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The leaves of the small shrub 'uva ursi' have been used as a herbal medicine for centuries. Uva ursi has been in use as a diuretic, astringent, and antiseptic, since second century. It is commonly known as crowberry, arberry, bearberry, rockberry, etc. Until the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, uva ursi was commonly used to treat bladder and related infections. It was used by native Americans to get rid of headaches, to prevent and cure scurvy and to treat urinary tract infections.

Side Effects

Studies show that extremely high doses of uva ursi, (10 times greater than the commonly recommended amount) can cause
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Urine may turn greenish
  • Ringing in the ears (high amount of hydroquinone present in the herb is responsible for tinnitus)
  • Collapse, in some cases
  • A dose of 6,000 mg (6 grams) or higher, taken at one time may result in seizures.
  • Body may turn blue due to the lack of oxygen in the blood.
  • People taking larger amounts of the herb are more susceptible to cancers of the nose and esophagus.
  • Liver damage can be caused by high doses of the herb, taken over extended periods (hydroquinone can cause liver toxicity).
  • Long-term use of this herb increases the risk of tongue and lip cancer.
  • Some people may suffer from increased irritability and insomnia.
  • A single dose of 30,000 mg (30 grams) or higher can cause death.
Lack of proper information about the product can result in certain side effects.

Dosage

It has been observed that uva ursi side effects mainly occur due to an overdose. So, you should follow the instructions on the label regarding 'dosage' sincerely. The dose of the supplement may vary according to the overall health of an individual, but usually, two to three gm of an oral 'dried-leaf preparation' (containing roughly 100-200 mg of arbutin) of uva ursi can be taken 3-4 times daily.

Who Should Not Consume Uva Ursi

Since no sufficient information is available regarding the safety of the herb; pregnant and lactating women, small children and people with high blood pressure, Crohn's disease, stomach ulcers and kidney diseases should avoid taking uva ursi.

Avoid Acidic Foods

Uva ursi's antimicrobial properties would work only if the individual's urine is alkaline by nature. It is necessary to keep it in mind that while taking uva ursi, you should avoid eating acidic foods like citrus, pineapple, tomato. You should be aware of the fact that certain prescription medicines or drugs such as ammonium chloride, non-prescription products such as vitamin C, herbals such as rose hips, and foods like cranberry juice may make the urine more acidic. Thus, ingestion of a urine acidifier may reduce or destroy the antibacterial effects of uva ursi. On the other hand certain alkalizing foods such as alfalfa, peppermint, molasses, raisins, spinach, some dried beans and drugs such as antacids, Bicitra, K-lyte, Polycitra, and sodium bicarbonate reduce the acid levels in urine. They might actually enhance the healing power of the herbal supplement.

Duration

You should not take the herb for more than a week at a time and no more than five times a year. Side effects of uva ursi such as greenish-brown discoloration of the urine, nausea and vomiting may occur due to intake of high doses.

Health Benefits
  • Uva ursi acts as a tonic for kidneys, liver and pancreas.
  • It is useful in strengthening and toning the urinary passages.
  • It helps prevent postpartum infection.
  • The astringent properties of the herb are beneficial in treating bedwetting problems.
  • It works great for chronic diarrhea. The astringent tannins from the herb can help in stool binding and can thus help relieve diarrhea.
  • It is the popular nutritional supplement and is known for its properties that promote relaxation of muscles. It helps soothe, strengthen and tighten irritated and inflamed tissues.
  • Leaves of the dwarf shrub uva ursi exhibit diuretic, astringent, and antiseptic properties, which are best used to treat nephritis, kidney stones and chronic cystitis.
  • The herb neutralizes acidity in the urine. It promotes urine flow and thus, helps reduce bloating and water retention. These properties are also beneficial for weight loss.
  • The leaves are used to treat inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract, urethritis, cystitis, etc. When arbutin from the leaves is excreted through the urinary tract it soothes any irritation, reduces inflammation and fights off infection.
  • The element 'allantoin' from the herb is known for its soothing and tissue-repairing properties. The herb can also be used externally as an astringent wash for cuts and scrapes. Allantoin works great for cold sores, herpes and vaginal infections. It can be applied externally for back sprain.
  • The herb being a powerful diuretic, helps lower high blood pressure. Remember, diuretic action can deplete your body of potassium, so you are expected to increase your intake of potassium.
  • Uva ursi tea can help cure diseases caused by bacteria like E-coli, Proteus vulgaris, Mycoplasma hominis, Staphylococcus strains and Candida albicans. The herbal tea is used to treat kidney infections, gout (accumulation of uric acid), and kidney stones. It is used to treat bronchitis, nephritis, back pain, cystitis, dysuria, pyelitis and lithuria.
It is necessary to consult your doctor before taking uva ursi for a health problem. Teas, fluid extracts, and tinctures of uva ursi are available in the market. Studies show that cold water extraction of uva ursi leaves helps reduce the level of irritating tannins. Check the label, read and follow the instructions; and do not forget to consult your physician before opting for a product that contains uva ursi.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.