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Bearberry



    Scientific Names

    Bearberry
    • Uva-ursi
    • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi L.
    • Ericaceae
    • Heath family

    Common Names

    ivyArberry
    ivyBear's grape
    ivyKinnikinnick
    ivyMealberry
    ivyMountain box
    ivyMountain cranberry
    ivyRed bearberry
    ivySagackhomi
    ivySandberry
    ivyUpland cranberry
    ivyUva Ursi
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    Parts Usually Used

    Leaves
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    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    Trailing or prostrate evergreen shrub with mats of leafy stems; bark fine-hairy. Leaves shiny-leathery, spatula-shaped. A long single, fibrous main root sends out several prostrate or buried stems from which grow erect, branching stems 4-6 inches high. Eventually, the plant will spread to 15 feet coverage of the ground. The bark is dark brown or somewhat reddish. The leaves are entire, oval or obovate, rounded at the apex, often 1/2 to 2 inches long, and slightly rolled down at the edges. Leaves turn red the fall. Flowers white, urn-shaped; May to June. Fruit dry red or pink, mealy, berry when ripe, containing several one-seeded nutlets.

    Needs partial shade or full sun, is considered a good ground cover where lime is not in the soil and drainage is good. Zones 2-7. In the southern heat, it struggles and usually dies; it can be grown in a pot if given its preferred conditions.
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    Where Found

    Found in dry, sterile, sandy or gravely soil, exposed rock. Arctic to northern United States. Also found in Europe and Mexico. Found in 3,000-9,000 foot altitudes.
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    Medicinal Properties

    Diuretic, strongly astringent, tonic
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    Biochemical Information

    Arbutin, chorine, ellagic acid, ericolin, gallic acid, hydroquinolone, malic acid, methyl-arbutin, myricetin, volatile oils, quercetin, tannins, ursolic acid, ursone, and a substance similar to quercetin. Tannin is present up to 6% or 7%.
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    Legends, Myths and Stories

    Native Americans used bearberry, or kinnikinnick as they called it, in their ceremonial pipe in place of tobacco. The Arikaras cultivated sacred tobacco and mixed it with bearberry dried leaves and the dried inner bark of red dogwood. Some Native American tribes mixed tobacco with bearberry to make a milder smoke.

    The pipe-stem of the Plains Indians was made of golden sumac, a sumac which used to grow close by the pipestone quarry. This stem was about 24 inches long and an inch wide, but quite thick, flat like a carpenter's pencil. This is the way the hole through the stem was made. Gathering the sumac in Spring when the sap was up in the large pith, some meat or fish was put out where blowflies could work on it. When large maggots were on the meat, the piece of sumac which had previously been put in a can of oil or bear grease, was brought in. As the large pith had taken up the oil, it was soft, and quite a bit was dug out. The maggots were then sealed up in the stem, to either eat their way through, or die. Sometimes they did both, but there was plenty of time to do it all over again, patiently, till a long perfect hole was drilled through.

    The use of bearberry as a folk remedy for urinary tract infections has been validated by modern research showing that this herb is an effective treatment for bladder and kidney ailments.
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    Uses

    A bitter herb used for kidney and bladder infections, kidney stones, nephritis, diabetes, and hemorrhoids. Strengthens the heart muscle, used as a tonic, and helps disorders of the spleen, liver, pancreas, and small intestines. Used as a diuretic. Good for female disorders.

    Also used in bronchitis, gonorrhea, diarrhea, and to stop bleeding.

    It is not necessary to drink the tea for long periods, because acute symptoms generally will disappear within a few days with treatment of bearberry leaf tea.
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    Formulas or Dosages

    Fall is the best time to pick the leaves. Only the leaves are harvested, which is possible year-round, but should not begin harvesting them until the first blooms.

    Infusion: soak the leaves in alcohol (not rubbing alcohol) or brandy, then add 1 tsp. soaked leaves to 1 cup boiling water. Drink 2-3 cups per day, cold. You can let the leaves soak in brandy for a whole week before making the infusion with water and add a tsp. of the brandy to each cup of infusion. Do not boil this herb. Just steep in boiling-hot water.

    Dried herb: mix 1 tbsp. in 8 oz. warm water. Drink 1 cup daily.

    Tincture: take 10 to 20 drops in water, 3 to 4 times per day.
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    How Sold

    Capsules: take 1 for up to 3 times daily to relieve symptoms.
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    Warning

    Contains arbutin, which hydrolyzes to the toxic urinary antiseptic hydroquinone. Use should be under medical supervision. Bearberry can lead to stomach distress, and prolonged use can produce chronic poisoning. High doses may cause nausea.
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    Resource Links

    LiveStrong: What Are the Benefits of the Herb Uva Ursi?

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Uva Ursi

    Bastyr University: Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi

    Natural Resources Conservation Service: Bearberry

    Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plant profile for Uva Ursi

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    Bibliography

    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

    Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

    Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

    Buy It! Prairie Smoke, by Melvin R. Gilmore, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101, copyright 1987.

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Buy It! Earl Mindell's Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

    Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

    Buy It! Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY, 1987.

    Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

    Buy It! American Folk Medicine/i>, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

    Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

    Buy It! Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

    Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

    Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

    Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

    Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature's Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

    Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron's Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

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