Bear Berry Summary

Bearberry is common in the northern climates, and prefers to live in harsh, cold, and exposed environments. It is a low growing shrub, with leathery leaves, and small red berries. 

Bearberry is specific for the urinary system, and provides significant demulcent, astringent, and antimicrobial actions to this area of the body. This combination of urinary system specific actions makes bearberry one of the best choices available for urinary tract infections. 

Bearberries main use is for urinary tract infections and gravel, but is also useful for general tonic effects on the area (short duration), and instances of ulceration in the urinary tract. 

It can be made into a tea, taken in capsules, or as a liquid extract. 


Herbal Actions:

  • Urinary antiseptic
  • Astringent
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diuretic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Demulcent

Botanical Name:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

 

Family:

Ericaceae

 

Part used:

Leaf

bear berry leaves

Dosage

Infusion (1:20)

xxx - xxx ml/day

Tincture (1:5)

11 - 22 ml/day

Liquid Extract (1:2)

4.5 - 8.5 ml/day

A Note On Long-Term Dosage

Bearberry is best used for short durations only. Up to 10 days in a row, and no more than 5 times per year.

Order Some Now

Indications:

[3, 5, 7]

  • Inflammatory or infectious conditions of lower UT especially cystitis
  • Prostatitis
  • Kidney or bladder calculi
  • Acute catarrhal cystitis with dysuria (BHP)
  • Cystitis
  • Topical inflammations (applied topically)
  • Vaginal infection (as a douche)

Common Names:

  • Bear berry
  • Uva-Ursi
  • Mountain cranberry
  • Green manzanita
  • Busserole
  • Raisin d'ours (France)
  • Kinnikinnick
  • Tinnick
  • Mealberry
  • Chipmunks apples
  • Crowberry
  • Foxberry
  • Hog cranberry
  • Mountain tobacco
  • Red bearberryUpland cranberry

Traditional Uses:

Bearberry leaves have been used as an antiseptic since the 1200's in Europe. [7]. 

In North America, uva-ursi has been used as an addition to ceremonial smoking rituals, as well as for venereal disease and inflammation and infection of the urinary tract. [7]. 

Th Ecclectics used uva-ursi to treat chronic bladder irritations, enuresis, excessive mucous, blood in the urine, chronic diarrhea, dysentery, menorrhagia, leucorrhea, diabetes, chronic gonorhea, and strangury [7]. 

The berries of uva-ursi can be eaten as food, as well. 

Uva-ursi has also been used to whiten skin and may be used treat hyperpigmentation disorders [7]. 

Bearberry has been used in the past to treat bed wetting [3], which is likely due to its well known astringing and tonifying actions to the urinary system. 

The British herbal pharmocopoeia lists bearberry as a diuretic, urinary antiseptic, and astringent useful for cystitis, urethritis, dysuria, pyelitis, and lithuria [2]. 


    Botanical Description:

    The Arctostaphylos genus contains 50 species. Bearberry itself is a small, evergreen shrub that tends to form matts. It prefers well draining mountainous slopes, but can also be found growing throughout hilly fields and pastures in temperate regions. 

    The leaves of bearberry are obovate, forming from a wedge shaped base. They have a dark green surface, and a silver-grey underside. 

    The flowers are small, pink, and bell shaped arranged in drooping clusters. [7]. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Arctostaphylos is native to Europe, Asia, and northern United States and Canada. The Arctostaphylos genus is distributed across the northern hemispheres the world over. [2, 7]. 

    It prefers to grow on rocky hills in the mountains but can be found in fields and near rivers or sandy beaches/dunes as well. Bearberry proliferated well after a fire, as the seeds are fire resistant and require cold treatment in order to germinate. In the absence of fires, it spreads mainly through vegetative growth. [6]. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Bearberry is usually prepared as an infusion or as a liquid extract. Cold water extraction is the preferred extraction technique in order to better preserve the arbutin, and helps to eliminate alot of the tannins, This would not be preferred in cases where it is primarily the astringent benefits that are desired of the plant. 


    Constituents:

    Flavonoids Iridoids, quinones, tannins, terpenoids, acids, resin, volatile oils. 

    Bearberry leaves contain hydroquinone glycosides (including arbutin and methylarbutin), iridoids (monotropein), polyphenols (mainly gallotannins), phenolic acids, flavonoids (quercetrin, iso-quercetrin, myricacitrin, and others), tannins, volatile oils, ursolic acid, malic acid, gallic acid, and triterpenes. [3, 4, 7]. 

    The arbutin contained in the leaves, bark, and roots of uva-ursi forms a chemical called hydroquinone, which inhibits the growth of surrounding plants. Arbutin has also been noted to exist in many plants that have developed the ability to survive extreme and prolonged dehydration. [7]. Arbutin has also been reported to convert to hydroquinone in the bladder less efficiently with acidic urine. This is why many texts suggest alkalizing the urine along with the use of bearberry for best results as an antimicrobial [2]. 


    Pharmacodynamics

    Arbutin, one of the main components of bearberry (a phenolic glycoside), is hydrolyzed in the intestines to hydroquinone, absirbed, and metabolised where it is then excreted in the urine. [8, 9]. 


    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Antibacterial

    The main source of the antibacterial activity of bearberry is hotly debated among researchers. Many consider the hydroquinone esters such as arbutin to be the main antibacterial source, while others suggest that it is instead the free hydroquinone that provides this activity. Nevertheless the antibacterial effects of bearberry are well known and have been found to be especially useful for urinary tract infections. [7].

    The antibacterial action of arbutin was found to have a correlation with beta-glucosidase activity inside bacteria. This is an enzyme that will convert arbutin into free hydroquinone. Streptococcus, Klebsiella, and Enterobacter were noted to have the highest activity of this enzyme. [7]. The hydroquinone that is a resulting metabolite from the phenolic glycoside arbutin, affects the sufaceexposed adhesins, cell wall polypeptides, and membrane bound enzymes [10].  

    Other componenets in bearberry are also suggested to support these effects including methylarbutin, tannins, gallic acid, ellagic acid, and
    numerous flavonoids, including quercetin, myricetin and
    their glycosides, as well as the triterpenes b-amyrin and ursolic
    acid [10]. 

    In one study, bearberry was found to be amongst the most active out of 14 different Canadian medicinal plants agains Neisseria gonorrhoeae [1]. This is an important finding inlight of a new strain of drug resistent gonorrhoeae strain. 

    • Uva-ursi has been noted to produce a stronger antibacterial action on the urinary tract when the urine is alkaline. Since the majority of cases of urinary tract infection produces acidic urine, it may be beneficial to alkalinize the urine alongside the application of uva-ursi. [7]. 
      • use bicarbonate, or alkaline-forming diet. 

    Toxicity and Contraindications:

    • Contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation, as well as in children under 12
    • Kidney disorders 
    • Bearberry is not suitable for long term usage, mainly due to the high tannin content.

    Cautions:

    • Short term use only. Arbutin is toxic in higher doses and may cause hepatotoxicity, irritation, and inflammation of the urinary mucous membranes.
    • Use for 7-10 days only and no more than 5 times per year
    • This herb is threatened or endangered in some parts of North America and south east Europe so beware of this when wildcrafting
    • Avoid using with other treatments that can result in acidic urine as it will reduce its antibacterial effects. (Suggested to work best in more alkaline urine)
    • Tannins present can reduce nutrient absorption
    • Be cautious of adulterations in bearberry products. Anything less than 6% arbutin is considered to have been adulterated with other herbs. Some common adulterants are Vaccinium species, Arctostaphylos alpinus, and Buxus sempervirens. [7]. 
    • In high doses bearberry can cause cramping, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Still compiling research. 


    Synergy:

    Possible synergy with dandelion root or leaf. 

    Uva-ursi has been noted to produce a stronger antibacterial action on the urinary tract when the urine is alkaline. Since the majority of cases of urinary tract infection produces acidic urine, it may be beneficial to alkalinize the urine alongside the application of uva-ursi. [7].



    Recent Blog Posts:

    References:

    1. Cybulska, P., Thakur, S. D., Foster, B. C., Scott, I. M., Leduc, R. I., Arnason, J. T., & Dillon, J. R. (2011). Extracts of Canadian First Nations Medicinal Plants, Used as Natural Products, Inhibit Neisseria gonorrhoeae Isolates With Different Antibiotic Resistance Profiles. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 38(7), 667-671. doi:10.1097/olq.0b013e31820cb166
    2. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.
    3. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
    4. Wren, R. C. (1968). Potter's new cyclopaedia of botanical drugs and preparations. Rustington, Sussex: Health Science Press for Potter & Clarke.
    5. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
    6. Small, E., & Catling, P. M. (1999). Canadian medicinal crops. Ottawa: NRC Research Press. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10006178
    7. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China. (Pg. 392-398).
    8. Hansel R, Sticher O, Steinegger E. Pharmakognosie-Phytopharmazie. (1999). Berlin: Springer-Verlag,
    9. Siegers C, Bodinet C, Ali SS, Siegers CP. (2003). Bacterial deconjugation of arbutin by Escherichia coli. Phytomedicine 2003;10:58–60.
    10. Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): A Review of Clinical Therapeutics by the American Herbal Pharmacopeia (2015). Alternative And Complementary Therapies, 21(4), 180-181. doi:10.1089/act.2015.29013.uva