Bearberries, scientifically known as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi are gaining world wide popularity these days. A main ingredient in supplements and many skin care products, these berries are highly beneficial to your health as well. The fact that bears love to eat these berries accounts for their interesting name – Bearberries. They have numerous medicinal properties and so have been used for a long time in traditional and European folk medicine for treating many health problems. Bearberry is a very useful plant. Almost all parts of the plant are useful in one way or the other. The fruit can be eaten and used in cooking; the roots as well as the leaves can be used for preparing a tea that can help treat various ailments.
Health benefits of Bearberry
Bearberry contains certain active components that accounts for its amazing health benefits. It contains components like flavonoids, tannins, triterpenes and piceosides that have natural antibacterial properties and help in fighting off infections. It has been traditionally used in European folk medicine for treating bladder infections. Given below are a few of the health benefits of bearberry:
- Bearberry for treating urinary tract infections
Bearberry is considered to be one of the best remedies for treating infections in the urinary tract. It contains chemicals such as hydroquinone and hydroquinone derivatives, which are useful for treating infections like urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder) and nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). Inside the stomach, a substance called arbutin found in bearberry is converted into hydroquinone that has powerful astringent, antimicrobial and disinfectant properties. This substance, while passing out through the urine, has a positive effect on the mucus membranes of the urinary tract, thereby reducing inflammation, soothing irritation and preventing infection. Bearberry also contains other components such as ursolic acid that have diuretic and astringent properties. These diuretics increase the frequency of urination and thus help in flushing out bacteria from the urinary tract. However, for the bearberry to be effective, the urine must not be too acidic.
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- Bearberry as a remedy for kidney stones
In addition to treating urinary tract infections bearberry has also been found to be effective in preventing the formation of kidney stones. The use of this herb helps to soften the kidney stones which further helps in breaking down the large stones into small parts. As the size of the stones get reduces, it becomes easier for them to pass through the urine. Bearberry has natural diuretic properties, which increases urination and helps in flushing out the stones.
- Skin benefits of Bearberry
The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of bearberry work wonders for the skin. Bearberry is actually one of the many ingredients that are prominently used in skin care and cosmetic products today. It contains a compound called arbutin, which is a natural skin brightener. The regular use of bearberry can thus change the color and tone of the skin significantly. Since it produces strong skin lightening effects, bearberry is usually used in small doses. Bearberry extract, in addition to brightening skin tone is also effective in getting rid of freckles, age spots, melasma, and acne scars. The polyphenolic compounds found in the leaves of bearberry leaves shows strong antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage and thus helps reduce the visible signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines. Bearberry also offers sun protection and prevents subsequent skin damage after sun exposure.
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- Bearberry detoxifies the body
Another health benefit of bearberry is that it helps in cleansing and detoxifying your body. Being a natural diuretic, it helps in getting rid of the toxins and harmful wastes that are accumulated in the body. Thus by eliminating excess salts, water, and toxic substances from your body, bearberry ensures the optimal working all the organs in the body.
- Bearberry strengthens your immune system
There are several herbs that help in improving your immunity and preventing diseases. One such plant is the bearberry plant. As mentioned earlier, the leaves of bearberry have been widely used as an astringent, diuretic, and antiseptic for many centuries. The powerful compounds in this plant are beneficial in boosting your immune health by functioning as immunostimulants that help the body fight off infection not only during the early stages of infection but also throughout the entire duration of illness.
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- Bearberry provides relief from headaches
Bearberry has been used for hundreds of years as a remedy for headaches. The dried leaves of the plant have to be smoked to achieve the desired effect. Even though this method is very effective in treating headaches, it produces a narcotic effect and so smoking bearberry leaves is illegal and controlled in several parts of the world.
- Bearberry for healing wounds
The antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of bearberry promote faster wound healing. A salve prepared from the bearberry fruits can be used for topical application. This salve, when applied on the wounds helps in reducing pain and inflammation. Bearberry accelerates the growth of skin cells and speeds up the healing process.
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- Bearberry offers gastrointestinal protection
Bearberry is well-known for its ability to treat various problems that are associated with the digestive system. Various microbes that enter your body through food and water can destroy the natural balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut and make you fall sick. Bearberry has antibacterial properties and have been found to inhibit the activities of bactria like E. coli, Proteus vulgaris, as well as a few strains of Staphylococcus bacteria, helping to prevent intestinal infections. The high tannin content in bearberry and their astringent properties are effective in treating diarrhea and dysentry.
- Bearberry and weight loss
Bearberry shows diuretic effects that help in promoting more urine flow, thus reducing water retention and bloating in the body. This property makes bearberry beneficial for those who are trying to lose weight.
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Bearberry tea benefits
Bearberry tea is a herbal remedy traditionally used for treating bladder and urinary infections as well as a wide variety of ailments. This tea, made from the leaves of the bearberry plant has immense health benefits – improving the digestive health, preventing urinary tract infections, detoxifying the body and reducing inflammation, to name a few. Bearberry tea has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, making it an effective topical disinfectant. The diuretic properties of the tea help in flushing out the toxins from the body. It also helps in reducing high blood pressure and promoting weight loss. To prepare the tea, take a tablespoon of dried bearberry leaves in a cup and then add boiling water. Steep the mixture for about 10 to 15 minutes and then strain the liquid. Add sugar if required. Drink one to two cups of this tea every day.
The bright red berries of the bearberry plant may be its most attractive feature but the leaves hold almost all of its health benefiting properties. The bearberry fruit is edible and sometimes used as food while the leaves of the plant are widely used for various medicinal purposes. The presence of many active compounds such as arbutin, gallic acid, ursolic acid, tannic acid along with tannins, flavonoids, hydroquinone and phenolic glycosides in bearberry gives it the ability to treat a wide range of diseases and illnesses.Image Credits: Sten Porse, Flickr: Laura Marshall