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Uva-ursi or Bearberry is a small woody shrub, which thrives in the mountains of Alfred Vogel’s native Switzerland. It also flourishes in many other regions too such as North America, Siberia, the Himalayas and Northern Europe. A bit closer to home, Uva-ursi can be found in Scotland and there even is a hill in the area of Strathnairn known as ‘Cnoc nan Cnaimhseag’ which translates to ‘the hill of the bearberries’.
The plant is short and creeping and produces pink or white bell shaped flowers that bloom in the summer. The berries of the plant are said to be shaped like the human bladder. Bearberry is thus named as it was thought to have been eaten with delight by bears. Humans however discovered its healthcare potential as early as 2 A.D. and the Native Americans soon discovered its ability to help them when they were troubled with their bladders. Unlike bears however, we don’t use the berries but the leaves of the plant.
Uva-ursi herb contains a number of compounds including arbutin and hydroquinone which help to maintain the health of the bladder. The tannins in the herb have an astringent effect.
Alfred Vogel combined Uva-ursi with his favourite herb Echinacea purpurea. This herb was also much loved by the Native American Indians and is well known for its ability to help fight cold and flu infections.