Uva Ursi is a remedy found in ancient Chinese texts and in traditional North American medicine. Its use was reported back to Europe by Marco Polo on his journey around the world in the 13th century.
Uva Ursi’s primary use is for urinary tract infections and other urinary problems. In recent scientific testing, it was found to have a strong antimicrobial and disinfectant action, but it is currently not approved by the FDA.
Also known as ''bearberry" or ''mountain cranberry”, Uva Ursi is a evergreen mountain shrub which likes to grow at high altitude and is distributed mainly in the northern hemisphere. This ground bearing shrub produces light pink flowers which blossom into very small currant size bright red berries.
The Uva Ursi berries are very bitter and astringent, so not for human consumption, however bears love them. Uva Ursi translates to “Bear’s grape” in Latin.
The Chinese have known of Uva Ursi's properties for 1000 years and the native peoples of North America have used it for hundreds of years. Its primary medical use is as a remedy for all kinds of ailments of the urinary system, hence its other name as “mountain cranberry”.
Uva Ursi is used as a diuretic to treat bloating and swelling caused by water retention. It is also claimed to tone the urinary tract and the sphincter muscle, thereby alleviating bed wetting and other bladder issues.
When taken orally, Uva Ursi transforms in the stomach into a compound with antimicrobial and disinfectant properties. It then passes down through the urinary system and so can also aid with urinary infections. For sufferers of gallbladder stones, Uva Ursi has sometimes been found to relieve the painful symptoms.
The native peoples of North America used Uva Ursi both as a tobacco substitute and in their cuisine. It is found in Pemmican, a concentrated food made from dried berries, meat and rendered fat.
Only the bearberry leaves are used in medical preparations, not the berries. The leaves are crushed and ground into a powder, which is how it is usually available in herbal stores.