Common name: Bearberry, Kinnikinnick
Botanical name: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
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.
Uva ursi has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
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.1
No human trials have been published confirming the effectiveness of uva ursi in people with
urinary tract infections.
How much is usually taken?
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.2 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.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
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.
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with uva ursi. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. 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
2. 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.