The leaves of the plant are popular with herbalists and contain arbutin, hydroquinone and other chemicals with antibacterial activity. Uva-ursi also contains astringent-like tannins that shrink and tighten mucous membranes, and also reduces inflammation. Uva-ursi also has a diuretic effect due to the ursolic acid and isoquercetin components.
Uva-ursi’s Effect on the Urinary Tract
The hydroquinone derivative, arbutin, is the primary active compound that makes uva-ursi helpful for urinary tract infections. When it is absorbed by the stomach, arbutin splits into a sugar and hydroquinone. The hydroquinone combines with glucuronic acid, creating a compound with astringent and disinfectant properties. When this is expelled from the body during urination, it soothes and reduces irritation of the mucus membranes, and helps fight infection.
Uva-ursi and Weight LossNeutralizing urine acidity and increasing urine flow has a side benefit in that it reduces bloating and water retention. This diuretic effect has also earned uva-ursi leaf recognition as having potential weight loss benefits. While the weight loss mechanisms of diuretics requires monitoring, for water weight that won’t easily come off, supplements containing uva-ursi are recommended.
Although losing water weight is not, by itself, a stand alone weight loss measure, uva-ursi has a role within an overall weight loss spectrum that includes other herbs, and can be beneficial.
Although uva-ursi is all natural and has been used for centuries, it should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breast feeding, and those with kidney disease or high blood pressure. Uva-ursi may also increase the anti-inflammatory effects of ibuprofen and other corticosteroids. It should also be taken as directed, as large amounts can cause nausea and vomiting.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM