Bladder/Cystitis/Urinary Tract Infections
Cystitis is an infection of the urinary bladder that is more common in women than men. A bacterial infection with distressing symptoms such as; abdominal pain, a constant urge to pass urine, a burning sensation when passing urine sometimes accompanied by blood in the urine. Bearberry leaves contain a high concentration of the phytochemical “arbutin” which is converted by bacteria in the urine into hydroquinone, a molecule which is anti-microbial and a highly potent bacterial killer. It is this compound that is thought to be responsible for the relief provided from cystitis and other urinary tract infections. As bearberry passes out of the body through the urinary tract it soothes irritation and reduces inflammation whilst fighting the bacteria that is the cause of this debilitating condition. However, bearberry works most effectively against UTIs when urine is kept alkaline by eating a generous plant-based diet and taking sodium bicarbonate. Arbutin also helps to reduce the accumulation of uric acid and can be beneficial in the treatment of kidney stones.
The antibacterial properties of bearberry have been found to inhibit the activities of bacteria such as E-coli and proteus-vulgaris as well as some strains of staphylococcus bacteria, thus protecting against and helping to prevent intestinal infections. Its high tannin content can be effective in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery.
Bearberry also contains diuretic phytochemicals, including ursolic acid, which are powerful astringents, and allantoin which helps to promote the growth of healthy new cells and the healing of wounds. It also contains tannic acid, a phenolic acid, which studies have shown has a number of health benefits including anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour activity.
Folklore and history
Bearberry was first documented by The Physicians of Myddfai, a succession of 13th-century Welsh herbal physicians who lived in the village of Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Native Americans used bearberry leaves with tobacco and other herbs in religious ceremonies, both as a smudge (type of incense used for clearing the air of negativity) or smoked in a sacred pipe to carry the smoker's prayers to the Great Spirit.
Bearberry is perhaps most well-known and historically used to treat bladder and urinary tract infections. With a history of medicinal use stretching back to at least the 2nd century, it has been widely used as a diuretic, astringent and antiseptic. Native Americans used it as a headache cure, to treat cystitis and as a general tonic for strengthening the kidneys.
Tincture - 1 to 4 ml 2 x per day
Powder - 1 to 3g 2 x per day for no more than 5 days
Glycosides: Arbutin, Metilarbutin, Ericolin, Ericinol
Acids: Malic, Gallic, Ursolic
While bearberry is highly beneficial, specifically for the urinary system, it should not be used for more than five days at a time. Hydroquinone is a powerful compound that will kill bacteria, however, overuse can cause damage to the liver.
Not recommended for children, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People with high blood pressure or people who suffer from Crohns disease, digestive problems, ulcers, kidney or liver disease should avoid Bearberry products.