Name : Uva Ursi
Other Names : Arberry, Bears grape, Kinnikinnick, Mealberry, Mountain box, Mountain cranberry, Red bearberry, Sagackhomi, Sandberry, Upland cranberry, Uva Ursi
Parts Used : Leaves
Habitat : Found in dry, sterile, sandy or gravely soil, exposed rock.Arctic to northern United States. Also found in Europe and Mexico.Found in 3,000-9,000 foot altitudes.
Description : Trailing or prostrate evergreen shrub with mats of leafy stems; bark fine-hairy. Leaves shiny-leathery, spatula-shaped. A long single, fibrous main root sends out several prostrate or buried stems from which grow erect, branching stems 4-6 inches high.Eventually, the plant will spread to 15 feet coverage of the ground.The bark is dark brown or somewhat reddish.The leaves are entire, oval or obovate, rounded at the apex, often 1/2 to 2 inches long, and slightly rolled down at the edges. Leaves turn red the fall. Flowers white, urn-shaped; May to June.Fruit dry red or pink, mealy, berry when ripe, containing several one-seeded nutlets.
Needs partial shade or full sun, is considered a good ground cover where lime is not in the soil and drainage is good.Zones 2-7.In the southern heat, it struggles and usually dies; it can be grown in a pot if given its preferred conditions.
Constituents : Arbutin, chorine, ellagic acid, ericolin, gallic acid, hydroquinolone, malic acid, methyl-arbutin, myricetin, volatile oils, quercetin, tannins, ursolic acid, ursone, and a substance similar to quercetin.Tannin is present up to 6% or 7%. Diuretic, strongly astringent, tonic
Uses : A bitter herb used for kidney and bladder infections, kidney stones, nephritis, diabetes, and hemorrhoids.Strengthens the heart muscle, used as a tonic, and helps disorders of the spleen, liver, pancreas, and small intestines.Used as a diuretic. Good for female disorders.
Also used in bronchitis, gonorrhea, diarrhea, and to stop bleeding.
It is not necessary to drink the tea for long periods, because acute symptoms generally will disappear within a few days with treatment of bearberry leaf tea.
Dosage : Fall is the best time to pick the leaves.Only the leaves are harvested, which is possible year-round, but should not begin harvesting them until the first blooms.
Infusion: soak the leaves in alcohol (not rubbing alcohol) or brandy, then add 1 tsp. soaked leaves to 1 cup boiling water.Drink 2-3 cups per day, cold.You can let the leaves soak in brandy for a whole week before making the infusion with water and add a tsp. of the brandy to each cup of infusion.Do not boil this herb.Just steep in boiling-hot water.
Dried herb:mix 1 tbsp. in 8 oz. warm water.Drink 1 cup daily.
Tincture: take 10 to 20 drops in water, 3 to 4 times per day.
Safety : Contains arbutin, which hydrolyzes to the toxic urinary antiseptic hydroquinone.Use should be under medical supervision.Bearberry can lead to stomach distress, and prolonged use can produce chronic poisoning. High doses may cause nausea.
Myths : Native Americans used bearberry, or kinnikinnick as they called it, in their ceremonial pipe in place of tobacco.The Arikaras cultivated sacred tobacco and mixed it with bearberry dried leaves and the dried inner bark of red dogwood. Some Native American tribes mixed tobacco with bearberry to make a milder smoke.
The pipe-stem of the Plains Indians was made of golden sumac, a sumac which used to grow close by the pipestone quarry.This stem was about 24 inches long and an inch wide, but quite thick, flat like a carpenters pencil.This is the way the hole through the stem was made.Gathering the sumac in Spring when the sap was up in the large pith, some meat or fish was put out where blowflies could work on it.When large maggots were on the meat, the piece of sumac which had previously been put in a can of oil or bear grease, was brought in.As the large pith had taken up the oil, it was soft, and quite a bit was dug out.The maggots were then sealed up in the stem, to either eat their way through, or die.Sometimes they did both, but there was plenty of time to do it all over again, patiently, till a long perfect hole was drilled through.
The use of bearberry as a folk remedy for urinary tract infections has been validated by modern research showing that this herb is an effective treatment for bladder and kidney ailments.