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Bearberry, also known as uva ursi for the plant's botanical name, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, is a useful herb for relieving problems with and improving the well-being of the urinary system. It is the leaves, not the berries, that contain the medicinal properties. This evergreen shrub is often called bearberry because bears enjoy eating the berries.
A cup of bearberry tea, made from the dried leaves infused in boiling water, can help with urinary infections, kidney and bladder problems and prostate disorders. It has in fact been used for centuries for problems with the urinary system and is a Native American remedy for urinary tract infections. It also benefits the liver and small intestine and it strengthens the heart muscle. This very useful herb contains glycosides, tannins and flavonoids. It is also nutrient-rich with B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium.
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Rich in tannins, bearberry is a very good herbal astringent, toning and strengthening the membranes of the urinary system. Combined with anti-microbial properties, this herb is ideal for urinary infections as it protects the system from harmful bacteria while also improving tissue. The leaves also have diuretic properties, increasing the elimination of waste and excess fluids through urination. With antilithic properties, it may help with preventing the formation of or removing gravel in the urinary system.
Bearberry combines very well with yarrow and couchgrass to treat urinary tract infections. It can be used on its own or with dandelion leaves for reducing water retention. Drinking the tea is also helpful for preventing kidney stones. It can be blended with gravel root, corn silk and hydrangea for this purpose. This herb can also be taken as a general tonic for the entire urinary system.
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To make a cup of bearberry tea use 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried leaves for every 1 cup of boiling water. Infuse the leaves for ten to fifteen minutes, covered. Strain and drink. When treating infections or other problems with the urinary system you can drink up to three cups a day of this herbal infusion.
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While bearberry is highly beneficial, specifically for the urinary system, it should not be used for more then five days at a time or more then five times in one year. It contains a compound called hydroquinone, which can cause damage to the liver and is considered to be toxic. Always talk to your doctor before using this herb for this reason. Bearberry should not be used by pregnant women, nursing mothers and children. This herb is also not recommended for anyone who has ulcers, kidney or liver disease or Crohn's disease.
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Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies." (Element Books, 1996).
Balch, Phyllis, CNC. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition." (The Penguin Group, 2006).
photo by Sten Porse/wiki
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