A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Arctostaphylos uva ursi or Arbutus uva ursi
The uva ursi herb, which is more commonly known as the bearberry is a small and evergreen shrub belonging to the plant order: Ericacea. Bearberry is found growing mostly in sandy and gravel rich as well as dry soils, large populations can be found in many parts of continental Europe and in some areas along the northern regions of the continental U.S. - the plant grows well in dry soils and grows at an optimal rate in soils composed mostly of sand and gravel. Morphologically, the shrub can be distinguished by the presence of a long and solitary fibrous main root that radiates out several buried and prostate stems in different directions, out of these prostate roots, arise the main aerial branching stems of the plant. These aerial stems can often reach four to six inches when they are fully grown. The bearberry has a slightly reddish or brown color bark on the stem. The small leaves of the bearberry are obovate to spatulate in shape and are rounded at the apex, they reach a length of about half an inch to one inch, and the leaves are also characterized by being slightly rolled down at the edges and also by the leathery feel. Bearberry leaves are ideally picked during the fall season.
Most of the herbal teas used and marketed in Europe for the herbal treatment of various kidney and urinary bladder disorders contain the bearberry as an active and essential ingredient. These herbal teas are extensively used in many places in Europe for the treatment of renal and bladder problems. When used correctly in different herbal preparations, the bearberry herb can prove to be an effective diuretic and may be used as a general urinary antiseptic. Self-treatment using the herb following self-examination of the disorder, depends on the herbal skills of the affected individual-ideally, an herbalist should be consulted even if a patient plans to eventually self-administer the herb for the treatment of simple urinary disorders.
The ability of the bearberry to effectively reduce the accumulated levels of uric acid in the body is truly a notable and beneficial power - this beneficial effect of the herb is used in the treatment of many patients affected by urinary system dysfunction leading to the retention of uric acid in the body, and in treating disorders like gout. Inflammation in the urinary bladder is also alleviated by the herbal remedies made from the bearberry; the remedy also alleviates the extreme pain affecting the person as a result of stone formation in the kidney or the urinary bladder. The remedial bearberry tea can be prepared in a two step processes, first, carefully soak a handful of freshly plucked leaves in some brandy, these leaves must be allowed to stay and infuse into the brandy and kept covered for a week, then the actual tea can be prepared by boiling a tbsp. of fresh chopped or cut bearberry leaves in a cup of water, these leaves can be simmered for twenty minutes over a stove. When the tea has been boiled and cooled, add a teaspoon of the brandy soaked bearberry infusion to each cup of tea and drink it lukewarm as and when needed.
All types of common kidney disorders can be very effectively treated using herbal remedies made from the bearberry or the manzanita herb. The leaves and the berries can be used in the preparation of a herbal tea which can effectively help in the treatment of nephritis - which is the inflammation of the kidneys, this tea is also useful in the treatment of renal calculi – which are kidney stones. The herbal tea has also been used in the successful long term treatment of urethritis or inflammation of the urethra in women and in the treatment of cystitis, which is an uncomfortable inflammation affecting the urinary bladder of patients. Such physical disorders seem to be affected greatly by the strong astringent action of the tannin acid present in the berries and the leaves used in the tea - the powerful astringent action of the herbal tea enables the rapid treatment and alleviation of inflammation in internal organs of the urinogenital system. Boil about a quart of water to prepare the general purpose bearberry herbal tea. Once the water has started to boil, three tablespoons of the dried and chopped leaves and berries of the bearberry can be added. Gently boil the herbs on low heat and let the water simmer for about five minutes continuously keeping the pot covered with a lid. Once this has been done, the stove can be turned off and the herbal brew must be allowed to steep into the water for thirty minutes. The prepared herbal tea must be drunk lukewarm and it can be strained a cup at a time, the herbal tea must be drunk on an empty stomach for maximum benefit.
Diseases affecting the kidneys and the urinary bladder are usually treated using the bearberry in the traditional folk medicine of many different European cultures, the bearberry herb has a very effective and strong diuretic action, at the same time it is also a good astringent - both qualities are desirable for the treatment of urinary or renal dysfunction in patients. The herb is believed to bring about a very effective antiseptic action on the urinary passages and it is also believed to help in toning the urinogenital system at the same time. Inflammatory disorders of the urinary tract such as cystitis and urethritis are believed to be treatable due to this strong antiseptic and toning effect of the herb. The principal antiseptic and astringent qualities possessed by the bearberry is due to the presence of an organic compound called hydroquinone in the plant, this compound is a chemical hydrolysis product of about five to twelve percent of a main precursor chemical compound called phenolic glycoside arbutin, which is present in the herb. The diuretic action evident in the plant is due to the combined effects of other chemical compounds such as the ursolic acid, which is a triterpene derivative, and a flavonoid pigment compound called isoquercitrin - these compounds together account for the strong diuretic action displayed by the herb. Large amounts of organic compounds called tannins are also present in the bearberry, these compounds may make up to fifteen to twenty percent of the plant extract and as these compounds tend to disturb the digestive process, they are regarded to be undesirable chemical constituents during treatment. The extraction process has to be designed in a particular way to offset the possibility of high tannin content, and for this reason, hot water should not be used to extract the herbal essence from the bearberry leaves - hot water is normally used in the preparation of the herbal tea, resulting in the extraction of high amounts of tannin from the leaves. To avoid this high tannin content tea, the leaves must be soaked in cold water and allowed to stand for twelve to twenty four hours prior to being boiled to make the herbal tea. As a result of this precautionary step, the total tannin content of the boiled beverage can be reduced drastically and the chances of a disrupted digestion can be avoided.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Most regions in the northern atmospheres up to the Arctic borderlands have naturalized populations of the plant, though the bearberry shrub was originally native to continental Europe. Grasslands as well as heath lands in the northern hemisphere as well as shady undergrowths and damp conditions are preferred by the plant. Autumn is the season for the harvesting bearberry leaves in most areas where the plant is used in herbal medicine. During the autumn, the berries are also sometimes harvested along with the other parts of the plant, and though they are neither tasty nor particularly palatable, these berries are still used as minor fruits by people in some places.
The bactericidal effects possessed by the bearberry extracts have been experimentally verified under laboratory conditions. The researchers came to the conclusion that the bactericidal action of the herb is much more effective if the urine is alkaline - the advice for users based on these clinical results is that the bearberry plant must be used in conjunction with a mainly vegetable-based diet - this increases the total alkalinity of the urine and boosts the efficiency of the bearberry remedy.
Dosage of the bearberry based herbal preparations differ from one type of remedy to another, the normal dosage of the alcohol-based bearberry tinctures, for most people is five ml of the tincture taken thrice every day during the treatment period. Dosage of the 250-500 mg herbal capsules or herbal tablets - each of which have twenty percent arbutin - thrice a day is also the normal dose for most people. The continuous and regular dosage regimen of the uva ursi should never exceed fourteen days at a stretch for any person using the regimen. For optimal benefits, the person taking bearberry remedies must also drink a glass of water mixed with about six to eight grams of sodium bicarbonate or baking soda - this supplement will enable the production of alkaline urine during the treatment period and help increase the effectiveness of the uva ursi remedy. Baking soda must never be used by people having high blood pressure problems, and the fourteen day limit also applies to drinking the baking soda. A nutritionally oriented doctor must be consulted at all events before starting on a course of bearberry, and the bearberry must not be used to treat an infection without the initial go ahead given by a professional as side effects may arise.
Side effects and cautions
The bearberry has been known to induce side effects such as mild nausea in some individuals. The possibility of the deleterious effects from excessive accumulation of the compound hydroquinone exists and for this reason, the continuous and long term use of bearberry is not advised.
The effectiveness of the antiseptic action displayed by the compound arbutin - or more correctly its derivative hydroquinone - over the urinary system is confirmed in many studies, however, this action seems to be effective only when the urine produced is alkaline and then only when the plant based remedy is taken at high doses throughout the treatment period. Foods such as sauerkraut, the vitamin C, and fruits or fruit juices and all similar products are rich in acids - these have to be carefully avoided during the treatment process in order to maintain the effectiveness of the bearberry remedy. The compound hydroquinone is moreover toxic when taken repeatedly in large doses, consumers need to be careful about using the bearberry remedy for too long, as the toxic side effects can include uncomfortable tinnitus or ringing in the ears, sudden convulsion and physical collapse as well as bouts of vomiting. At the same time, the safety record of the herbal remedy is good and moreover, the bearberry is usually taken at recommended dosages of a gram of extract, three to six times every day, for an average dosage of about 400 to 800 mg of the compound arbutin daily, and side effects have not been reported in healthy individuals even when the doses were as high as 20 grams - thus the plant seems to be quite safe compared to other herbal remedies. Lactating women, women in a term of pregnancy and children must not be given the bearberry for any reason, as in these individuals, the chances of side effects are higher than average. Whenever the side effects appear in a patient, medical advise must be sought if the physical symptoms last longer then two weeks, or if the intensity of the symptoms worsen during the treatment process.
Antiseptic cure for the lower abdomen
Lightly chop the bearberry leaves and soak for 12 hours in a large bowl of cold water. Then boil the leaves in a saucepan for 3 minutes. Pour this mixture into the bowl and infuse until the liquid is drinkable. Add the sodium bicarbonate and shake. Drink 1 cup (250 ml) at a time, warm or cold, several times during the day. Repeat over 10 consecutive days. This bitter herbal tea has a powerful effect on small kidney stones, purulent cystitis, gout, hypotrophy of the prostate and bacterial venereal infections such as blennorrhagia.
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