Uva - Ursi
Scientific name: Arctostaphyllos uva-ursi
Part used: Leaves
In a word: Urinary tract infection plant
Uses: Urethritis, cystitis, pain and discomfort following urethritis or cystitis, chronic urethritis or cystitis
Though contemporary physicians are mystified by the chronic nature of urinary tract infections and even more mystified as to what to do about them, this was not always the case. In the last century doctors were well acquainted with problematic urinary tract infections.
Before discussing Uva-Ursi two points must be made plain. The first is that once a person has one urinary tract infection, they are predisposed to getting urinary tract infections. In essence, they become a sitting duck for a urinary tract infection. This is the way it is. So, rather than being "surprised" you have come down with a second urinary tract infection, it would pay to do something to avoid the second urinary tract infection. But, make no mistake, you will have to do something to avoid getting another urinary tract infection. Most herbalists recommend the use of an immune stimulant (something like echinacea) and a urinary tract disinfectant (something like Uva-Ursi) to beat the odds.
Uva-ursi can be used to clear up a urinary tract infection, end chronic urinary tract infections, and reduce the unpleasant sensations experienced in both instances.
The second point of importance is that part of having a urinary tract infection is discomfort that continues after the urinary tract infection has cleared up. For some reason, doctors fail to tell 90% of their patients to expect post infection discomfort. As a result, people go back to their doctor convinced they have another urinary tract infection when in fact they are still exhibiting signs of the last one. Another round of antibiotics is not going to make this discomfort go away, though millions of people give it a try. Something like Uva-Ursi, on the other hand, often helps reduce post infection discomfort.
If you take a look at the medical text, Kings Dispensatory, written in 1898, you realize that this is not a new medicine. It has been used for thousands of years, mostly by women, to get rid of an unpleasant urinary tract infection. Lets read what the doctors of the last century had to say about Uva-ursi. The text is right out of Kings Dispensatory.
"Specific Indications and Uses - Relaxation of the urinary tract, with pain and mucous or bloody secretions; feeling of weight and dragging in the loins and perineum, when not due to prostatic enlargement; chronic vesical irritation, with pain, tenesmus, and catarrhal discharges.
In chronic affections of the kidneys and urinary passages, it is frequently useful; in vesical catarrh, chronic gonorrhea, strangury, leucorrhoea, and excessive mucous and bloody discharges with the urine. Its tannic acid becomes oxidized and converted into gallic and pyrogallic acids, and humus-like substances, which communicate a dark colour to the urine. The keynote to its use is relaxation of the urinary membranes, as is evidenced by catarrhal discharges and a feeling of weight and dragging in the loins and perineum. There is always a feeble circulation and lack of innervation in the urinary tract when uva ursi is indicated. It undoubtedly lessens lithic acid deposits in the urine. In gonorrhoea, with bloody and mucous discharges, and pain in the vesical region, it speedily allays all these unpleasant symptoms. Cystic-spasm is relieved by it, and, when calculi are present, it obtunds the cystic membranes to such an extent that the offending material is comfortably borne. "
That was a lot of old doctor talk, but, the message from Kings Dispensatory is that Uva-ursi can be used to clear up a urinary tract infection, end chronic urinary tract infections, and reduce the unpleasant sensations experienced in both instances.
On the science side of Uva-Ursi, part of the picture is well known. We say part because herbal medicines are so complex it is virtually impossible to fully understand their activity. But, we do know something. The leaves contain a chemical known as arbutin, which is absorbed through the gut and passes via the blood to the kidneys. The kidneys filter it out and it ends up in the bladder. This is where the fun starts. Once in the bladder, arbutin breaks down and one of the resulting compounds is called hydroquinone. Well, this bad boy kills the bacteria responsible for a urinary tract infection. More than that, Uva-ursi leaves are loaded with tannins, complex compounds which deaden nerve endings and reduce inflammation. So, you get a bug killer and pain killer all in one when use with this one.
Uva-ursi works well, which is why it is still used today. Herbalists use it and speak highly of it.
However, from a practitioners standpoint there are several issues that need to be raised. The first is that though most urinary tract infections are entirely benign, they can lead to kidney infections that are not. If high temperature sets in, back pains, and the shakes, run, dont walk to the emergency room. Kidney infections are serious and are not anything you want to deal with on your own. End of story. If any of those symptoms pop up, you are in trouble and act accordingly.
The other issue is that the compounds that make Uva-Ursi work are not the kinds to be used long term. It is well used for one week, but it should not be used for more than one week at a stretch. It can be used to clear up an infection, to stop a string of infections, and or to end the discomfort associated with an infection, but in all instances it should not be used for more than seven days in a row. Are we