7 Impressive Benefits of Bearberry

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most important health benefits of uva-ursi or bearberry include its ability to prevent UTI, detoxify the bladder, treat arthritis, protect the immune system, eliminate headaches, aid in pregnancy, speed up healing, reduce inflammation, and protect the gut. It also aids in skincare.

What is Bearberry?

Common bearberry is a fruit that belongs to the genus Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. The word uva-ursi means ‘grape of the bear’ because bears are fond of this fruit. It is a low-growing shrub, which can be found in Asia, Europe, and Central and North America. Other names of this fruit are kinnikinnick, pinemat manzanita, crowberry, and beargrape. There are three different shrubs in all, the fruits of which claim the title of bearberry. The other two are Arctostaphylos alpine and Arctostaphylos rubra, commonly known as alpine bearberry and red bearberry respectively. Indigenous cultures have used the uva-ursi plant and its berries for traditional healing methods. The plant is unusual in that with its organic compounds and components that give it so many health benefits. There are also slightly narcotic elements as well, which is why the reputation and traditions of use of bearberries have changed and fluctuated over time. Now, you can mainly find bearberries in health food stores, herbalists, and those who still use folk medicine for treatments. The supplements of uva-ursi are also available in the form of herbal extract capsules. [1]

Bearberry Nutrition Facts

Bearberry plant with ripe bearberries ready to be plucked

Bearberry is a broadleaf evergreen ground cover that produces white to pinkish-white flowers and red fruit. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The health benefits of uva-ursi or the bearberry fruit are mainly due to its unique chemical makeup, which includes tannic, ursolic, and gallic acid, and various flavonoids. There are some essential oils, resin, hydroquinones, tannins, and phenolic glycoside arbutin in it. These powerful organic compounds impact the body’s organs in several ways, making this a potentially valuable herbal remedy for many people. [2]

Health Benefits of Bearberry

Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating health benefits of bearberry.

Prevents UTI

The tannins in uva-ursi are great for uterine health. The bearberry plant is considered as one of the best antiseptics for treating urinary infections as it helps reduce the bacteria in the urine. It helps treat urinary tract infection (UTI), urolithiasis, and reducing inflammation in that area.

Protects the Immune System

The most powerful chemical compounds, hydroquinones, found in bearberry, act as powerful antibacterial agents that can keep a wide range of diseases away from you. By eliminating harmful agents and foreign substances, bearberries can protect everything from your gut to your skin, acting as a defense against bacteria. [3]

Detoxifies the Body

Bearberry is most commonly used as a natural diuretic. Therefore, it helps eliminate excess salts, fats, water, and toxic materials from your body, simultaneously cleansing the bladder and kidneys. [4]

Relieves Headaches

Bearberry has been used for hundreds of years as a headache reliever. To achieve this particular benefit, you need to smoke the dried leaves of the uva-ursi shrub, which produces a similar effect as the widely known cannabis plant. This narcotic use is one of the more controversial health benefits of bearberry and is looked down upon in many circles, but it is an effective headache remedy. [5]

Aids in Pregnancy 

The active components of bearberry have been directly connected to prevent miscarriages, ensuring the safety of the mother during pregnancy. Furthermore, after the baby is delivered, there is often a significant amount of pain and inflammation. Eating bearberries has been used to promote a healthy recovery of the mother by eliminating some of the pain and discomfort.

Treats Arthritis

Bearberry helps in reducing inflammation and therefore is very suitable for people suffering from rheumatism arthritis and the pain associated with it. [6]

Speeds up Healing

A salve can be made from the fruits of the bearberry to form a topical application. This can be directly applied to burns, canker sores, wounds, bruises, or areas of inflammation. The acids of this unique fruit help speed the healing process under the skin, while also reducing inflammation and eliminating pain. [7]

Protects the Stomach

Gastrointestinal issues are very critical and they can affect your overall health badly by destroying the natural balance of helpful bacteria in our gut. Bearberries are known to inhibit the activity of harmful bacteria like E. coli, Proteus Vulgaris, and several Staphylococcus strains of bacteria, helping our systems stave off these common infections. [8]

Skin Care

Bearberry is also looked upon for its high skin-enriching properties. It contains tannins that show skin lightening results. The uva-ursi extract is used in many ointments produced by cosmetic companies. With rich antioxidant content, these plants help in reducing the free radical activity and delaying aging. [9] [10]

Other Benefits

Uva-ursi is widely used for constipation. It helps in treating bronchitis and keeping the lungs healthy. Also, a combination of hops, uva-ursi, and peppermint is used for people suffering from compulsive bedwetting. More research is ongoing to validate these benefits.

Dosage and Administration

The uva-ursi extract is also available as a supplement for those who want to use it. The therapeutic recommended dose of arbutin for urinary disorders is 420mg per day. The extract should be divided into 2-3 doses per day, depending on the arbutin content in the supplement. However, consult your doctor before trying anything as it may lead to adverse side effects. The uva-ursi plant can also be smoked, steeped into a tea, ground into a powder, or made into a decoction to topically apply or ingest. [11]

Side Effects of Bearberry

There are powerful chemical compounds in bearberry, some of which are known to cause a negative reaction in people. Some common side effects are:


Some risks can occur if you are suffering from the following health conditions.

  • Liver toxicity: Hydroquinone in uva-ursi, can cause liver toxicity if consumed in excess.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not consume uva-ursi without consulting their doctor as it is oxytocic and harmful.
  • Kidney disorders: People with kidney disorders should avoid its use in excess, as it can exacerbate the problems.
  • Retinal thinning: Uva-ursi can worsen the condition of people already having a thin retina.

Be sure to always speak with a medical professional before adding new food to your regimen.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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