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Arctostaphylos uva ursi

 Arctostaphylos uva ursi


Taxonomy: Ericaceae

Common Names: Bearberry, Kinnikinnick, Pinemat Manzanita, Carillo, Mealberry, Mountain Box, Mountain Cranberry, Sandberry, Sagackhomi, Bear's Berry and Arberry.

By: Evonne Manybeads, Yafa Lamm, Tamara Davis (Summer 2001)


Photo courtesy of Michael Moore (

Did you know that the word Kinnikinnick is the longest word in the English language that is pronounced the same way backward and forwards?

Appearance: Uva ursi grows as a vine or mat usually along open areas and down slopes. It has small leathery spoon shaped leaves that are attached to reddish barked stems. The flowers usually appear in the Spring. Flower growth process begins as small pinkish urns that mature into red berries that are sporadically located along the length of the stem. (Moore, 1993)

Habitat: The bearberry plant can be found from sea level to 11,000 feet. Growing on open hillsides in the mountains and on the dry sides of canyons. Plants range from the coastal areas of Northern California -Northward into Canada. Bearberry will grow almost anywhere given an acidic soil and sunny location. (Moore 1993)


Somewhat difficult to propagate by seed, bearberry requires both scarification and a soaking process. More commonly plants are propagated by stem cuttings. These cuttings are taken from the terminal section of the plant and are then harvested from November to February. In commercial propagation, the micropropagation method is often used. (Kester, 1997)


Photo by Tamara Davis 2001

Active Medicinal Compounds 



The active medicinal compound in Arctostaphylos uva ursi is the Hydroquinone glycoside, Arbutin. (Murray, 1991)

Biological Activities or Arbutin:

 - Antibacterial

 - Antiseptic

 - Diuretic


Medicinal Uses:

The leaves of the bearberry have both external and internal uses. Used internally, it has been used to reduce the accumulation of uric acid and relieve pain of bladder stones and cystitis. The tea or tincture can be used in treating bed wetting as well. Bearberry has been reported to be effective against E. coli. For external use, it has been used as an astringent wash for cuts and scrapes. 


Preparation and Dosage:

For an infusion the dry leaves are soaked in either 98% alcohol or brandy. The concentration is 1 teaspoon of soaked leaves to 1 cup of boiling water. One method is to make a tincture by allowing the leaves to soak in brandy for 1 week before preparing the infusion. Add 1 teaspoon or 10-20 drops of the brandy tincture to one cup of boiling water to make and infusion which can be taken 3-4 times per day.  (Moore, 1993)

                                                                                                      Photo by Tamara Davis               

Ornamental Uses:

Arctostaphylos uva ursi is a very low growing shrub that will cascade over walls or embankments. In the late spring, the plant will bear small clusters of dull pink globular shaped flowers that are later followed by green berries that will ripen to a brilliant red color in autumn. The leaves take on very intense tones of red as well. Cultivars include "Massachuetts", "Radiant" and "Woods Red", which is a dwarf variety. The "Point Reyes" variety is tolerant of coastal conditions. (Weiner, 1980)


Photo by Tamara Davis 2001


Lust, John, (1974) The Herb Book, Bantam Books, New York. pp. 110.                

Merck Index 12 ed. (1996) Merck Research Laboratories, Whitehouse Station, NJ. Pp. 131.

Moore, Micheal (1993) Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, Redcrane Books, Santa Fe NM. Pp. 242-245.

Murray, Micheal (1991) Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Prima Publishing, Rocklin CA. pp. 258.

PDR for Herbal Medicine (1998) Medical Economics Company Inc. Montvale NJ.

Weiner, Micheal (1980) Earth Medicine, Earth Food, Ballantine Books, New York. pp. 83.

Bontanica’s Trees and Shrubs, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego CA, Copy Wright 1999.

Dale El Kester, Fred TI Davies, Jr., Robert L. Geneve : Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices, Sixth Edition, Hartmann, Hudson, Copywright 1997, Simon & Schuster.


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Updated February 13, 2008

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