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Uva ursi extract is also known as bearberry extract. It is made from the leaves of uva ursi plants. It may be used as a natural remedy for a variety of complaints, including urinary tract infection (UTI), cystitis, kidney stones and skin discoloration.
In general, uva ursi plants grow in cooler climates, such as northern Europe, North America and Asia. It is an evergreen plant, with light colored flowers that usually bloom in the summer months. After blooming, the seeds turn into bunches of bright red and pink berries. Bears have been known to eat these sour berries, which is where the common name of bearberry comes from.
The extract of uva ursi leaves has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, dating back to the Native Americans. Native Americans are said to have used the extract to help treat urinary tract infection. This use became part of traditional Western medicine for many years, though it has now fallen out of favor due to the development of less toxic preparations. It may still be used as a conventional treatment in certain European countries, however, to help treat cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder.
While not considered a conventional treatment in many areas today, uva ursi extract may still be used as a natural or home remedy for UTI. This is because the extract from uva ursi leaves have antibacterial and diuretic properties, which may help kill bacteria in the urinary tract and flush it out of the body. It can also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help relieve pain and discomfort. The chemicals released by the uva ursi leaves that are thought to be responsible for the usefulness in treating UTI include hydroquinone and arbutin.
Due to the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of arbutin, uva ursi extract may also be used as a natural remedy to help relieve pain associated with kidney stones. For this use, as well as for treating UTI, the extract is usually consumed orally. Applied topically, however, it may also be used to help treat rashes, canker sores and arthritis pain.
Another way uva ursi extract is sometimes used topically is to reduce skin discoloration. The hydroquinone in this extract has long been known to help lighten skin pigmentation. It is often included as an active ingredient in over-the-counter skin brightening cosmetic preparations. Uva ursi also has other properties that may help reduce the appearance of discoloration and scars.
As with many herbal remedies, it’s generally best to talk to a health-care provider before using uva ursi extract. Some studies have shown that it may interfere with the effects of certain other medications, such as corticosteroids. Also, it may not be recommended for certain people, such as women who are pregnant. It’s also generally recommended that dosing instructions be followed carefully, as too much uva ursi extract can be toxic.