Getting to Know Herbs: Common Bearberry

in #gardening2 years ago (edited)

This is the most type of bearberry, known as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or just uva ursi, and also kinnikinick (for smoking) and sandberry (easily grows in sand). Like the constellations ursa minor and major, the name ursa refers to a bear in Latin. Uva-ursi means "grape of the bear", and the generic reference of Arctostaphylos means "bear-grape" in Greek.

The name comes from bears liking the edible but rather tasteless red fruits.

Photo by @krnel

Key Points

  • bears like the red fruits, safe for humans to eat as well
  • leaves used in folk medicine to treat urinary infections
  • common to upper North America
  • smoked by some Amerindian tribes



It's long been used in Norther American Native as part of a smoking herb mix called kinnikinnick ("smoking mixture") in Algonquin used for religious ceremonies. The Western First Nation use it most along with other herbs such as tobacco. The Blackfeet Nation used it as food.

Other names are Arberry, Arbousier, Arbousier Traînant, Arbutus uva-ursi, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Bearberry, Beargrape, Bearsgrape, Bussserole, Common Bearberry, Faux Buis, Hogberry, Kinnikinnik, Manzanita, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Petit Buis, Ptarmigan Berry, Raisin de Renard, Raisin d'Ours, Raisin d'Ours Commun, Red Bearberry, Redberry, Rockberry, Sagackhomi, Sandberry, Uva del Oso, Uva Ursi Extract, Uvae Ursi Folium.

Where is it found?

The common bearberry grows in the norther parts of the northern hemisphere, and some high latitudes further south. It grows in Europe from Iceland to Norway and down to Greece. In Asia it's from the Siberian arctic to Turkey and the Levant. In North America from Alaska to Greenland and down to California across to the Appalachian Mountains.

USDA public domain

What's it used for?

It's a useful ground cover that helps to control erosion.

No clinical trials exist to prove the effectiveness of using it as a medicine. But traditional and folk medicine use the leaves and stems to make teas, extract and tablets.

The stem has been used by some Native American tribes to prevent miscarriages and aid in recovery after childbirth. The leaves have an antibacterial chemical called hydroquinones. A dehydrated salve can be made to treat canker sores, sore gums, burns, and minor cuts.

A common use has been to reduce bacteria in the urine, such as for urinary tract disorders:

including infections of the kidney, bladder, and urethra; swelling (inflammation) of the urinary tract; increased urination; painful urination; and urine that contains excess uric acid or other acids. Uva ursi is also used for constipation and a lung condition called bronchitis.

Are there any risks?

The leave contains contain glycoside arbutin that becomes a liver toxin when metabolized. It's considered safe to take orally for up to a month, but in large doses or long-term use may cause nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, back pain, tinnitus, liver damage, eye problems, breathing problems, convulsions, and death.

Pregnant women should avoid it as it can induce start labor. Avoid for breast feeding and for children.


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This herb will just grow anywhere in cold places. This herbs maybe not yet given enough attention by medical practitioners but traditionally they used it for medicine and some healing purposes. They should try this for clinical trials to see how effective this herbs.

I agree with trying this for clinical trial, and trying many other natural herbs to find use cases. All medications must have once originally come from nature so why not return

Yes, many plants should be given trials, but they just do synthetic drugs :/ lame...

This is one of those important life skills I think should be taught in schools. Being able to identify edible plants and berries in the wild, as well as mosses, could actually save your life if you find yourself in the wilderness and without food or water.

People don't realise you can find water in the roots of many plants, especially if you're lucky enough to find a banana or plaintain tree which can give you many days worth of water from the roots. Being able to purify water is another crucial skill.

Why do they not teach kids in school valuable and potentially lifesaving lessons like these? Even just knowing more about nature and the wonderful benefits that wild plants, fruits and berries have would be a good start. Nice post @krnel

Yup. It's good survival knowledge. Living in the cities for most people means they don't have use for it in daily life and they probably don't think they ever will... We outsource our survival to the rest of society, making us all co-dependent and less able to depend on ourselves if shit happens :/

@krnel, Whenever i see the natural growing stuff it always gives an boost to stay close to the nature and also it teaches the lesson and that is nature is everything for sure.

And good know about these Common Bearberry, and in my opinion nature holds unlimited stuff which can heal us and i believe that still there are many which are yet to be discovered.

And informative details are appreciable because in this way we can understand the Origin and when we can understand the Origin then we can understand many subjects.

Keep up and keep sharing more natural stuff and their benefits, who knows which plant can help whom, it's all about the Circulation Of Information.

Wishing you an great day and stay blessed. 🙂

Yup, share info and someone can learn form it when they wouldn't normally have come across it otherwise. Plants heal. The best diet is a plant only diet.

Yes, nature holds many healing plants for sure. Stay blessed. 🙂

This herb is also used in homeopathic medicines. I think every plant has some medicinal properties. We don't know much about many plant species but it doesn't mean that they are useless. My grandmother used to treat people with herbs and plant extract as doctors were not available in our areas. Many village folks in rural areas still use herbs to treat patients. Once, I fell down and my head was cut. There were profound bleeding. My grandmother applied crushed leaves of some plant over my head and bleeding stopped. When I woke up in the morning the wound had heeled miraculously as if it was not there.

That's an amazing story. Not sure the wound was completely gone though, you're not wolverine from the x-men ;)

There is still a mark of the wound on my forehead but that herb worked really miraculously. It healed the wound in no time.

you're not wolverine from the x-men

Certainly, I am not. haa ha.

According to this map,I am in the thick of this plant. It does look vaguely familiar. On my next walk at the nature park and state game area,I'll have to pay closer attention.

Yeah, you will likely see it now and then ;)

Love these little guys. We have these growing along highways like huge carpets. Wasn't able to transplant, hard to get the roots.

Might need a little shovel to get deep enough then ;)

very good, I like this series, when does it fruit?

Thanks, glad you like it. I think in fall or late summer.

I love learning this sort of thing, I have been learning about foraging mushrooms When I learn about new mushrooms or useful weeds it ads a new dimension to being outside. When I am out hunting birds in the fall now I spend just as much time searching for chicken-of-the-woods as pheasants.

Thanks for your post, images and info.
I Think who with an adecuate index Steem can be a good place where to show our (world wide) natural heritage.

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