The bearberry is one of the most absent from medical literature throughout Antiquity. The Middle Ages do not do much better if we consider that the oldest documents concerning it date only to the 12th century: some English books relate its use, it is even mentioned in a Welsh herbarium from the 13th century, titled The Doctors of Myddfai. In France, it was Rabelais (doctor-writer) who was the first to stress the diuretic effects of bearberry in his literary work Gargantua , describing Pantagruel in the grip of a urinary tract infection .
A little history
In the 20th century, Botan reaffirms the diuretic and antiseptic powers of the plant . He writes that one “takes advantage of this double property whenever it is a question of curing inflammations accompanied by purulence”. Leclerc , who was not unaware of what his predecessors could see about the bearberry, makes the following observation; pear leaves act like bearberry leaves. Here is what he said: “their infusion behaves like a good diuretic, capable of exerting an antiputrid action on the urine similar to that of uva-ursi.: it therefore finds its application in cystitis, in bacteriuria, in urolithiasis; under its influence, the volume of urine increases, the excreted liquid becomes clearer and thus loses its fetidity and the painful phenomena of which the bladder is the seat are sedated ”.
Charles de Barbeyrac (1629-1699), too, advised the bearberry “to calm nephritic pains and remove phlegm and sand from urine”. But it was only at the instigation of the Viennese doctor Dehaen – who is undoubtedly the one who best appreciated the therapeutic value of bearberry – that this plant is recommended to “all those who present with prolonged and abundant suppuration, rebellious. other therapeutic means, towards the urinary system, the kidneys, the ureter, the bladder, the urethra, the scrotum, the perineum, without any venereal imprint and apart from the obvious signs of a calculus ”, he writes in the Ratio medendi in nosocomio practico in 1758.
Following the establishment of these medicinal properties, many practitioners will follow one another, entering the path traced by Dehaen to experience this plant which is said to be the best remedy for suppurations of the urinary tract .
What are the main pharmacological properties of Bearberry leaves?
Urinary antiseptic properties:
These properties are in fact related to the activity of arbutin , a powerful urinary disinfectant and anti-inflammatory agent , active on Escherichia coli , the main germ responsible for infections of the urinary tract. The arbutin is not metabolized in the urinary tract, where it is hydrolyzed into glucose and hydroquinone (substance very close to the phenol), a powerful antiseptic . This transformation therefore takes place on alkaline or alkalinized urine.
Hydroquinone, phenolic acids and pikeoside act synergistically on many germs: Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Mycoplasmas, Pseudomonas aer., Proteus vulg., Klebsiella pneum., Enterococcus faecal., Streptococcus. These active ingredients are also antimycotics ( candida albicans ) and virostatic .
Furthermore, the leaves are antimicrobial in vitro and in vivo against numerous germs ( Candida, Staphylococcus, Escherichia, Salmonella).
Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, astringent and decongestant properties of the urinary tract:
These properties are linked in particular to the presence of iridoids and allantoin; healing and restoring of the epithelium of the urinary mucosa.
The aquaretic action of bearberry is due to arbutoside , flavonoids and phenolic glucosides contained in its leaves. In the subject in water overload, bearberry increases the renal elimination of water. It also improves the elimination of sodium and potassium . The arbutoside (or arbutin ) is stable in the drug through tannins (hence the need to keep the totum ) but hydrolyzed by intestinal bacteria to release its aglycone, hydroquinone (a phenol), coupled in the liver, excreted through the kidneys and then released into the urinary tract.
Bearberry gall tannins have antihemorrhagic properties useful in hematuria. They improve the blood circulation of the bladder lining.
Are there any precautions for use with Bearberry?
Hydroquinone requires alkaline urine to be produced and to exert its antiseptic action , it is necessary when using bearberry to ensure an alkaline urine pH (measured by test strip) or to alkalize the urine by the simultaneous intake of sodium bicarbonates ; either mineral waters such as St Yorre (4368 mg / L), Vichy Célestins (2989 mg / L) and Badoit (1300 mg / L), or baking soda, or citrates (sodium, potassium , magnesium ), or viaa diet very rich in fruits and vegetables. It is advisable to drink a lot during the treatment (at least two liters of water per day).
- According to the EMA, bearberry is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women because of its oxytocic properties, i.e. utero stimulating and teratogenic).
- Bearberry is also contraindicated in cases of cancer of the urinary tract, as well as in cases of kidney disease.
- According to the European agency, use in children and adolescents cannot be recommended for traditional use, as urinary tract infections in children and adolescents, even at an early stage, must be treated under medical supervision.
Side effects :
- Taking bearberry extract may turn urine green-brown.
Precautions for use:
- Bearberry extracts are used in discontinuous cures and of limited duration.
- The German Commission E recommends not to prolong the intake of bearberry beyond a week or more than 5 times a year without medical advice.
- According to the EMA, the use of bearberry in humans goes beyond its traditional use; which is recommended for women only.
- In case of overdose, possibility of anorexia, nausea, vomiting, headache, irritability, insomnia, increased heart rate and albuminuria.
Drugs interactions :
- Bearberry may potentiate the gastrointestinal toxicity of synthetic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Avoid the joint intake of substances that acidify the urine (medicines, vitamin C, cranberries, acidic fruit juices such as citrus fruits or prunes).
- The aqueous and methanolic extracts of 5 uva-ursi products showed a strong inhibition of the cytochrome p450 isoenzyme.
How to take Bearberry and in what dosage?
- As a food supplement: in the form of dry extract or powder, in capsules .
- During urinary tract infections, heather capsules can be combined with this intake, at a rate of 1 capsule 3 times a day.
- Standardized fluid extract of fresh plant : 5 to 10 ml per day in a glass of water, preferably in the morning.
- Herbal teas : 10 to 15 g of leaves per liter of water (after boiling, leave to simmer for 30 minutes), 1 to 2 g per cup, to drink 3 to 4 times / day. To avoid gastric irritation due to the richness in tannins, it is possible to add mint leaves.
Busserole in masterly preparation of standardized extracts in liquid form (EPS)
Association with echinacea 1/3 for 2/3 bearberry:
In the event of cystitis with decline of immune defenses in acute phase or in prevention by cure of 8 to 10 days (alternating with the mixture cranberry / piloselle ââ).
Association with the piloselle 1/3 for 2/3 of bearberry:
In the treatment of incipient cystitis, painful or with hematuria. In prevention of recurrent colibacillosis, cystitis with clear urine or inflammation of the urinary tract.
Association with orthosiphon :
For the consequences of renal colic, inflammation of the urinary tract.
Association with sweet clover :
Against painful congestion of the small pelvis and for the healing of the urinary mucous membranes in the course of cystitis or pyelonephritis treated with antibiotics.
Medical bibliographic sources and clinical trials :
- Durrafourd C., La Praz JC, Clinical phytotherapy notebook, Maloine, 1985
- Girre L., Knowing and recognizing medicinal plants, Ouest-France, 1980
- European Medicines Agency, Assessment report on Arctostaphylos uva-uesi (L.) Spreng., Folium, Final 2018
- Matsuda H. et al., Pharmacological studies on leaf of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. V. Effect of water extract from Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. (bearberry leaf) on the antiallergic and antiinflammatory activities of dexamethasone ointment, Yakugazu Zasshi., 1992
- Chauhan B. et al., In vitro activity of uva-ursi against cytochrome P450 isoenzumes and P-glycoprotein, Can J Physiol Pharmacol., 2007
- Guillerey P., ‘Contribution to the study of medicinal plants with a reputation for diuretics’, doctoral thesis in pharmacy (State Diploma), Nancy I. 1982
- Arriba SG, Naser B, Nolte KU. Risk assessment of free hydroquinone derived from Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi folium herbal preparations. Int J Toxicol. 2013
- Chemical Information Review Document for Arbutin and Extracts from Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Supporting Nomination for Toxicological Evaluation by the National Toxicology. 2006