History: The name uva-ursi means “bear’s grape” in Latin (uva for grape and ursus for bear). Arctostaphylos is from the Greek, arktos meaning bear and staphyle, a bunch of grapes. The plant was first documented in The Physicians of Myddfai, a 13th century Welsh herbal. Marco Polo reported Chinese physicians using it as a diuretic to treat kidney and urinary problems. Its association with the kidney was strengthened by the medieval Doctrine of Signatures because the herb grew in rocky, gravelly places, and at the time kidney stones were called gravel. Native American people used it as a urinary remedy and also enjoyed smoking a blend of uva-ursi leaves and tobacco which was the smoking mixture, kinnikinnik. The 19th century Eclectics recommended the herb for diarrhea, dysentery, gonorrhea, bed-wetting and chronic infections of the kidneys and urinary passages.
Uva-ursi is one of the best natural urinary antiseptics. It has been used extensively in herbal medicine to disinfect and astringe the urinary tract in cases of acute and chronic cystitis and urethritis. However, it is not a suitable remedy if there is a simultaneous infection of the kidneys. Sodium bicarbonate is often administered with uva ursi to help increase the alkalinity of the urine.
Uva Ursi’s allantoin may help spur wound healing. Allantoin is the active ingredient in several over-the-counter skin creams for relief of oral herpes and for irritation associated with vaginal infections. It’s the diuretic most often used in herbal weight-loss formulas as a diuretic. Uva Ursi is among the herbs useful in diabetes for excessive sugar. It is topically applied for swollen ankles and knees and gout. Used as a bath to relieve rheumatism or arthritis; as a sitz bath for vaginal inflammation and irritation after delivery.