4 curious facts about UTI and Uva Ursi (bearberry)

Have you heard about treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) with Uva Ursi? In this post I share the information that I found on this topic.

Chronic UTIs are no fun and nobody wants to take antibiotics daily, especially given the potential for devastating side effects from prolonged antibiotic treatment. That’s why many who suffer from UTIs eventually turn to natural solutions.

Uva Ursi Properties

The active principles of Uva Ursi (other names: Bearberry, Foxberry and Kinnikinic) have been studied for several decades. The plant is known in traditional medicine for its disinfectant effect on the urinary tract due to arbutin (or some think free hydroquinone) that is present in bearberry extracts.

Through modern day scientific research in test tubes and animals, researchers have discovered that Uva Ursi’s ability to fight infection is due to several chemicals, including arbutin and hydroquinone. The herb also contains tannins that have astringent effects, helping to shrink and tighten mucous membranes in the body. In turn, that helps reduce inflammation and fight infection.


Uva Ursi for prevention and treatment of UTI

One study found that the urine from healthy volunteers who were administered arbutin is capable of fighting off various bacteria including E. coli but with one caveat: their urine was adjusted to a pH of 8. Also, this was an “in vitro” study, meaning that the urine was collected from the participants and then tested in a lab to understand the interaction of arbutin with various strains of bacteria.

UTI and Uva Ursi
Uva Ursi is also known as “Bearberry”

More interesting are the results of a double blind, placebo-controlled (meaning that one group gets a “sugar pill” and the rest are administered a real medicine, but the participants do not know which group they belong to), randomized (participants are randomly assigned to each group) clinical trial that included 57 women who in a previous year experienced at least three episodes of cystitis. The women who were treated with bearberry extract didn’t have incidents of UTI for the next year versus 23% UTI recurrence rate in the group of women who were given a “sugar pill”. Convincing?

Here are four curious facts about bearberry use for UTI prevention:

#1 Urine must be alkaline

Some studies conclude that it is important that urine is highly alkalized for bearberry to work. If you are eating a regular mixed diet, it is likely that your urine has a pH of 5 or 6 while the studies performed with bearberry adjusted the urine to a pH of 8. That could be hard to do even if you drink a lot of baking soda 🙂 But if you want to try Uva Ursi to treat or prevent your UTI, this is important to keep in mind.

#2 Summer & autumn leaves are more potent

Not all bearberry products are made equal. For example, summer and autumn leaves are more potent than winter ones. Therefore, when you buy an Uva Ursi product it is hard to know how much you need to take to arrive to the high concentration of the potent elements in your urine.

#3 Uva Ursi could be toxic in high concentrations

While no poisonings with bearberry have been identified or reported, researchers point out that hydroquinone which is present in low concentrations in the bearberry products is toxic. However, the amount of free hydroquinone from bearberry ingestion is unlikely to reach toxic levels.

#4 Use bear berry early

Uva Ursi works best at the first sign of infection.

In conclusion, most do not recommend taking bearberry products for prolonged periods of time and as with every herb supplement make sure to seek doctor’s advice if your symptoms do not improve.

Most of the information for this post I found in this book: Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine, 2e

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