Principal Proposed Uses
The uva ursi plant is a low-lying evergreen bush whose berries are a favorite of bears, hence the name "bearberry." However, it is the leaves that are used medicinally.Uva ursi has a long history of use for treating urinary conditions in both America and Europe. Up until the development of sulfa antibiotics, its principal active component, arbutin, was frequently prescribed as a urinary antiseptic.
Uva ursa is widely marketed today for the treatment of bladder infections. However, it has not been proven effective for this condition, and there are significant safety concerns with its use. 5
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Uva Ursi? Despite uva ursi's popularity for treating bladder infections, there is no meaningful evidence that it works. Two studies evaluated the antibacterial power of the urine of people who were taking uva ursi and found activity against most major bacteria that infect the urinary tract. 6,7 However, while such findings are interesting, what is really needed is a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to discover whether use of uva ursi actually helps people with established urinary tract infections. Unfortunately, not a single study of this type has been reported. Rather strangely, one study evaluated continuous use of uva ursi for prevention of bladder infections. This double-blind, placebo-controlled trial followed 57 women for one year. 8 Half were given a standardized dose of uva ursi (in combination with dandelion leaf, intended to promote urine flow), while the others received placebo. Over the course of the study, none of the women on uva ursi developed a bladder infection, whereas 5 of the untreated women did. However, this study is little more than a curiosity because most experts do not believe that continuous treatment with uva ursi is safe! (See Safety Issues below.)