Bearberry : Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Bearberry : Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Bearberry is native to the northern hemisphere, particularly Europe, North America, Siberia and the Altai Mountains. The medicinally used bearberry leaves come from wild collections in Spain and Italy. The import from Eastern European countries was prohibited due to species protection.

In herbal medicine, the dried leaves of the bearberry (Uvae ursi folium) are used.

Typical characteristics of bearberry

Bearberry is a small evergreen shrub with small, leathery leaves that are glossy dark green on top. The smooth twigs with reddish-brown, peeling bark spread flat above the ground, sometimes several meters wide.

The plant also bears clusters of  white  or reddish flowers, followed by scarlet fruits. Because of the similarity, bearberry is often confused with lingonberry.

Bearberry as a medicine

The drug consists of the rather thick, leathery leaves or leaf fragments. The entire leaves are hairless, some of the leaf edges are bent back. Very young leaves have thick, mostly curved hairs.

smell and taste of bearberry

Bearberry leaves do not emit a particularly characteristic smell. The  taste  of the leaves is somewhat bitter and astringent.

Bearberry – application

Bearberry leaves are used in herbal medicine to treat inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract. Properly dosed, the plant can, for example,  treat bladder infections  (cystitis) and upper and lower urinary tract infections.

Apply bearberry

Bearberry leaves can also be used to help with inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bladder and kidney pelvis (catarrh). It should be used with alkaline urine, since the bactericidal substance from the leaves is released preferentially under alkaline conditions. To make the urine more alkaline, sodium bicarbonate (6-8 g/day) or plenty of plant food can be taken.

Used in folk medicine and alternative medicine

Bearberry was still completely unknown in antiquity and in the Middle Ages and is hardly used at all in folk medicine today.

In  homeopathy  , the fresh leaves and young twig tips of the bearberry are also used to treat diseases of the kidneys and the urinary tract.

Bearberry: What ingredients are in it?

The ingredients in bearberry leaves that determine the effectiveness include the so-called hydroquinone glycosides with a share of at least 6%, with the substance arbutin being the most important. In addition, there are 10-20% tannins as well as  flavonoids  and organic acids.

Bearberry – it can help with these indications

These are the indications where bearberry is considered effective:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • cystitis
  • inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract

Bearberry – dosage

Bearberry leaves can be taken as a  tea  or in the form of  dragees , tablets or drops containing an extract (extract) from the leaves.

Bearberry as a tea

The tea is also available in prepackaged filter bags, but the quality of loose leaf tea is usually better. Another minus point of the filter bags is that they should be brewed with hot water. However, this procedure is suboptimal with bearberry due to the tannins it contains (see below).

Bearberry is also found alone or in combination with other plants in teas from the bladder/kidney teas group. In combination teas, however, the proportion of bearberry leaves is often low.

The right dosage

As an average daily dose, 3 g of bearberry leaves or 400-840 mg of hydroquinone derivatives can be taken up to four times a day. The individual doses (3 g) can each be poured over with 150 ml of water for infusions or cold macerates.

Bearberry: Preparing the tea

To prepare a tea from bearberry leaves, 2.5 g of the finely chopped or coarsely powdered leaves (1 teaspoon corresponds to about 2.5 g) are poured over with boiling water and, after 15 minutes, passed through a tea strainer. However, it must be noted that when exposed to heat, the tannins contained in the tea are increasingly transferred and can irritate the stomach. The  taste  of the tea is also more bitter due to the tannins.

A better alternative is to pour cold water over the leaves and let them steep for 6-12 hours, stirring occasionally. This cold water extract (cold macerate) contains just as much arbutin, but less tannins. One cup of the warmed tea can be drunk 3-4 times a day.

Contraindications: when should you avoid bearberry?

Bearberry leaves should not be consumed during  pregnancy  and by children under the age of 12. It is also not recommended to take the leaves while breastfeeding because the passage of arbutin or hydroquinone into breast milk has not yet been investigated. Bearberry leaves should also not be taken in severe liver or kidney disease.

Bearberry should not be taken for more than a week without medical advice. The application should also not be carried out more than five times a year.

How should you store bearberry leaves?

Bearberry leaves should be kept dry, cool and protected from light.

Bearberry synonyms

German plant name: bearberry
German synonyms of the plant: Bearberry, wolfberry , whitebeam,  cranberry , sandberry, wild boxwood, wild boxwood
Latin plant name: Arctostaphylos grape-bear
Latin synonyms of the plant: Arbutus grape-bear, Arctostaphylos media, Arctostaphylos officinalis, Arctostaphylos procumbens, Mairania grape-bear, Uva-ursi buxifolia, Uva-ursi procumbens
German drug name: bearberry leaves
German synonyms of the drug: Achelleaves, Achelkraut, Bärenkraut, cranberry leaves, sand leaves, stoneberry leaves, wolfberry leaves
Latin drug name: Grapes bear leaf
Latin synonyms of the drug: Arctostaphyla leaves, Garjuba leaves, Bearberry leaves, Bearberry leaves, Garjuba herb
English name: Bearberry leaf Ptarmigan berry leaf (Droge); Common bearberry, Bearberry, Hog Cranberry, Mountain Cranberry, Red Bearberry, Bear’s grape, Rockberry, Arbutus, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Kinnikinnik, Manzanita, Mountain Box, Mountain-box, Uva Ursi (Pflanze)
Plant family Latin: Ericaceae
Plant family German: Heidekrautgewächse


Bearberry – effect

Bearberry: where does the effect come from?

The urinary tract disinfecting effect of bearberry leaves is mainly due to arbutin or hydroquinone. From a chemical point of view, arbutin is a derivative of hydroquinone; in an alkaline environment, arbutin converts to hydroquinone. Only the formed hydroquinone has an antibacterial and disinfecting effect on the urinary tract.

An alkaline pH in the urine can be achieved by ingesting plant foods or sodium bicarbonate (= baking soda or sodium bicarbonate). The tannins contained in the leaves stabilize the arbutin and also have antibacterial effects themselves. In addition to the disinfectant, a diuretic effect of bearberry leaves has not been clearly proven. The flavonoids could possibly be   responsible for this.

Bearberry – Side Effects

Side effects are rare when taking bearberry leaves. In people with particularly sensitive stomachs, the irritation of the gastric mucosa caused by the tannins can cause  nausea , vomiting and gastrointestinal problems. With cold approaches, fewer tannins are released, which minimizes the risk of such side effects.

In very rare cases, hypersensitivity reactions of the skin such as redness and  itching  have also been observed.

What interactions are there?

Since the full antibacterial effect of bearberry is only achieved with alkaline urine, the leaves should not be taken with drugs that make the urine acidic. Eating meat also tends to contribute to acidic urine.


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