Drugs A - Z
Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Arberry, arbusier (French), arbutin, Arbutus uva ursi, arctostaphylos, Arctostaphylos adenotricha, Arctostaphylos coactilis, Arctostaphylos coactylis, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, arctuvan, barentraube (German), bearberry, bear grape, bear's grape, bearsgrape, beerendruif (Holland), bousserole (French), common bearberry, common beargrape, coralillo (Spanish), creeping manzanita, crowberry, Cystinol akut®, Dunih'tan (Carrier people), Ericaceae (family), foxberry, gayuba (Spanish), hog berry, hydroquinone, kanya'ni, kwica (American Indian), kinnikinnick (American Indian), macnicy (Polish), manzanita, mealberry, mehlberre (German), melbaerblad (Norweigan), melbarrisblade (Danish), methyl arbutin, mjolonrisblad (Swedish), mossberre (German), mountain box, mountain cranberry, phenolic glycoside, ptarmigan berry, raisin d'ours (French), redberry, red bearberry, rock berry, rockberry, sagsckhomi (American Indian), sand berry, sandberry, Solvefort, s'qaya'dats, tannin, toloknianka (Russian), upland cranberry, Uroflux, uva d'orso (Italian), UVA-E, Uvae ursi folium, Uvalyst, uva-ursi, uva ursi leaf, whortle berry, wilder Buchsbaum (German), Wolfstraube (German).
Uva ursi (bearberry) is described as a small evergreen shrub with clusters of small white or pink bell-shaped flowers and dull orange berries. Although the berries do not seem to possess any medicinal benefits, the leaves have been used traditionally as an herbal remedy for mild, uncomplicated cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).
Grown throughout Asia, North America and Europe, uva ursi has a long history of medicinal use dating back to the 13th century. The leaves have been used worldwide as a diuretic, astringent, antiseptic and a treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs). A tea brewed with the leaves has also been used as a laxative.
Arbutin, the main chemical constituent of uva ursi, is a phenolic glycoside that becomes hydrolyzed to hydroquinone. Both chemicals contribute to the antiseptic effects in the urinary tract. Arbutin alone has been reported to relieve pain from kidney stones, cystitis (bladder infection) and nephritis (kidney inflammation). However, due to its high tannin content, uva ursi may cause acute nausea and intestinal irritation.
Uva ursi leaf was listed on the U.S. National Formulary as a urinary antiseptic from 1820 to 1950 but it is no longer listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) lists uva ursi as a treatment for uncomplicated cystitis where antibiotics are not warranted. The German Commission E Monographs recommend it for inflammatory conditions of the lower urinary tract.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
The chemical constituents of the herbal product uva ursi have been used for a variety of conditions such as chloasma, a skin condition that appears as a blotchy, brownish discoloration on the skin, especially the face. Females are usually targeted for the condition because it occurs as a result of oral contraception use, or during pregnancy or menopause. The clinical usefulness of uva ursi has not been well established in the current literature.
Urinary tract infection (UTI):
Uva ursi has long been used as a folk remedy to treat urinary tract infection. The active ingredients in the herb are believed to be ursolic acid and isoquercitrin. Additional study is needed to make a strong recommendation.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Allergic reactions, antimicrobial, antiseptic, arthritis, astringent, benign prostate hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), bronchitis, child-birth cramps, catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membrane), cystitis (chronic), dermatitis, diabetes, diuretic, dysentery (severe diarrhea) (astringent), dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), flavoring agent, gonorrhea (antiseptic), hematuria (blood in the urine), hypertension (high blood pressure), incontinence (mild), kidney disease, kidney infection (pyelonephritis), kidney stones (pain), kidney stone prevention, laxative, leukorrhea (vaginal discharge) (antiseptic), menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), menopause (tension, edginess), nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), postpartum hemorrhage, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), tonic, urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), vaginal ulceration (antiseptic), weight loss.
Adults (18 years and older):
There is no proven safe or effective dose for uva ursi. Cystinol akut® is one brand that has been studied. A typical dose taken by mouth is 3 grams of uva ursi (or 400-800 milligrams of hydroquinone derivatives) steeped in water and taken as a tea, or taken in powder form, four times a day for inflammatory conditions. For urinary tract infection (UTI), 250-500 milligrams of uva ursi powdered extract (20% arbutin) has been taken three times a day (for no more than four days). When applied on the skin, a 2% or 5% hydroquinone cream has been used for hyperpigmentation. A topical preparation containing 3% arbutin (glycoside in uva ursi) over a 12-week period has also been used.
Children (younger than 18 years):
There is no proven safe or effective dose of uva ursi in children, and use is not recommended.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or its constituents.
Side Effects and Warnings
Uva ursi is generally well tolerated in short-term, traditional doses, but available human trial data is limited. Uva ursi may cause tachycardia (fast heartbeat), cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rate), skin irritations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset, greenish-brown urine color, irritation and inflammation of the urinary tract mucous membranes, hepatotoxicity (liver damaging), insomnia, convulsions, seizures, irritability, motor restlessness, cyanosis (bluish skin discoloration due to lack of oxygen in the blood), headaches, shortness of breath, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Long-term ingestion of uva ursi has caused bilateral bull's-eye maculopathy, and may be considered a potential retinal toxic herb. Use cautiously in patients with renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) dysfunction, due to risk of inflammation of the urinary tract and hepatoxicity. Avoid in patients with kidney disease. Use cautiously in patients with gastrointestinal distress because the preparation can be irritating to the mucous membrane of the stomach and the intestine due to high amounts of tannins. Use cautiously in patients taking diuretics, which may promote electrolyte imbalance. Use cautiously in patients suffering from gallstones.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Interactions with Drugs
Uva ursi may increase the inhibitory effect of prednisolone on swelling. The arbutin in uva ursi may potentiate the effects of prednisolone and dexamethasone on contact dermatitis. Caution is advised when using uva ursi with corticosteroids (steroids).
Uva ursi may increase urine flow, and may interact with other agents that increase urine flow (diuretics).
The arbutin in uva ursi may increase the anti-inflammatory activity of indomethacin on contact dermatitis, hypersensitivity, and arthritis. Caution is advised when taking uva ursi with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) due to theoretical interactions.
Concomitant use of uva ursi and urine acidifiers may result in decreasing the effects of uva ursi.
Concomitant use of uva ursi and products that can alkalinize the urine can enhance the antibacterial activity of uva ursi.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Combination of uva ursi and aloesin inhibits tyrosinase activity in a synergistic manner by combined mechanisms of noncompetitive and competitive inhibitions.
Herbs containing arbutin, a constituent of uva ursi, may result in increases in serum and urinary levels of hydroquinone and its metabolites. Arbutin is found in sweet marjoram, damiana, and other herbs.
Uva ursi may increase urine flow, and interact with other herbs and supplements with diuretic effects.
Concomitant use of uva ursi and products that can acidify the urine (e.g., vitamin C) can potentially reduce the antibacterial activity of uva ursi.
Concomitant use of uva ursi and products that can alkalinize the urine may enhance the antibacterial activity of uva ursi.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature, and was peer-reviewed and edited by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Nicole Giese, MS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Mary McGarry, RPh (University of Kansas); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Gang Wei, MD, PhD (The University of Chicago Medical Center); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Beaux D, Fleurentin J, Mortier F. Effect of extracts of Orthosiphon stamineus Benth, Hieracium pilosella L., Sambucus nigra L. and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. in rats. Phytother Res 1999;13(3):222-225.
Chakraborty AK, Funasaka Y, Komoto M, et al. Effect of arbutin on melanogenic proteins in human melanocytes. Pigment Cell Res 1998;11(4):206-212.
Chung YK, Heo HJ, Kim EK, et al. Inhibitory effect of ursolic acid purified from Origanum majorana L on the acetylcholinesterase. Mol Cells 2001;11(2):137-143.
Deisinger PJ, Hill TS, English JC. Human exposure to naturally occurring hydroquinone. J Toxicol Environ Health 1996;47(1):31-46.
Hsu HY, Yang JJ, Lin CC. Effects of oleanolic acid and ursolic acid on inhibiting tumor growth and enhancing the recovery of hematopoietic system postirradiation in mice. Cancer Lett 1997;111(1-2):7-13.
Jin YH, Lee SJ, Chung MH, et al. Aloesin and arbutin inhibit tyrosinase activity in a synergistic manner via a different action mechanism. Arch Pharm Res 1999;22(3):232-236.
Kashiwada Y, Nagao T, Hashimoto A, et al. Anti-AIDS agents 38. Anti-HIV activity of 3-O-acyl ursolic acid derivatives. J Nat Prod 2000;63(12):1619-1622.
Kruszewska H, Zareba T, Tyski S. Examination of antimicrobial activity of selected non-antibiotic drugs. Acta Pol Pharm 2004;61 Suppl:18-21.
Parejo I, Viladomat F, Bastida J, et al. A single extraction step in the quantitative analysis of arbutin in bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) leaves by high-performance liquid chromatography. Phytochem Anal 2001;12(5):336-339.
Quintus J, Kovar KA, Link P, et al. Urinary excretion of arbutin metabolites after oral administration of bearberry leaf extracts. Planta Med 2005;71(2):147-152.
Schindler G, Patzak U, Brinkhaus B, et al. Urinary excretion and metabolism of arbutin after oral administration of Arctostaphylos uvae ursi extract as film-coated tablets and aqueous solution in healthy humans. J Clin Pharmacol 2002;42(8):920-927.
Shimizu M, Shiota S, Mizushima T, et al. Marked potentiation of activity of beta-lactams against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus by corilagin. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2001;45(11):3198-3201.
Siegers C, Bodinet C, Ali SS, et al. Bacterial deconjugation of arbutin by Escherichia coli. Phytomedicine 2003;10 Suppl 4:58-60.
Wang L, Del Priore LV. Bull's-eye maculopathy secondary to herbal toxicity from uva ursi. Am J Ophthalmol 2004;137(6):1135-1137.
Yarosh DB, Both D, Brown D. Liposomal ursolic acid (merotaine) increases ceramides and collagen in human skin. Horm Res 2000;54(5-6):318-321.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.