Bearberry: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi a Native American Remedy

Wild red bearberry plant with green leaves

Bears in the wild love uva ursi, aptly named bearberry by the Native Americans who first used this herb as a remedy for urinary tract infection (UTI), well before the advent of modern antibiotics. With modern research, scientists have learned that uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) contains several chemicals that have bacteria fighting properties and an ability to help reduce inflammation in the body.

Uva ursi contains arbutin and hydroquinone–two natural chemicals that fight against infection. Tannins found in uva ursi have astringent effects which help to shrink and tighten mucous membranes in the body, helping reduce inflammation. Today, uva ursi can be used to treat UTIs and bladder inflammation.

Caution is needed when using uva ursi. Hydroquinone found in uva ursi can be toxic at certain doses, causing serious liver damage. Uva ursi also interacts with several medicines including lithium, iron, NSAIDs, and corticosteroids. Neither adults nor children should use uva ursi without first consulting a holistic physician experienced in the use of botanical medicines.


Rakel D. Rakel: Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Hanley & Belfus, Inc. 2002:351-4.

Mount Sinai Health System. “Uva Ursi Information | Mount Sinai – New York.” Accessed August 7, 2022.

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