Uva Ursi Medicinal Properties

Uva Ursi, (bearberry, Mahonia aquifolium) is a small evergreen shrub commonly found in the northern United States and in Europe. The leaves are the portions of uva ursi used for medicinal purposes. Until the development of sulfa antibiotics, its principal active component arbutin, was frequently prescribed as a urinary antiseptic. One of the problems with antibiotic therapy for urinary tract infections (bladder infections) is that antibiotics often destroy the beneficial bacteria that protect against urinary infections, which leads to recurrent infections. Herbal preparations may be a safer choice, if used in strict compliance with dosage and indication requirements.

The antibacterial action of uva ursi is diminished or destroyed, however, if the urine has too much acid in it. Taking vitamin C or cranberry extract with it, which would increase the acidity of the urine, is not advised.

Uva ursi is available as the crude leaves, capsules, and tablets as well as tinctures, fluid extracts, and solid extracts in tablets and capsules. Extracts stating the concentration of arbutin (for example, 10%) are preferred by most experts.

Uva ursi contains significant quantities of tannin and hydroquinone which are considered liver toxins and irritants. Uva ursi must not be used by young children, pregnant or nursing women. In high dosages, has the potential to cause serious toxity, causing nausea, vomiting, a sense of suffocating, shortness of breath, convulsions, and collapse. The main use of uva ursi—to treat urinary tract infections—is widely replaced by newer, more effective, and safer prescription drugs.

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