Prior to the advent of antibiotics and sulfa drugs, the leaves and branches of an evergreen shrub called Uva Ursi were used in the treatment of UTI's, cystitis, urethritis, nephritis, pyelitis and pyelonephritis.
For UTI's, it is the Hydroquinone derivative, Arbutin, that is the chief active compound in Uva Ursi. It is absorbed by the stomach and converted into a substance with anti-microbial, astringent and disinfectant properties which pass out of the body upon urination. During this transit, it acts on the mucus membranes of the urinary tract to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation and fight infection. The astringent quality (stemming from its high tannen content (up to 40%)) of Uva Ursi can strengthen and tone the urinary passages.
It also contains diuretic chemicals (which include ursolic acid) and a chemical that helps promote the growth of healthy new cells (allatoin.) This, in addition to its antiseptic and astringent properties may help flush out bacteria by promoting a healthy flow of urination. The diuretic chemical glucoside arbutin in Uva Ursi is largely absorbed unchanged and is excreted by the kidneys, exercising an antiseptic effect on the urinary mucous membrane, which makes it useful for the inflammatory nature of a UTI.
- It can reduce the accumulation of uric acid and relieve the pain of bladder stones.
- The Allantoin in Uva Ursi can treat herpes, cold sores and vaginal infections and is an active ingredient in many OTC preparations for these conditions.
- The astringent nature (and high tannin content) of Uva Ursi can be helpful in treating cases of chronic diarrhea.
Uva Ursi works best in a more alkaline environment, as a high acid urine can destroy its natural antibacterial activity. Because of its alkaline reaction, Uva Ursi works best when combined with Echinacea or Corn Silk. Since a dog's Ph should be around 6.5, this combination helps to alleviate the need to check Ph levels and allows for use in a dog with a low Ph (too acidic urine.)
Despite approval by Commission E of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices for the treatment of lower urinary tract inflammation, most literature recommends some cautionary steps such as a SHORT DURATION of use (5-7 days) and no more than up to 5 times per year.
Uva Ursi is contraindicated for the following conditions:
- Pre-existing kidney or liver disease (due to the high Hydroquinone content)
- Crohn's disease
- High Blood Pressure (though it may be an alternative to the use of pharmaceutical diuretics that are commonly prescribed)
- Pregnant canines, as it may inhibit oxygen delivery to the uterus
Uva Ursi can also interact with the following medications, supplements or foods:
- NSAID's and Corticosteroids
- Iron supplements (Ok with a 2-hour window between, however, iron supplementation is dangerous and we don’t recommend it)
- Acidifiers such as cranberry supplements, Vitamin C, Orange Juice, Citrus fruits
Written by Tess Wirth