Some of the most important health benefits of bearberry include its ability to detoxify the bladder, protect the immune system, eliminate headaches, aid in pregnancy, speed healing, reduce inflammation, and protect the gut.
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What is Bearberry?
There are actually three different shrubs, the fruits of which claim the title of bearberry. They belong to the genus Arctostaphylos and can typically be found in Asia, Europe, and North America. There are dozens of different kinds of berries that have been used for medicinal or herbal purposes over the millennia, but the earliest recorded use of bearberries dates back nearly 800 years ago. Indigenous cultures may have used these 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. Studies done on bearberries have shown correlations between many of the claimed health effects, but more research and confirmation is necessary.
The health benefits are mainly due to its unique chemical makeup, including tannic, ursolic, and gallic acid, and various flavonoids. These powerful organic compounds impact the body and its organ systems in a number of unusual ways, making this a potentially valuable herbal remedy for many different people. The plant can be smoked, steeped into a tea, ground into a powder, or made into a decoction to topically apply or ingest.
Health Benefits of Bearberry
Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating health benefits of bearberry.
Protects the Immune System
One of the most powerful chemical compounds found in bearberries are called hydroquines, and these act as powerful antibacterial agents that can keep a wide range of your systems healthy. By eliminating harmful agents and foreign substances, bearberries can protect everything from your gut to your skin, acting as a full-body line of defense against bacteria.
Detoxifies the Body
The most common traditional use of bearberries was as a natural diuretic. This helps people release the toxins from their body at a rapid rate, cleansing the bladder and kidneys. It helps to eliminate excess salts, fats, water, and toxic materials from your body, helping all of your systems work better.
This is one of the more controversial health benefits of bearberry, but it 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 bearberry shrub, which produces a similar effect as the more widely known cannabis plants. This narcotic use is looked down upon in many circles, but it has been shown to be an effective headache remedy.
Some of 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 traditionally used to promote a healthy recovery of the mother by eliminating some of the pain and discomfort.
A salve can be made from the fruits of the bearberry to form a topical application. This can be directly applied to burns, wounds, bruises, or areas of inflammation. The acids of this unique fruit can help to speed the healing process under the skin, while also reducing inflammation and eliminating pain.
Protects the Stomach
There is a wide variety of gastrointestinal “bugs” out there, and preventing those illnesses is essential. They can destroy the natural balance of helpful bacteria in our gut. Bearberries are known to inhibit the activity of E. coli, Proteus vulgaris, and a number of Staphylococcus strains of bacteria, helping many of our systems stave off these common infections.
A Final Word of Warning
As mentioned, there are some powerful chemical compounds at work in this berry, and some may cause a negative reaction in more sensitive stomach and systems. Mild nausea and dizziness have been reported in rare cases, so be sure to always speak with a medical professional or herbalist before adding a new food to your regimen.