Uva UrsiArctostaphylos uva-ursi
The uva ursi plant is a low-lying evergreen bush whose berries are a favorite of bears, hence the name "bearberry." However, it is the leaves that are used medicinally.
Uva ursi has a long history of use for treating urinary conditions in both America and Europe. Up until the development of sulfa antibiotics, its principal active component, arbutin, was frequently prescribed as a urinary antiseptic.
Uva ursa is widely marketed today for the treatment of bladder infections. However, it has not been proven effective for this condition, and there are significant safety concerns with its use. 5<![CDATA]>
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Uva Ursi?
Despite uva ursi's popularity for treating bladder infections, there is no meaningful evidence that it works. Two studies evaluated the antibacterial power of the urine of people who were taking uva ursi and found activity against most major bacteria that infect the urinary tract.
However, while such findings are interesting, what is really needed is a
Rather strangely, one study evaluated continuous use of uva ursi for
of bladder infections. This double-blind, placebo-controlled trial followed 57 women for one year.
European recommendations indicate that the dosage of uva ursi should be adjusted to provide 400 to 800 mg of arbutin daily.
Due to fears of toxicity (see
Uva ursi should be taken with meals to minimize gastrointestinal upset. Uva ursi (based on its arbutin content) is thought to be most effective in alkaline urine,
Uva ursi is also frequently sold in combination with other herbs traditionally thought to be helpful for bladder infections, including
There are significant safety concerns with uva ursi. The arbutin contained in uva ursi leaves is broken down in the intestine to another chemical, hydroquinone. This is altered a bit by the liver and then sent to the kidneys for excretion.
Hydroquinone then acts as an antiseptic in the bladder. Unfortunately, hydroquinone is also a liver toxin, carcinogen, and irritant.
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3. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics . 2nd ed. New York, NY: Wiley; 1996:505.
4. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Uvae ursi Folium. Exeter, UK: ESCOP, 1997. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs, Fascicule 5.
5. Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine . 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1998:223.
6. Frohne VD. The urinary disinfectant effect of extract from leaves uva ursi [in German; English abstract]. Planta Med . 1970;18:1-25.
7. Kedzia B, Wrocinski T, Mrugasiewicz K, et al. Antibacterial action of urine containing arbutine metabolism [in Polish; English summary]. Med Dosw Mikrobiol . 1975;27:305-314.
8. Larsson B, Jonasson A, Fianu S. Prophylactic effect of UVA-E in women with recurrent cystitis: a preliminary report. Curr Ther Res . 1993;53:441-443.
9. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Uvae ursi Folium. Exeter, UK: ESCOP, 1997. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs, Fascicule 5.
10. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice . New York, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1994:79.
11. Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine . 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1998:224.
12. Nowak AK, Shilkin KB, Jeffrey GP. Darkroom hepatitis after exposure to hydroquinone [letter]. Lancet . 1995;345:1187.
13. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Extremely Hazardous Substances. Superfund Chemical Profiles . Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes Data Corporation; 1988:1906-1907.
14. Lewis RJ Sr. Sax’s Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials . 8th ed. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold; 1989:1906-1907.
15. Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine . 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1998:223.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board<![CDATA]>
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