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Scientific Names UVA URSI


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi L.


Heath family


Common Names


Bear's grape



Mountain box

Mountain cranberry

Red bearberry



Upland cranberry

Uva Ursi


Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Trailing or prostrate evergreen shrub with mats of leafy stems; bark fine-hairy. Leaves shiny-leathery, spatula-shaped. A long single, fibrous main root sends out several prostrate or buried stems from which grow erect, branching stems 4-6 inches high. Eventually, the plant will spread to 15 feet coverage of the ground. The bark is dark brown or somewhat reddish. The leaves are entire, oval or obovate, rounded at the apex, often 1/2 to 2 inches long, and slightly rolled down at the edges. Leaves turn red the fall. Flowers white, urn-shaped; May to June. Fruit dry red or pink, mealy, berry when ripe, containing several one-seeded nutlets. Needs partial shade or full sun, is considered a good ground cover where lime is not in the soil and drainage is good. Zones 2-7. In the southern heat, it struggles and usually dies; it can be grown in a pot if given its preferred conditions.

Medicinal Properties

Diuretic, strongly astringent, tonic

Biochemical Information

Arbutin, chorine, ellagic acid, ericolin, gallic acid, hydroquinolone, malic acid, methyl-arbutin, myricetin, volatile oils, quercetin, tannins, ursolic acid, ursone, and a substance similar to quercetin. Tannin is present up to 6% or 7%.

Legends, Myths and Stories

Native Americans used bearberry, or kinnikinnick as they called it, in their ceremonial pipe in place of tobacco. The Arikaras cultivated sacred tobacco and mixed it with bearberry dried leaves and the dried inner bark of red dogwood. Some Native American tribes mixed tobacco with bearberry to make a milder smoke. The pipe-stem of the Plains Indians was made of golden sumac, a sumac which used to grow close by the pipestone quarry. This stem was about 24 inches long and an inch wide, but quite thick, flat like a carpenter's pencil. This is the way the hole through the stem was made. Gathering the sumac in Spring when the sap was up in the large pith, some meat or fish was put out where blowflies could work on it. When large maggots were on the meat, the piece of sumac which had previously been put in a can of oil or bear grease, was brought in. As the large pith had taken up the oil, it was soft, and quite a bit was dug out. The maggots were then sealed up in the stem, to either eat their way through, or die. Sometimes they did both, but there was plenty of time to do it all over again, patiently, till a long perfect hole was drilled through. The use of bearberry as a folk remedy for urinary tract infections has been validated by modern research showing that this herb is an effective treatment for bladder and kidney ailments.


A bitter herb used for kidney and bladder infections, kidney stones, nephritis, diabetes, and hemorrhoids. Strengthens the heart muscle, used as a tonic, and helps disorders of the spleen, liver, pancreas, and small intestines. Used as a diuretic. Good for female disorders. Also used in bronchitis, gonorrhea, diarrhea, and to stop bleeding. It is not necessary to drink the tea for long periods, because acute symptoms generally will disappear within a few days with treatment of bearberry leaf tea.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease.