Bearberry herb health benefit
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Ray Sahelian, M.D.
September 18 2017

Bearberry is also known as Uva Ursi herb. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos bearberry) is an evergreen shrub that has long been popular for fighting urinary tract or bladder infections. Bearberry gets its name since the berries are popular with bears.

Bearberry side effects, safety
I found one medical report of damage to the retina in one person who used bearberry daily for 3 years. No other side effects have been reported in the medical literature.

Bull's-eye maculopathy secondary to herbal toxicity from Bearberry.
Am J Ophthalmol. 2004. Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, NY
To report a case of bilateral bull's-eye maculopathy in a patient who ingested Bearberry, a known inhibitor of melanin synthesis, for 3 years before the onset of symptoms. Observational case report. Both eyes of a female patient were examined in the clinical practice setting. A 56-year-old woman who ingested Bearberry 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. Bearberry 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 Bearberry and to elicit a history of their use in patients with unexplained ocular findings.

Int J Toxicology. 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 As free HQ is crucial for the safety of the herbal preparation, we reviewed published and unpublished experimental and human studies to clarify some outdated assumptions and to support the safety of therapeutic daily doses of Uva-ursi folium extract.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 bearberry folium is a safe therapeutic option for treating lower urinary tract infections.

Q. I was recently prescribed bearberry 500 mg three times a day with food by a naturopath to get rid of bacteria in my gut. I was told to take this for at least a month so it builds up in my system to get rid of the bacteria. When I read the bottle it said not intended for long term use. I called office back and was told it would only cause problems if used for a year. Then I read online it is not safe to take longer than a week because it can cause liver damage. I already have taken it 10 days but afraid to take more. Is this safe to take longer?
   A. Little human research is available to know for certain whether bearberry is safe for long term use, but it is a good idea to take 2 days off a week and a full week off a month if intending to use long term.

How is it available?
You will find Bearberry as a tea, tinctures, capsules, and bearberry extracts.

Botanical medicines for the urinary tract, research studies
World J Urol. 2002.
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 Bearberry (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.

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 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.