Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.

Last updated: 6 June 2016

Scientific Name

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.


Arbutus acerba Gilib. [Invalid], Arbutus buxifolia Stokes, Arbutus officinalis Boiss., Arbutus procumbens Salisb., Arbutus uva-ursi L., Arctostaphylos adenotricha (Fernald & J.F.Macbr.) Á.Löve, D.Löve & B.M.Kapoor, Arctostaphylos angustifolia Payot, Arctostaphylos officinalis Wimm. & Grab., Arctostaphylos procumbens Patze, E.Mey. & Elkan, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. adenotricha Fernald & J.F.Macbr., Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. adenotricha (Fernald & J.F.Macbr.) Calder & Roy L.Taylor, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. adenotricha (Fernald & J.F.Macbr.) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. coactilis Fernald & J.F.Macbr., Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. coactilis (Fernald & J.F.Macbr.) Á.Löve, D.Löve & B.M.Kapoor, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. coactilis (Fernald & J.F.Macbr.) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. crassifolius (Braun-Blanq.) Rivas Mart. ex Torre, Alcaraz & M.B.Crespo, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. fendleriana (Klotzsch) Eastw., Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. heterochroma Fernald, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. leobreweri Roof, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. leobreweri (Roof) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. longipilosa Packer & Denford, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. longipilosa (Packer & Denford) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. marinensis Roof, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. marinensis (Roof) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. monoensis Roof, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. pacifica Hultén, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. saxicola Roof, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. stipitata Packer & Denford, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. stipitata (Packer & Denford) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. stipitata (Packer & Denford) Dorn, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. suborbiculata W.Knight, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. suborbiculata (W.Knight) P.V.Wells, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi var. uva-ursi, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi f. uva-ursi, Daphnidostaphylis fendleri Klotzsch, Daphnidostaphylis fendleriana Klotzsch, Mairrania uva-ursi (L.) Desv., Uva-ursi buxifolia (Stokes) Gray, Uva-ursi procumbens Moench. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Bear’s grape, bearberry, common bearberry, creashak, hog cranberry, kinikinick, mealberry, mountain box, sandberry, uva-ursi [2]
Spain Coralillo [2]
United States of America Bearberry, little tree, nakasisi (Pawnee); short tree, uva-ursi (North America) [2].

Geographical Distributions

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is a circumpolar ground-hugger which is native throughout the northern parts of North America, Europe and Asia. In North America, it is typically found in a variety of locations from Alaska to Newfoundland south through Canada to Virginia, Illinois, South Dakota, New Mexico and central California in a variety of habitats typically including gravelly and/or sandy exposed sites, dry/rocky slopes/outcrops, forest margins and forest clearings. It is primarily confined to cool alpine regions in the more southern parts of its growing range (Appalachians in Virginia, Rockies in New Mexico and Sierras in California). [3]

Botanical Description

A. uva-ursi falls under the family of Ericaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial that can grow up to 1 ft. The branchlets mature to reddish brown, with papery peeling bark on older twigs. Branchlets are clad with alternate, entire, short-stalked, leathery, rounded-at-the-tip, obovate to spatulate. [3]

The leaves are dark green (each to 1 1/4” long) which are shiny above but paler beneath the branch. Leaves turn bronze in winter before becoming green again in spring. [3]

The miniature, drooping, urn-shaped, white-to-pink flowers (to 1/4” long) in small terminal clusters bloom in April to May. Rounded, berry-like fruits (drupes) ripen in August-September. [3]

The drupe is 1/2” long and contains 5 nutlets (seeds). Drupes are green in summer ripening to red in fall, sometimes remaining on the plants throughout winter. Drupes are bittersweet raw off the plant, but sweeter when first boiled. [3]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

A. uva-ursi was reported to contain hydoquinone derivatives: arbutin ; hydroquinone-O-β-D-glucoside, methyl arbutin (O-methyl hydroquinone-O-β-D-glucoside). The galloyl derivatives of arbutin; (O-galloyl hydroquinone-O-β-D-glucoside, 2’’O-galloyl arbutin, 6’’O-galloyl arbutin, free hydroquinone and methylhydroquinone. Other composition includes polyphenols (tannins): gallotannins including penta-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose and hexa-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose, ellagictannine corilagin (1-O-galloyl-3.6-di-O-hexahydroxydiphenoyl-B-D-glucose), catechin; anthocyanidin derivatives including cyaniding and delphinidin. Phenolic acids: gallic, p-coumaric and syringic acids, salicyl acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid and lithospermic acid. Piceoside: (4-hydroxyacetophenone-O-β-D-glucopyranoside. Flavonoids: hyperoside, quercitrin-3-β-D-O-6’’galloyl galactoside, quercitrin, isoquercitrin, myricitrin, mycricetin-3-O-βD-galactoside, 2 isomeric quercetin arabinosides, aglycones of these compounds, kaempherol. Iridoid glucoside: monoterpein. Triterpenes: ursolic acid, uvaol, α-amyrin, α-amyrin acetate, β-amyrin, lupenol, mixture of mono- and di-ketonic α-amyrin derivatives. Enzymes: β-glucosidase (arbutase). Other constituents: allantoin, resin, volatile oil and wax. [4]

Plant Part Used

Aerial parts [5], leaves [6]

Traditional Use

The aerial part of A. uva-ursi is consumed traditionally as tea. It is used internally as a diuretic and uroantiseptic. [5] There have been a few descriptions of the bearberry leaf use in folk medicines as to stimulate uterine contractions, and to treat diabetes, poor eyesight, renal or urinary calculi, rheumatism and venereal disease, topically for skin depigmentation. [4] The stem and leaves of bearberry is grounded and use as a poultice and applied to sores and rubbed on the back for pain. [2]

Preclinical Data


Antioxidant activity

Ethanolic extract ofA. uva-ursi leaves indicated the highest antioxidant activity and may be considered as a promising source of natural antioxidants. The extract’s radical-scavenging capacity was also affected by the phenolic constituents. [6]

An ethanolic extract of A. uva ursi leaves has been found to have potent antioxidant activity in model and meat systems and therefore demonstrated a potential for use as a natural antioxidant in non-nitrite processed meat. [4]

Cytochrome p450 activity

Aqueous and methanol extracts of A. uva-ursi have high inhibition potential of drugs towards cytochrome P450 isoenzymes (3A4, 3A5, 3A7, 2C19, and 19)-mediated metabolism. The aqueous extracts of uva-ursi showed an inhibitory effect on Rh123 efflux by P-gp at 1 hour and an inductive effect at 18 hours for both cell lines. [7]

Pancreatic lipase inhibition

Extracts of A. uva-ursi exhibited antilipase activity and reported to be a promising source for developing functional foods or isolating active compounds. Based on the result, it showed that extracts of A. uva-ursi were the most active among other plant extracts when tested using p-Nitrophenylpalmitate and 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indoxylpalmitate were used as substrates. [8]

Antimicrobial activity

Aqueous extract of A. uva-ursi leaves increased remarkably the hydrophobicity of 40 E.coli and 20 Acinetobacter baumanii strains. The results showed the bactericidal activity of A. uva-ursi was relatively low. [9]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Arbutin from A. uva-ursi leaves increased the inhibitory action of prednisolone and dexamethasone on picryl chloride (PC-CD) and sheep red delayed type hypersensitivity (SRBC-DTH) in mice. [10]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

In a study without controls, urine samples from healthy volunteers were collected 3 hours after oral administration of 0.1 or 1.0 g arbutin. The urine samples (adjusted to pH 8.0) and 20 antibacterial compounds (at their usual urine concentration) were tested in vitro using 74 strains of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Only arbutin (present in urine samples collected after administration of 1.0 g arbutin), gentamicin and nalidixic acid were active against all the strains tested. Oral administration of 800 mg arbutin or an infusion of the leaves containing an equivalent amount of arbutin to healthy volunteers had strong antibacterial activity, as measured in urine samples after adjustment of the urine pH to 8.0. [11]


No documentation

Side effects

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

A. uva-ursi should not be used during pregnancy or lactation. [11]

Age limitation

A. uva-ursi may not be suitable for children under the age of 12 years old. [11]

Adverse reaction

Although extracts of the leaves do not appear to be carcinogenic, there is some evidence that hydroquinone is carcinogenic. [11]

Interaction & Depletion

In mice, A. uva-ursi extract or arbutin in combination with prednisolone or dexamethasone inhibited swelling of contact dermatitis induced by picryl chloride (PC-CD) and sheep red blood cell delayed type hypersensitivity response to a greater extent than either of the two chemical alone. [4]


Dosage Range

3 g of crude drug for infusion or cold macerates in 150 ml water is recommended for daily dose and can be consumed up to three or four times daily. [11]

Most Common Dosage

There have been reports of the use of A. uva-ursi leaf in a single dose at 3 g and daily dose. Dosage at 12 g through oral administration is also common. The 3 g drug is to infuse with 150 ml water as an infusion or cold maceration. [4]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013. [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2015 Sept 29]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume I A-B. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 363
  3. Missouri Botanical Garden. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Massachusetts’. [homepage on the Internet]. c2015. [cited 2015 Sept 29]. Available from:
  4. European Medicines Agency. Assessment report on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng., folium. [homepage on the Internet]. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC); C2012 [updated 2012 Jan 24; cited 2015 Dec 3]. Available from:
  5. Jarić S, Popović Z, Mačukanović-Jocić M, et al. An ethnobotanical study on the usage of wild medicinal herbs from Kopaonik Mountain (Central Serbia). J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;111(1):160-175.
  6. Amarowicz R, Pegg RB, Rahimi MP, Barl B, Weil JA. A Free-radical scavenging capacity and antioxidant activity of selected plant species from Canadian prairies. Food Chem. 2004;84(4):551-562.
  7. Chauhan B, Yu C, Krantis A, et al. In vitro activity of uva-ursi against cytochrome P450 isoenzymes and P-glycoprotein. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007;85(11):1099-1107.
  8. Slanc P, Doljak B, Kreft S, Lunder M, Janes D, Strukelj B. Screening of selected food and medicinal plant extracts for pancreatic lipase inhibition. Phytother Res. 2009;23(6):874-877.
  9. Turi M, Turi E, Kotjalg S, Mikelsaar M. Influence of aqueous extracts of medicinal plants on surface hydrophobicity of Escherichia coli strains of different origin. APMIS.1997;105(102):956-962.
  10. Matsuda H, Nakata H, Tanaka T, Kubo M. Pharmacological studies on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. III. combined effect of arbutin and prednisolone or dexamethasone on immuno-inflammation. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1991;111(4-5):68-76.
  11. WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. Volume 2. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2004 [cited 2016 Feb 29]. Available from: