Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is a subtropical small shrub native to Europe and Asia. It grows well in subtropical high-altitude environments, therefore they are found in North Europe, Iceland, Alaska, Sierra Nevada mountains, Appenines mountains, Pindus Mountains, and Himalaya mountains. They also can be found in mountains in North and Central America. Its other name is bearberry. The fruits are round and small, with yellow or red color, and over all, the whole shrub is very beautiful. This plant was initially used as ornamental plants, but later people found out that this plant has many great benefits, especially in treating kidney problems.
Uva ursi has been used for traditional medicine since many centuries ago. The main purpose is to cure urinary tract diseases. It also has diuretic, astringent, muscle-relaxant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflamation, anti-septic and anti-fungal activities. Both the fruits and the leaves can be used as medicine. The fruits also contain high antioxidants.
1. Treatment of Kidney Problems
Uva Ursi has been used to treat nephritis, kidney stones, and chronic cystitis. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammation properties which fights the kidney infections. Moreover, it has diuretic effect. To use it as treatment of kidney problems, boil the fruits and leaves for 15 minutes, then drink the decoction 3 times a day. This was the main medicine to treat infections before the invention of antibiotics.
2. General Tonic
With all medicinal properties contained in uva ursi, the indigenous people of America have been used it as general tonic. They eat the fruits once a while. They believe that uva ursi can strengthen kidneys, liver and pancreas. They also use it to cure headache and infections.
3. Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections
Uva Ursi has been used for centuries to treat Urinary Tract Infections. The anti-inflammation properties help curing the fever obtained from the infections, plus it has the anti-bacterial properties which eradicates all bad bacteria causing the infection. The antiseptic properties help protect the mucous membrane of urinary tract, from the ureter to the bladder. It also has diuretic effect, which help cleanse the urinary tract.
4. Prevents Scurvy
Just like any berries, uva ursi contains high vitamin C. Regular intake of vitamin C prevents scurvy. Moreover, vitamin C is one of antioxidants contained in uva ursi, which has other benefits.
5. Treatment of Diarrhea
Uva Ursi has anti-bacterial and atiseptic effect, plus muscle relaxant. It helps soothing stomach cramp caused by hyperperistaltic of intestines. The anti-bacterial effect is effective against Shigella and Escherichia coli, two of the most common bacteria causing diarrhea.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Uva Ursi has diuretic effect, which is contained in many hypertension drugs. The muscle relaxant effect also dilates blood vessels, making the blood pressure lower in no time. Diuretics are essential for treatment of congestive heart failure too.
7. Lowers Uric Acid
The diuretic effect of uva ursi can eliminate excessive uric acid by urine. Drinking the uva ursi decoction or consuming the fruits can repair the inflamed joints from inside. The mashed fruits can also applied externally to sooth the gout arthritis cause by high level of uric acid.
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8. Treatment of Wound / Skin Infections
Uva ursi contains allantoin, an ingredient that is used in many skin creams. Allantoin can sooth skin and has tissue-repairing activity. Mashed uva ursi can be applied on wounds or cuts to give soothing effect, stop the bleeding, and fight infections. It also can be applied externally for skin rashes and muscle sprains.
Uva Ursi for Beauty Treatments
Meanwhile, one more health benefits of uva ursi is also working for beauty treatments like these points.
9. Prevents Early Aging
Uva ursi can prevent early aging signs such as wrinkled skin and dark spots, due to its high antioxidants, astringent and anti-inflammation effects. Wrinkled skin is mostly caused by micro-inflammations due to free radicals in our body and in environments.The antioxidants, astringent and anti-inflammation effects heal the skin from micro-inflammations, thus prevent wrinkles.
Some beauty products now use uva ursi extract in their ointment and cream ingredients. We can also use the fruits as face mask. Mash the ripe fruits and apply it on the face, let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then rinse it off. To get the best result, we can use the face mask everyday. Uva ursi mask is also good to prevent sun-related skin problems, such as sunburns and dark spots due to sun exposure.
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10. Hair-fall Treatment
Normally, as we age, the hair will be diminished. But now, young people can suffer hair-fall too, because of wrong hair treatments by cosmetics, shampoo, hair straightening, and hair-dye. Uva ursi has nutrition which can strengthen hair follicles, thus preventing hair-fall.
Mash some uva ursi fruits, and use it as hair mask. Make sure that the mask reach the scalp, and let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water.
11. Reduces Melasma and Ochronosis
Melasma and ochronosis is unusual skin pigmentation due to excessive estrogen or pregnancy hormones. It is common in pregnant women and women who use hormonal contraceptions, such as contraceptive pills and injections. Sometimes the pigmentation occurs for long time, even long after the woman gives birth and long after the woman stops the hormonal contraceptions. Face mask made of mashed uva ursi fruits can reduce the pigmentation, makes it dissapear step by step, plus making the skin look younger. Topical use of uva ursi during pregnancy does not give any side effects to the fetus.
Uva Ursi for Reproduction Health
Indeed, you may never thought that there are health benefits of uva ursi for you reproduction health.
12. Treatment of Vaginal Infection
Uva ursi can be used to eradicate any vaginal infections, since it has anti-microbe and anti-inflammation effects. Decoction of uva ursi leaves can be used to wash the vagina 2 times a day. Plus, the uva ursi capsules can be taken to maximize the effect.
13. Treatment of Gonorrhoe and Siphilis
People who suffers from STD such as gonorrhoe and siphilis can drink uva ursi decoction 3 times a day, or take uva ursi capsules. Be sure of consulting doctors first before consuming uva ursi capsules though.
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14. Prevents Uterine Hemorrhage and Post Partum Infection
People in China give decoction of uva ursi leaves to women who just give birth. The decoction of uva ursi leaves are known to help uterine contraction, thus preventing uterine hemorrhage. The anti-inflammation and anti-microbial properties prevent the new mothers getting post partum infection, which could lead to sepsis and death. It also helps caesarean and episiotomy incisions heal faster.
Uva ursi is also good for tonic after childbirth, since it contains many good substances which can help restore the body to function well.
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Other Uses of Uva Ursi
15. Additional Ingredients of Cigar / Cigarettes
Indigenous American people use the dried leaves of uva ursi to smoke their cigar / cigarette, sometimes adding tobacco in their cigar. A research is still going to study the comparison of addiction and cancer effect when smoking uva ursi and tobacco. So far, it is difficult to conclude, as most indigenous people mix uva ursi and tobacco for smoking. Logically, with so many anti-microbial, astringent and antioxidant effects, uva ursi should be safer than tobacco.
Cautions of Consuming
Although uva ursi has been used to treat urinary tract infections since ancient time, we still should contact a doctor if the symptoms (like frequent urinating, burning/painful sensation while urinating and fever) still exist 24-36 hours after taking uva ursi.
There is still lack of safety report, so it is better to take precautions. Children, pregnant women and people with kidney problems should consult a doctor before taking any uva ursi. Large dose of uva ursi can cause uterine contraction in pregnant women, thus causing abortion.
Uva ursi needs alkaline urine to activate its anti-microbial properties, so it is advised to avoid eating acidic foods while taking uva ursi as medication, such as oranges, pineapple, tomatoes,berries, vitamin C, along with acidic drugs like ammonium chloride. These foods and drugs can reduce the anti-microbial effect of uva ursi. But alkaline foods and drugs, such as antacids, K+, natrium bicarbonate, alfalfa, peppermint, raisins, and spinach will increase urine pH, making the urine alkaline and increase anti-microbial effects of uva ursi.
Uva ursi should be consumed only for short time, less than a week. It should not used repeatedly for more than 5 times a year. Uva ursi is safe when taken with recommended dose. Overdose can cause headache, seizure, shortness of breath, even death. There is a study saying that people who take more than 30 grams of uva ursi extract in each medication periods have higher risk of contracting tounge and lip cancer.
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Fresh uva ursi is still difficult to find, due to its preference to grow in subtropical mountains. But we can find uva ursi in powder form or in capsules, which can be purchased easily online. If we live in subtropical mountains, or travel to those areas, we may be able to find uva ursi growing naturally. While staying there, we can take the benefits of fresh fruits for our skin and beauty. Uva ursi has so many great benefits, but if we want to take uva ursi as food suplements, better to consult to the doctor first.