Other Names:: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, kinnikinnick
Bearberry, (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), also called kinnikinnick
The name “bearberry” for the plant derives from the edible fruit which is a favorite food of bears. The leaves of the plant are used in herbal medicine.
Alpine bearberry: Arctostaphylos alpina (L.) Spreng (syn. Arctous alpinus (L.) Niedenzu). This is a procumbent shrub 10–30 cm high (3.9–11.8 in). Leaves not winter green, but dead leaves persist on stems for several years. Berries dark purple to black. Distribution: circumpolar, at high latitudes, from Scotland east across Scandinavia, Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland; southern limits in Europe in the Pyrenees and the Alps, in Asia to the Altay Mountains, and in North America to British Columbia in the west, and Maine and New Hampshire in the United States in the east.
Red bearberry: Arctostaphylos rubra (Rehd. & Wilson) Fernald (syn. Arctous rubra (Rehder and E.H. Wilson) Nakai; Arctous alpinus var. ruber Rehd. and Wilson). This is a procumbent shrub 10–30 cm high (3.9–11.8 in). Leaves deciduous, falling in autumn to leave bare stems. Berries red. Distribution: in the mountains of Sichuan, southwestern China north and east to eastern Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada east to northern Quebec.
Common bearberry: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.
Habitat:Bearberry occurrs widely throughout the northern reaches of Europe, Asia, and North America in rocky and sandy woods and in open areas.
Bearberry is an evergreen shrubs of the heath family (Ericaceae), It has woody stems that are often 1.5–1.8 metres (5–6 feet) long. Roots develop from the stem, and the plant spreads, forming a broad, massive ground cover. The foliage turns bronzy in winter. The leaf margins are rolled and fringed with hairs. The flowers, which open early in the spring, may be white, pink, or pink-tipped in colour; the flowers are in the shape of a narrow-mouthed bell and are borne in small clusters at the ends of the twigs. The berries are red.
Edible Uses:The fruit are edible and are sometimes gathered as food for humans.
The leaves of the plant are used in herbal medicine.
The leaves are picked any time during the summer and dried for use in teas, liquid extracts, medicinal tea bags and tablets for traditional medicine uses. Bearberry appears to be relatively safe, although large doses may cause nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, back pain and tinnitus. Cautions for use apply during pregnancy, breast feeding, or in people with kidney disease.
The efficacy and safety of bearberry treatment in humans remain unproven, as no clinical trials exist to interpret effects on any disease.
History and folklore:
Bearberry was first documented in The Physicians of Myddfai, a 13th-century Welsh herbal. It was also described by Clusius in 1601, and recommended for medicinal use in 1763 by Gerhard and others. Often called uva-ursi, from the Latin uva, “grape, berry of the vine”, ursi, “bear”, i.e. “bear’s grape”. It first appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia in 1788.
Folk tales suggest Marco Polo thought the Chinese were using it as a diuretic. Bearberry leaves are used in traditional medicine in parts of Europe, and are officially classified as a phytomedicine.Native Americans use bearberry leaves with tobacco and other herbs in religious ceremonies, both as a smudge (type of incense) or smoked in a sacred pipe carrying the smoker’s prayers to the Great Spirit. When mixed with tobacco or other herbs, it is referred to as kinnikinnick, from an Algonquian (probably Delaware) word for “mixture”. Among the ingredients in kinnikinnick were non-poisonous sumac leaves, and the inner bark of certain bushes such as red osier dogwood (silky cornell),chokecherry, and alder, to improve the taste of the bearberry lea
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.