(Arctostaphylos uva ursi)
Widespread on the slopes and cliffs of the Balkans, this low, evergreen, shrubby plant with red berry fruit has long been recognised in folk medicine for its therapeutic properties. Its scientific name Arctostaphylos uva ursi, as well as its English name – bearberry – mentions a bear; translated literally it means “bear grape” because it is a favourite food of these strong wild animals. Bearberry grows in abundance in the northern hemisphere, while in the southern hemisphere it is rare and grows mainly at higher altitudes. American Indians used it instead of tobacco or mixed it with tobacco; its fruit is an integral part of the daily diet of tribes which new dominant settlers to North America pushed into the reservation in Montana. However, one should not overeat bearberries as this could lead to nausea and allergic reactions. Bearberry is much more valuable when used as a medicine, in the right way and in the right dose.
WHEN IS BEARBERRY THERAPEUTIC?
When we think of bearberry, urinary problems are usually our first association, but this plant has a much wider use and can help us achieve beautiful and even complexion. The medicinal part of bearberry are its succulent leaves, which are harvested from May to July, when the plant blooms, and are most therapeutic in the spring. What are medicinal ingredients found in bearberry? The most important ingredient in bearberry is arbutin, a glycoside with numerous beneficial properties. In addition, the plant is rich in sitosterol and triterpenoids such as amyrin, betulinic acid, lupeol, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid.
Bearberry’s most well-known healing action is against urinary tract infections, which has been scientifically proven. Among other things, the European Medicines Agency mentions bearberry’s antimicrobial effect on a wide range of strains such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Enterococcus faecalis, Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexeneri; when its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action is added to it, it is clear why bearberry is a well-known urinary tract cleanser. As it is rich in sitosterol, it is also useful for men who suffer from prostate disorders.
However, it is important to know that its antibacterial activity is conditional. As arbutin is metabolised in the kidneys into phenol hydroquinone, its antiseptic effect is limited to the alkaline environment. If the urine is acidic, as is the case in our present-day diet that abounds in meat and lacks vegetables, it is necessary to change its pH with baking soda. For that reason, when using bearberry for urinary tract infections, it is good to modify the diet, eat as little meat and processed foods as possible, and increase the intake of green leafy vegetables, fresh vegetables and fruits.
BEARBERRY FOR BEAUTIFUL SKIN
However, when it comes to the skin, bearberry’s healing properties are often overshadowed by its antiseptic powers in the urinary tract. As it is rich in antioxidants, bearberry provides ideal skin protection against harmful UV radiation. As these rays are the biggest culprits for the formation of wrinkles, sagging skin due to loss of collagen, inflammation and blemishes, bearberry offers ideal prevention and protection. Glycoside arbutin is responsible for the elimination of blemishes – it has the power to block the enzyme tyrosine kinase, which produces melanin, a dark pigment in the skin. Melanin provides natural sun protection to our skin, but excessive exposure to the sun’s rays can lead to excessive production of melanin, which is manifested on the skin by dark spots. Arbutin stops this process; with regular use over a couple of weeks, new skin cells of uniform colour appear. Natural arbutin in bearberry extract, unlike synthetic hydroquinone, is completely safe and harmless. Arbutin is therefore a common ingredient in facial care products in Japan and Korea and inhabitants of these countries are known for their youthful appearance and beautiful complexion. Japanese scientists were the first to synthesise arbutin about 50 years ago.
Bearberry’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects are also visible on problematic skin, so the plant extract is an ideal ingredient in skin care products for sensitive skin prone to pimples, vitiligo, dermatitis, psoriasis, irritations, to promote wound healing and skin regeneration. Corticosteroids are usually used for inflammation but they can be used only for a limited period of time and can have side effects. That is why modern medicine uses bearberry extract in combination with standard therapy in order to reduce inflammation. Bearberry has been shown to increase the inhibitory effect of dexamethasone in allergies and inflammation.
BEARBERRY FOR INFLAMED HAEMORRHOIDS
Bearberry’s anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties are also valuable for unpleasant inflammed haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are a normal part of our anatomy and play an important role in regulating stool retention and release. These connective tissue and vein sacs can become inflamed, enlarged, burst and bleed, most often due to frequent constipation, frequent use of laxatives, insufficient movement, internal pressure on the rectum due to some disorders, during pregnancy and after strenuous exercise. Medicinal herbs have been shown to be very effective in treating haemorrhoids and eliminating its unpleasant symptoms, pain, itching and irritation. That is why bearberry extract is a valuable ingredient that enhances this synergistic effect by reducing inflammation and stimulating the regeneration of mucous membranes and tissues.
Bearberry’s healing properties are numerous. Over the centuries, this plant has saved many people from a number of diseases – from bladder catarrh, gonorrhoea, rheumatic pain, sand in the kidneys, incontinence, bronchitis, anaemia, menorrhagia, diabetes, dysentery… That is why it has found its rightful place in Herba Svet products.
Plantis X balm is a completely natural formula intended for the treatment of inflamed haemorrhoids, in which bearberry works in synergy with a number of plants which have a strong venotonic and anti-inflammatory effect. Bearberry is most used in top-quality products in Devi cosmetics. Its ability to lighten the complexion and reduce the visibility of freckles and blemishes makes it a valuable ingredient in Whitening Cream and Whitening Serum; in Botomix serum its regenerative effect combined with brilliant peptides and hyaluronic acid comes to the fore. This bear grape can give us unbreakable bear-strong health which will also make us beautiful.
The following products contain this plant: