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Uva Ursi

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  • Botanical: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
  • Family: Ericaceae
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Uva Ursi

Botanical

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Family

Ericaceae

Known as

kinnikinnick, pinemat manzanita, Echte Bärentraube, Immergrüne Bärentraube

Old Use

medical, industry

Parts Used

leaves

Medicinal

bronchitis, bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, bronchitis, constipation

Respiratory System

bronchitis

Stomach & Intestinal

bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, constipation

Properties

antiseptic, anti inflammatory

Description

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is a small procumbent woody groundcover shrub 5–30 cm high. The leaves are evergreen, remaining green for 1–3 years before falling. The fruit is a red berry. The leaves are shiny, small, and feel thick and stiff. They are alternately arranged on the stems. Undersides of leaves are lighter green than on the tops. New stems can be red if the plant is in full sun, but are green in shadier areas. Older stems are brown. In spring, they have white or pink flowers. Pure stands of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi can be extremely dense, with heights rarely taller than 6 inches. Erect branching twigs emerge from long flexible prostrate stems, which are produced by single roots. The trailing stems will layer, sending out small roots periodically. The finely textured velvety branches are initially white to pale green, becoming smooth and red-brown with maturity. The small solitary three scaled buds are dark brown. The simple leaves of this broadleaf evergreen are alternately arranged on branches. Each leaf is held by a twisted leaf stalk, vertically. The leathery dark green leaves are an inch long and have rounded tips tapering back to the base. In fall, the leaves begin changing from a dark green to a reddish-green to purple. Terminal clusters of small urn-shaped flowers bloom from May to June. The perfect flowers are white to pink, and bear round, fleshy or mealy, bright red to pink fruits called drupes. This smooth, glossy skinned fruit will range from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. The fruit will persist on the plant into early winter. Each drupe contains 1 to 5 hard seeds, which need to be scarified and stratified prior to germination to reduce the seed coat and break embryo dormancy. There is an average of 40,900 cleaned seeds per pound.

Properties & Uses

Uva ursi is used primarily for urinary tract disorders, including infections of the kidney, bladder, and urethra; swelling (inflammation) of the urinary tract; increased urination; painful urination; and urine that contains excess uric acid or other acids. Uva ursi is also used for constipation and a lung condition called bronchitis. Uva ursi, hops, and peppermint are also used in combination to treat people with compulsive bedwetting and painful urination.

Other use

The tannin in the leaves is so abundant that they have been used for tanning leather in Sweden and Russia. An ash-coloured dye is said to be obtained from the plant in Scandinavian countries. The berries are only of use as food for grouse. Cattle, however, avoid the plant.

Cautions

Uva ursi contains a chemical that can thin the retina in the eye. This could worsen the condition of people whose retinas are already too thin. Avoid use if you have this problem.

Distribution

The distribution of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is circumpolar, and it is widespread in northern latitudes, but confined to high altitudes further south: in Europe, from Iceland and North Cape, Norway south to southern Spain (Sierra Nevada); central Italy (Apennines) and northern Greece (Pindus mountains); in Asia from arctic Siberia south to Turkey, the Caucasus and the Himalaya; in North America from arctic Alaska, Canada and Greenland south to California, north coast, central High Sierra Nevada (above Convict Lake, Mono County, California), Central Coast, California, San Francisco Bay Area, to New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains; and the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast United States. In some areas the plant is endangered or has been extirpated from its native range. In other areas, such as the Cascade Range, it is abundant.

Constituents

The chief constituent of Bearberry leaves is a crystallizable glucoside named Arbutin. Other constituents are methyl-arbutin, ericolin (an ill-defined glucoside), ursone (a crystalline substance of resinous character), gallic acid, ellagic acid, a yellow colouring principle resembling quercetin, and probably also myricetin. Tannin is present to the extent of 6 to 7 per cent. On incineration, the leaves yield about 3 per cent. of ash.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.