Attracting bears to its succulent but bitter pink fruit, this low shrub earned its name: Arctostaphylos uva ursi, the species part being Latin for “bear’s grape.” The leaves of this potent herb are alternately known as bearberry and uva ursi. Used by both Native Americans and the Chinese for centuries for urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases that affect urination, the effects of bearberry are well-established. Though its use has declined over time and though it remains controversial, bearberry is still popular as an herbal remedy in many countries, including Great Britain and Germany. Readily accessible via web stores, bearberry may be the potent herbal solution to a urinary tract problem.
What makes bearberry effective as an herb?
Bearberry contains arbutin, a compound that is composed of sugars and hydroquinone, an antiseptic agent. In addition to the arbutin, bearberry contains several acids (gallic, ursolic, tannic) and flavonoids. So how does that bacteria-fighting hydroquinone get into the urine stream? Well, in people with alkaline urine, the hydroquinone in arbutin gets separated from its sugars and then remains unattached, staying in the urine as an antiseptic agent capable of killing bacteria. If the urine is not alkaline, then the hydroquinone still separates from its sugars but then recombines with other urine compounds and flows out of the body in inert molecular form. The success of bearberry as an herbal treatment, then, depends on the pH of a person’s urine. In order to keep the waste liquid alkaline, foods and beverages high in vitamin C should be avoided. Milk and cheese are good options for keeping the flow alkaline so that bearberry’s hydroquinone antiseptic can be exploited.
What specific urinary problems can bearberry treat?
Considered effective in both men and women, bearberry is used to treat both urinary tract infections and some sexually transmitted diseases. Urinary tract infections occur anywhere between the kidneys the bladder, and the urethra and are usually caused by one of five different bacteria. The antiseptic quality of bearberry addresses the infections by killing the bacteria and also gently stimulating urination. In the case of bacteria-caused sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia, the effects of bearberry are similar.
Are there cautions on using bearberry?
Uva ursi, in any form, is not a daily supplement to be used for prevention. Rather, it is a reactive herbal treatment which should only be employed once a problem appears. Even most companies that sell bearberry do not recommend continuous use for more than one week because it is potent and can cause side effects like nausea or liver problems when taken in large doses. Bearberry is an herb that teeters on the boundary between stiff cure and potent poison, so it should not be taken by children, pregnant women, or anyone with existing liver problems. Remember that bearberry is a treatment for a medical problem and not just a pro-health herbal supplement. If you’re unsure about using bearberry or have questions, you should definitely consult a doctor, as urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases can both become serious health issues. That said, many herbal medicine proponents claim that bearberry is a fast way to address a minor infection at the first signs of a problem.
Where can I purchase bearberry?
Due to its powerful and occasionally undesired effects, bearberry is a little harder to find on the shelves of American drugstores, but some do carry it. Uva ursi seekers may want to try one of those earthy herbal remedy retailers as a second outlet. If time is not critical and you’re just stocking up in anticipation of a urinary tract infection (if planning a pee problem is possible!), then you can order a supply online. Www.healthydirect.co.uk sells combination cranberry and bearberry caplets and will ship to the U.S. If you prefer hot water infusions, www.lifesvigor.com offers uva ursi tea bags. And a plethora of other websites sell plain old bearberry capsules, including www.clubnatural.com and even (get this) www.amazon.com.