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Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)


Found in northern Europe, Asia and North America, uva ursi leaves contain chemicals, which convert into hydroquinones upon contact with urine, thereby disinfecting the urine and its related organs. This property makes uva ursi highly successful in treating many urinary-tract disorders.


Uva ursi has long been used to treat urinary conditions in America and Europe. The main active component of uva ursi, arbutin, was prescribed as a urinary antiseptic up until the development of sulfa antibiotics.


Part of the plant used: LEAF.

dosage should be adjusted to 400-800 mg arbutin daily (1).

Take with meals to minimise gastrointestinal upset. For maximum effectiveness, do not take with Vitamin C or Cranberry juice. Calcium supplements may enhance effectiveness.

If improvement is not seen in 1 week, seek medical attention. Uva ursi should not be taken for more than 2 weeks or used more than 5 times a year.


Urinary tract infections:
The European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy recommends using uva ursi to treat urinary tract Infections that do not require antibiotic treatment, such as cystitis. The herb is most effective in the early stages of an infection.

The mechanism of treatment appears to involve the breakdown of arbutin into hydroquinone in the intestines. Upon alteration by the liver, the final chemical travels to the kidney for excretion. It works as an antiseptic in the bladder. Studies have confirmed the antibacterial properties of uva ursi, although its clinical effectiveness has not been formally evaluated (2,3).

The herb is not indicated for kidney infections. Symptoms such as high fever, chills, nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhoea, or severe back Pain require immediate medical assistance.

Other disorders that may be treated with uva ursi include the following: bladder stones, nephritis, Kidney stones, and weakened liver and kidneys.


Uva ursi should be used cautiously, due to the toxicity of arbutin, its active component. Hydroquinone is a liver toxin, carcinogen, and irritant (4,5). If taken in a pure state, arbutin can cause Tinnitus, Vomiting, delirium, convulsions, collapse, and possible death.

Severe side effects are rare if the herb is used for only a short period of time. Gastrointestinal distress ranging from mild nausea to Vomiting can occur, especially with prolonged use (6).

Uva ursi is not recommended for young children, nursing or pregnant women, or patients with severe liver or kidney disease.


Uva ursi is less effective if taken with drugs or supplements that increase the acidity of the urine. Examples include Vitamin C and Cranberry juice.


1. ESCOP monographs. Fascicule 5: Uvae Ursi Folium. Exeter, UK: European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy, 1997.
2. Frohne V, et al. Untersuchungen zur Frage der harndesifizierenden Wirkungen von Barentraubenblatt-extracten. Planta Med 18: 1-25, 1970.
3. Kedzia B, et al. Antibacterial action of urine containing arbutin metabolic products. Med Dosw Mikrobiol 27: 305-314, 1975.
4. Nowak AK, et al. Darkroom hepatitis after exposure to hydroquinone. Lancet 345: 1187, 1995.
5. U.S. environmental Protection Agency. Extremely hazardous substances. Superfund chemical profiles. Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes Data Corporation, 1988: 1906-1907.
6. ESCOP monographs. Fascicule 2: Uvae Ursi Folium. Exeter, UK: European Scientific Co-operative on Phytotherapy, 1997.

Blumenthal, M. (ED) The Complete German Commissison E Monographs (English translation). American Botanical Council. 1998.

Hyde, F.F. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. British Herbal Medicine Assoc: West Yorks, England, 1983

Lewis, Walter H. & Elvin-Lewis, P.F. Memory. Medical Botany - Plants Affecting Man's Health, John Wiley and Sons. New York, l977.


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