Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)
8:09 AM | Author: Atie

Synonyms: uva ursi, mountain cranberry, sandberry, arberry, bear's grape, kinnikinnick, mealberry, mountain box, red bearberry, sagackhomi, rockberry, upland cranberry, hogberry

Order: Ericaceae

Description: This is a small evergreen creeping shrub indigenous to Europe, Asia and the northern United States and Canada, where it grows on rocky hills. A single, long, fibrous main root sends out several prostrate or buried stems from which grow erect, branching stems up to 15cm high. The bark is dark brown or reddish. The leaves are shiny oblong, with entire margins up to 2.5cm long; the small pink to white bell-shaped flowers occur in drooping terminal racemes in groups of four to six. They give way to globular bright red berries containing several one-seeded nutlets.

Parts used: Leaves

Parts used: Leaves

Collection: The evergreen leaves may be collected throughout the year, but preferably in September or October.

Constituents: Hydroquinone glycosides (including 8% arbutin, methyl-arbutin and ericolin), Iridoids, 6% tannins, flavonoids, allantoin, resin (ursone), volatile oil, ursolic, malic and gallic acids.

Actions: Diuretic, astringent effect on lower digestive tract, urinary antiseptic, demulcent

Indications: cystitis, urethritis, dysuria, pyelitis, lithuria

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Arctostaphylos has a marked antiseptic and astringent effect on the membranes of the urinary system, soothing, toning and strengthening them. It is specifically used where there is gravel or ulceration in the kidney or bladder. It may be used in the treatment of infections such as pyelitis urethritis and cystitis and is specifically indicated in acute catarrhal cystitis with dysuria and highly acid urine, where it helps to reduce accumulations of uric acid. With its high astringency it is used to treat some forms of enuresis and in diarrhoea. It is also used to treat dysuria. As a douche it may be helpful in vaginal ulceration and infection. Arbutin is the principal constituent leading to antibacterial activity, inhibiting the growth of Citobacter, Enterobacter, Escherichia, Klebsiella, Proteus, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus (Kedzia) - and also by the breakdown of ericolin to a volatile component ericinol. There is thus a delayed-action effect which manifests only at the site of action. Arbutin is converted to glucose and the antiseptic hydroquinone in the kidney tubules, but only if the urine is alkaline. Although Arctostaphylos has long been described as a diuretic, in one pharmacological study it was actually shown to inhibit diuresis.

The high tannin content of Arctostaphylos has an astringent action on the lower digestive tract, and it is used in the management of diarrhoea and to reduce intestinal irritation.

Additional Comments: Uva-ursi was used in the 13th century by the Welsh Physicians of Myddfai. It was described by Clusius in 1601 and recommended for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerhard of Berlin. It appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1788, though was probably in use long before. The tannin in the leaves was used in the past to tan leather in Sweden and Russia and an ash-coloured dye is said to be obtained from the plant in Scandinavia. Cattle avoid it. The leaves from A.glauca (manzanita) from California, A.polifolia from Mexico, and A.tomentosa (madrona) are also used medicinally.

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