Friday, September 30, 2011

Photo Friday - Uva Ursi

Photo Friday - where I post pictures of plants along with tidbits of herbal information. 

To start this new tradition I've chosen one of the first plants I ever personally used for medicine, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, otherwise known as simply uva ursi, kinnikinnick, and bearberry. 

 I use uva ursi specifically for urinary complaints such as bladder infections or UTIs. I usually combine it with yarrow and marshmallow and it works well both for acute conditions as well as for prevention.

I used to get UTIs frequently. Before I knew how to use herbs a UTI always meant a panicked trip to the doctor to get antibiotics which I knew would give me a yeast infection and on and on and on. If you've never had a bladder infection let me tell ya, that getting in the car/bus to go to the doctor's office when you have to pee extremely urgently is not a favorite pastime. Possibly worse is getting a UTI at 2:00am and know that you have to tough it out until morning. Cranberry juice has never worked for me. 

Luckily for me my skills as an herbalist increased and I was able to address the reason I was getting UTIs. It's been many years since I've had one. Still my love and gratitude for this plant has never waned. 

As you might imagine, learning about this little plant was really incredible for me. I was amazed that some green leaves could save me from so much agony. And then I finally found uva-ursi in person. Such an adorable plant with those beautiful bell flowers. 

We use the leaves for medicine. I harvest them towards the end of summer or beginning of fall. 

Like many plants in the heath family (Ericaceae), uva ursi thrives in acidic soils. I live amongst douglas firs and ponderosa pines and they cover the forest floor. In the spring you can find me on my belly getting glimpses of those perfectly pink flowers. 

Uva ursi is frequently planted in western Washington as an ornamental plant. I often see it in green spaces in parking lots. It's evergreen leaves are beautiful year round. 

In the summer the flowers turn into red berries. They are edible and can range from slightly sweet and astringent to very mealy and astringent. If the berries are still on the plant when I harvest the leaves then I harvest them for medicine as well. 

I harvest leaves both for making a tincture as well as for teas. 

 Uva ursi is often a part of smoking blends. 
Recently I heard of an herbalist using uva ursi for yeast infections. 

I also adore the beautiful orange red bark of uva ursi. 

Here's a couple of videos on uva ursi. The first one is an old video by me and the second is by Nome.