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Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is small, woody, evergreen shrub native to Europe and parts of Asia. Also known as bearberry, the leaves of this small shrub have a history of therapeutic use dating back to the 2nd century. It has been widely used as an astringent and for urinary tract health. Uva-ursi has many benefits and, in particular, positive effects for those looking to lose weight.
The leaves of the plant are popular with herbalists and contain arbutin, hydroquinone and other chemicals that defend against harmful organisms. Uva-ursi also contains astringent-like tannins that shrink and tighten mucous membranes, and also reduces irritation.
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 health. When the stomach absorbs it, arbutin splits into a sugar and hydroquinone. The hydroquinone combines with glucuronic acid, creating a compound with astringent 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 Loss
Neutralizing urine acidity and increasing urine flow has a side benefit in that it reduces bloating and water retention. This effect has also earned uva-ursi leaf recognition as having potential weight loss benefits. While the weight loss mechanisms 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 effects of ibuprofen and other corticosteroids. It should also be taken as directed, as large amounts can cause nausea and vomiting.