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Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
The uva-ursi, or common bearberry, was once considered a magical plant whose powers included protection against ghosts. Its name refers to bears fondness for the plant's red fruit; uva-ursi means "bear's grape" in Latin. Because of its disinfectant capability, uva-ursi is a potent remedy for infections of the urinary tract.

Plant Facts : Uva-ursi, a grassland plant, is a dwarf's shrub that grows 12-16 inches high and has low, trailing stems. The leathery evergreen leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Bright red, sour berries develop from pink flowers.

Origin: Uva-ursi grows in northern Europe, the alps, northern Asia and North America. It can be found in light, dry pine and larch forests, in dwarf shrub areas, in bogs and in the mountains among dwarf pines.

Parts used : for medicinal purposes, only the leaves finely chopped or coarsely ground are used.

Components : The most medicinally significant ingredient in uva-ursi is arbutin, which, when transformed by the body into hydroquinone, acts as a strong disinfectant. The leaves also contain tannins, bitters, flavoglycoside and triterpene.

Indications : Largely because of hydroquinone's disinfectant property, uva-ursi is very effective against acute inflammations of the ureters, bladder and urethra. It may be even more effective if the urine can be kept alkaline, so it helps to avoid acidic foods while taking uva-ursi. When cystitis or other urinary tract infections must be treated with antibiotics, uva-ursi is still valuable as a supplementary therapy. However, uva-ursi should not be taken if there is also kidney infection. Traditional medicine has treated vaginal infections with douches made of infusions of uva-ursi leaves.

Take care : Uva-ursi contains tannins, which generally improve resistance to infections. However, too many can irritate the mucous lining of the stomach and cause indigestion. Boiling the leaves increases tannin's potency, so make a tea via cold infusion.

Methods of Administration

Cold infusion
 : Pour 3 cups of cold water over about 3 tsp. dried or fresh uva-ursi leaves. Let the herbs stand for 12-24 hrs., stirring occasionally; strain. Warm up (do not boil) and drink 2-3 lukewarm cups over the course of the day. Don't exceed 3 cups per day. A harmless side-effect is that your urine may become discolored.

Tincture : Pour ½ cup of vodka (70 proof) over ¾ oz. of uva-ursi leaves. Let it stand, tightly covered, for 4-6 weeks, shaking it several times a day. Then strain out the residue. Use 3 drops 3 times a day.

Commercial preparations : Various commercial remedies are available at health food stores in the form of tablets and drops. Follow the recommended dosage on the label

Caution: use only products with standardized mixtures containing arbutin. These products should not be used for more than 1 week, and never exceed approved dosage without the advice of a physician. Do not take if you are pregnant or have kidney diseases.