Uva ursi has a history of medicinal use dating back to the 2nd century. It has been widely used as a diuretic, astringent, and antiseptic. Folk medicine around the world has recommended Uva Ursi for nephritis, kidney stones, and chronic cystitis. The herb has also been used as a general tonic for weakened kidneys, liver or pancreas. Native Americans used it as a remedy for headaches, to prevent and cure scurvy and to treat urinary tract infections. In fact, until the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, Uva ursi was the treatment of choice for such bladder and related infections. Through modern day scientific research in test tubes and animals, Uva ursi's antimicrobial properties, which can help fight infection, and diuretic effects have been demonstrated.
Uva ursi may be of great value in diseases of the bladder and kidneys, strengthening and imparting tone to the urinary passages. The diuretic action is due to the glucoside arbutin, which is largely absorbed unchanged and is excreted by the kidneys. During its excretion, arbutin exercises an antiseptic effect on the urinary mucous membrane. Therefore, it is used in inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystisis, etc.
This herb helps prevent postpartum infection. Uva Ursi is also helpful for chronic diarrhea. As a nutritional supplement and muscle relaxant, Uva Ursi soothes, strengthens, and tightens irritated and inflamed tissues. The herb neutralizes acidity in the urine, increasing urine flow, therefore reducing bloating and water retention, making it beneficial for weight loss. Uva ursi's astringent properties may also assist in the treatment of some bed wetting problems.
Uva ursi also contains allantoin which is well known for its soothing and tissue-repairing properties. Externally, it has been used as an astringent wash for cuts and scrapes and applied externally for back sprain.
Urinary Tract Infections
Uva Ursi contains chemicals, primarily hydroquinone and hydroquinone derivatives, that make it potentially useful for urinary conditions and is used to treat infections such as cystitis, urethritis and nephritis. The hydroquinone derivative, arbutin, is the chief active compound in uva ursi. It is absorbed in the stomach and converted into a substance with antimicrobial, astringent, and disinfectant properties. During urination, as it passes out of the body it acts on the mucus membranes of the urinary tract to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation, and fight infection. Interestingly, arbutin taken alone is not as effective as the whole Uva Ursi plant in controlling urinary tract infections. That's because intestinal bacteria can break down arbutin, but they are less likely to do so in the presence of other Uva Ursi compounds.
Uva Ursi has been approved for treating inflammation of the lower urinary tract by Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, which is the German governmental agency that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of herbal products. An astringent shrinks and tightens the top layers of mucous membranes, thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness.
Uva Ursi also contains diuretic chemicals, including ursolic acid, powerful astringents, and a chemical that helps promote the growth of healthy new cells, allatoin. In addition to its antiseptic and astringent actions, uva ursi may help to flush out bacteria by promoting urination. It has been used to reduce the accumulation of uric acid and relieve pain of bladder stones. The diuretic action may relieve the bloating feeling associated with menstruation.
Uva Ursi has been reported to be effective against E. coli. Preparations made from bearberries act anti-bacterially in vitro against Proteus vulgaris, E. coli, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma hominis, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aerginosa, Friedlander's pneumonia, Enterococcus faecalis, and Streptococcus strains, as well as against Candida albicans. The anti-microbial effect is associated with the aglycone hydroquinone released from arbutin (transport form) or arbutin waste products in the alkaline urine.
High Blood Pressure
Diuretics are often prescribed to treat high blood pressure. However as they also deplete the body's potassium, it is advisable to increase your intake of fresh vegetables and bananas. Diuretics are also prescribed for congestive heart failure. However, consultation with a doctor before using uva ursi for these reasons is advisable.
Allantoin contained in uva ursi is an active ingredient in many over the counter creams to treat cold sores, herpes, and vaginal infections.
Astringent tannins found in this herb are binding and help relieve diarrhea.