In traditional herbal health, it is not the berries but the leaves that have held the place of honor. (The berries, while nourishinig, are mealy and bland.) Picked in the fall, the leaves were heat-dried for healthy teas... *
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In traditional herbal health, it is not the berries but the leaves that have held the place of honor. (The berries, while nourishinig, are mealy and bland.) Picked in the fall, the leaves were heat-dried for healthy teas, which folk healers have used for centuries as a tonic and diuretic in many parts of the world. The Cheyenne Indians drank the tea for back sprains, and others used it to help support symptoms of bacterial infections. Indians and colonists also mixed the dried leaves with tobacco. (The Algonquiain name kinnikinnuk means "mixture.")
Bearberry leaves contain arbutin, a powerful astringent that is thought to have an antiseptic effect on the urinary tract and that account for bearberry's reputed effectiveness in supporting kidney and bladder infections. The leaves are also rich in tannins, which are used for tanning leather.
Because of their reputed diuretic and antiseptic action, the leaves have been used chiefly to help support kidney and bladder infections. Pharmacological studies suggest that the plant may have urinary antiseptic properties, but its reported diuretic effects are questionable.
General Herb Information
A low, trailing evergreen shrub that resembles a vine, bearberry forms a dense protective carpet on the sandy barrens where it is most often found. The brilliant red berries remain on the plant all winter, affording survival food for bears, birds, and other wild animals when little else is available.
Bearberry grows abundantly on barren, sandy, or gravelly soils. Its evergreen foliage makes an attractive winter ground cover. The plant is rare or protected in some states.
Habitat: Dry sandy, gravelly, or rocky soils.
Range: Native to Eurasia, bearberry is naturalized throughout North America as far south as Virginia, west to California.
Identification: A low-growing, trailing evergreen shrub. Dark green leathery alternate leaves, 1/2 - 1 1/2 inches long, are oval and taper toward the base; they have short petioles, or leafstalks. Dense, drooping clusters of pinkish-whitish, waxy, urn-shaped flowers (April-June) are followed by bright red berries that ripen in autumn and last through the winter.
Common names are arberry; bear's grape, mealberry, mountain box, hog cranberry, mountain cranberry, red bearberry; sagackhomi, sandberry, and upland cranberry. References indicate Welsh physicians using it as far back as the thirteenth century. It first appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1788, but it was used for hundreds of years before this official recognition. Bearberry is astringent in nature, a diuretic and tonic traditionally used for kidney and bladder infections and especially helpful in reducing water retention. It has been useful in supporting inflammatory problems with the urinary tract and is said to help dissolve kidney stones. It's also considered valuable in supporting spleen, liver, pancreas, and small intestine disorders. Natives, who called this plant kinnikkinnick, ate the berries raw, juiced, fermented into cider, or made into a jelly. Sometimes they ground and cooked the berries into porridge and smoked the leaves. The name uva-ursi means "the bear's grape" in Latin, and bears are said to like the fruit.
Plant facts and Growing Tips
Plant: An evergreen, creeping shrub found throughout Europe and the northern United States, with 1/2- to 1-inch-long leaves that are slightly rolled down at the edges. White or pink flowers appear in late spring and early summer and grow in sparse clusters, and the berries are bright red or pink.
Height: 4 to 6 inches high, but can eventually spread into a low-growing bushy clump that covers an area up to 15 feet wide. Bearberry makes a good ground cover.
Soil: Dry; sandy, acid, or gravelly.
Exposure: Sun to partial shade.
Propagation: Cuttings or division.
Part Used for Tea: Leaves.
Taste: Bitter, astringent.
Dosage: Standard infusion or 3-9 grams.
How to Brew
By Infusion: Pour 1 cup boiled water over 2 teaspoons dried leaves. Cover and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, then sip while hot.
Another method is to soak leaves in alcohol or brandy, strain, and then add 1 teaspoon of the soaked leaves to 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Or soak the leaves in brandy for 1 week, then add 1 teaspoon of brandy to each cup of infusion.
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Hot tea brewing method: Bring freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil. Place 1 tea bag for each cup into the teapot. Pour the boiling water into the teapot. Cover and let steep for 3-7 minutes according to taste (the longer the steeping time the stronger the tea).
Iced tea brewing method (to make 1 liter/quart): Place 6 tea bags into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into your serving pitcher straining the bags. Add ice and top-up the pitcher with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste. [A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to double the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water].
Excessive use can lead to stomach distress, and prolonged use may produce poisoning. Ingesting bearberry usually changes the color of the urine.
ZooScape is proud to be the exclusive distributor of TerraVita teas, herbs and supplements in the United States, Canada and around the world. Please direct all wholesale and bulk inquiries to Simona Heather at 1-844-449-0444.
End of More Photographs - Uva Ursi (Bearberry) Tea
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease. If conditions persist, please seek advice from your medical doctor. Information provided at ZooScape.com relies partly on Traditional Uses. The essence of the current American rule on Traditional Uses is, as stated by FTC, "Claims based on historical or traditional use should be substantiated by confirming scientific evidence, or should be presented in such a way that consumers understand that the sole basis for the claim is a history of use of the product for a particular purpose."