Uva Ursi herb and leaf benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
April 10 2016

Uva ursi herb is also known as bearberry since bears are fond of the berries. Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) is an evergreen shrub that has long been popular for fighting urinary tract infections.

How is Uva Ursi available?
You will find uva ursi as a tea, tinctures, capsules, and uva ursi extracts.

UTI treatment naturally
Int J Toxicol. 2013. Risk assessment of free hydroquinone derived from Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi folium herbal preparations. Uva-ursi folium (bearberry leaf) has been traditionally used to treat symptoms of lower urinary tract infections. The most representative constituent of this herbal drug is arbutin that is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and undergoes hepatic conjugation to form hydroquinone (HQ) conjugates. As free HQ is crucial for the safety of the herbal preparation, we reviewed published and unpublished experimental and human studies to clarify some outdated assumptions and to support the safety of therapeutic daily doses of Uva-ursi folium extract. Specifically, data on pharmacokinetics and the human exposure of arbutin and HQ were reviewed. A therapeutic recommended human daily dose of bearberry leaf extract (420 mg hydroquinone derivatives calculated as anhydrous arbutin) liberates free HQ in urine at a maximum exposure level of 11 g/kg body weight (bw)/d. By means of an experimental no observed effect level value, a permitted daily exposure dose below which there is a negligible risk to human health was estimated for free HQ (100 g/kg bw/d). Dietary sources of arbutin/HQ that are regularly consumed long term by humans generate comparable free HQ exposure levels. There is no direct evidence, regarding human data, supporting the fact that free HQ causes convulsion, hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, or promotion of tumors in humans. Free HQ had no activity promoting pancreatic, bladder, stomach, or liver carcinogenesis. In conclusion, under the recommended use conditions Uva-ursi folium is a safe therapeutic option for treating lower urinary tract infections.

Botanical medicines for the urinary tract.
World J Urol. 2002. Yarnell E.
Four important categories of urologic herbs, their history, and modern scientific investigations regarding them are reviewed. Botanical diuretics are discussed with a focus on Solidago spp (goldenrod) herb, Levisticum officinale (lovage) root, Petroselinum crispus (parsley) fruit, and Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) herb. Urinary antiseptic and anti-adhesion herbs, particularly Arctostaphylos uva ursi (uva-uri) leaf, Juniperus spp (juniper) leaf, and Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) fruit are reviewed. The antinephrotoxic botanicals Rheum palmatum (Chinese rhubarb) root and Lespedeza capitata (round-head lespedeza) herb are surveyed, followed by herbs for symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, most notably Serenoa repens (saw palmetto) fruit, Urtica dioica root, and Prunus africana (pygeum) bark.

Int J Toxicol. December 2013. Risk assessment of free hydroquinone derived from Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi folium herbal preparations. Uva-ursi folium (bearberry leaf) has been traditionally used to treat symptoms of lower urinary tract infections. The most representative constituent of this herbal drug is arbutin that is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and undergoes hepatic conjugation to form hydroquinone (HQ) conjugates. There is no direct evidence, regarding human data, supporting the fact that free HQ causes convulsion, hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, or promotion of tumors in humans. Free HQ had no activity promoting pancreatic, bladder, stomach, or liver carcinogenesis. In conclusion, under the recommended use conditions Uva-ursi folium is a safe therapeutic option for treating lower urinary tract infections.

Uva Ursi side effects
I found one medical report of damage to the retina in one person who used uva ursi daily for 3 years. As with most herbs, it is a good idea to take occasional breaks and often this prevents any toxicity or harm.

Uva Ursi study
Bull's-eye maculopathy secondary to herbal toxicity from uva ursi.
Am J Ophthalmol. 2004. Wang L, Del Priore LV.
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, NY
We report a case of bilateral bull's-eye maculopathy in a patient who ingested uva ursi, a known inhibitor of melanin synthesis, for 3 years before the onset of symptoms. Both eyes of a female patient were examined in the clinical practice setting. A 56-year-old woman who ingested uva ursi for 3 years noted a decrease in visual acuity within the past year. Ocular examination including fluorescein angiography revealed a typical bull's-eye maculopathy bilaterally. Uva ursi is a known inhibitor of melanin synthesis. It is necessary to broaden the list of potential retinal toxic drugs to include herbal adjuvants such as Uva Ursi and to elicit a history of their use in patients with unexplained ocular findings.

Pak J Pharm Sci. 2014. In vivo evaluation & safety profile evaluation of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Spreng. extract in rabbits. The aim of our research work was to investigate the effects of low dose of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. on rabbits. Crude extract was administered for 90 days in rabbits and hematology, biochemistry parameters and histopathology changes were analyzed. In result of it gender-based variations were observed in hematological, kidney function, liver function, cardiac enzymes and lipid profile. Urine analysis revealed same results as that of standard and control drug. No significant pathology was observed in heart, stomach, liver and kidney tissues of rabbits, treated with A.uva-ursi in a dose of 25 mg/kg/day. Our results justify the use of A. uva-ursi in medicine for treatment of variable pathologies.

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.
Bearberry leaves and preparations made from them are traditionally used for urinary tract infections. The urinary excretion of arbutin metabolites was examined in a randomized crossover design in 16 healthy volunteers after the application of a single oral dose of bearberry leaves dry extract. There were two groups of application using either film-coated tablets (FCT) or aqueous solution (AS). The urine sample analysis was performed by a validated HPLC coolarray method (hydroquinone) and a validated capillary electrophoresis method (hydroquinone-glucuronide, hydroquinone-sulfate). No significant differences between the two groups were found in the metabolite patterns detected (hydroquinone, hydroquinone-glucuronide, and hydroquinone-sulfate).

A single extraction step in the quantitative analysis of arbutin in bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva ursi) leaves by high-performance liquid chromatography.
Phytochem Anal. 2001.
A fast and simple extraction procedure coupled with a simple HPLC method has been developed in order to determine the arbutin content of leaves of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plants grown at four different geographical sites and collected during two different seasons. Using the optimised analytical system, the arbutin content of bearberry leaves was found to vary from 6.30 to 9% expressed on a dry weight basis. Autumn is shown to be a better period than spring for the collection of plant material in order to obtain the highest yield of arbutin. Uva ursi leaf.

Carrier herbal medicine: traditional and contemporary plant use.
J Ethnopharmacol. 1996.
College of New Caledonia, Prince George, BC, Canada.
The Carrier, an Athapaskan-speaking people of northcentral British Columbia, occupy the sub-boreal spruce forests of the central interior. This report, which is based on field study, documents some traditional and contemporary knowledge of the medicinal use of plants by the Carrier people. Important medicinal plants include: Abies lasiocarpa, Alnus incana, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Artemisia frigida, Fragaria virginiana, Juniperus communis, Picea glauca, Pinus contorta, Populus tremuloides, Rubus idaeus and Shepherdia canadensis.