ESCOP Secretariat, 1992.
2. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 224–5.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 102–3.
Last Review: 05-01-2013
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