At least a few other names exist for this small evergreen shrub; Sandberry, Bearberry, Hog Cranberry and Kinnikinnick. The last of these nicknames is actually a Lenape people (from the Algonquin Nation) word that means "mixture" specifically referring to a ceremonial smoking blend in the language. Uva Ursi leaves were one of three herbs used in this blend. The berries apparently are tasty to bears and so when the plant was named in Latin uva-ursi, this was taken into consideration; uva, “grape, berry of the vine”, ursi, “bear”, i.e. “bear’s grape”. Every Native American, European, and Early American settler used this plant medicinally for the same purpose; the health of the urinary tract.
Uva Ursi was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia and National Formulary from 1820-1950 as a Urinary Antiseptic. It does contain the chemical arbutin. It is known that the body excretes 64-75% of arbutin in urine, and arbutin converted to hydroquinone maintains a healthy microbial balance within the urinary system. It is best to limit the use of Uva Ursi to short term, with two weeks being a maximum length of time. Uva Ursi also contains allantoin, a chemical also found in Aloe, which has a soothing effect.
Uses of Uva Ursi
This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.