By Christopher Hobbs
Common names: Uva-ursi, bearberry, kinnikinnik, upland cranberry
Latin name: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Part used: Leaf
Medicinal uses: Uva-ursi, with its urinary antiseptic properties, can be helpful for bladder infections or mild kidney infections. It’s an effective diuretic that helps clean and heal the urinary tract.
Forms commonly used: Tea made from bulk herb, tincture.
Side effects: According to the Botanical Safety Handbook (CRC, 1997), uva-ursi should not be used during pregnancy.
The herb is also contraindicated for those with chronic kidney disorders or irritated digestive conditions. Don’t use the herb for long periods unless you’re under the guidance of a health-care professional. Children younger than 12 shouldn’t use uva-ursi.
Notes: Uva-ursi is native to Europe but grows throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The plant rarely grows taller than a few inches.
To make uva-ursi tea, simmer 1 tablespoon of the leaves in 2 cups of water for 30 to 40 minutes, until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Drink 1/2 cup of the tea twice daily. If you have a bladder infection, try drinking the tea mixed with unsweetened cranberry juice.
Uva-ursi was first documented in The Physicians of Myddfai, a 13th-century Welsh herbal. Native Americans used the herb as a urinary remedy and also mixed the leaves with tobacco in a smoking mixture. The name uva-ursi means “bear grapes,” presumably because bears like to eat the plant’s berries. Uva-ursi often turns the urine a dark-green color, but this is harmless.
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