I love finding an herb spontaneously. Just as I was getting used to the sad thought that I shall have to wait until Spring to collect any more herbs, I came across one I’d been looking for all summer but had yet to find. I took my son and my momma’s little dog for a hike to Mount Falcon Trail last week and came upon some Uva ursi growing happily and abundantly on the rocks.
Uva Ursi is a woody, ground-covering shrub that likes to cling to rocks in mountainous regions. It is a lovely plant for beginners, since both its location (clinging to rocks in the mountains) and appearance (waxy, oblong leaves, round, bright red berries, evergreen nature) make it easy to spot. The name translates to “grape of the bear,” which describes its red berries. It is known commonly as bearberry; here in Colorado and other parts of the West, we also call it “kinnikinnick,” which is Algonquin for “mixture.” This is due to the fact that the leaves of the shrub feature prominently in many Native American smoking mixtures.
Uva Ursi’s medicinal offering has to do with the urinary tract. It has been used for centuries to cure and soothe bladder infections, and there is abundant clinical documentation to support its use in this domain. In particular, the therapeutic use of U. ursi has been shown to “exert a prophylactic effect on recurrent cystitis” (B. Larson et al, 1993). “Cystitis” is another word that describes an infection of the urinary tract. The results of the study indicated that women who had more than three infections per year showed a marked decrease in instances of sickness when taking the herb as a supplement for one month. There were no side effects.
For those of us who suffer from UTIs, that last sentence is particularly intriguing. The typical treatment for cystitis is antibiotics, which brings its own set of uncomfortable side-effects (diarrhea, nausea, YEAST). Sometimes, these side effects are even worse than the bladder infection! So a natural remedy that you can take that is effective and poses no side effects seems almost too good to be true.
At this point, I should like to remind you that UTIs, though common, can be very dangerous. I encourage you to try this natural remedy as both a preventive measure and to treat an infection that is coming on. However, if you have had symptoms for more than a couple of days or are experiencing signs of severe infection (fever, chills, nausea, blood in urine, pain in mid-back), don’t skip the Western medicine. In this case, the infection has spread to your kidneys and will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Now, on to the remedy! This tincture is a combined extract. That is, it includes our star U. ursi as well as a few other herbs that are used in UTIs. These are: corn silk, horsetail, yarrow, and echinacea. Here’s a grief breakdown of what each does:
corn silk (Zea mays)-a mild diuretic shown in small studies to alleviate symptoms of patients with UTI symptoms (Sahib et al, 2012)
horsetail (Equisetum arvense)-a strong diuretic which helps to irrigate the urinary tract
yarrow (Achillea millefolium)-a wonderful multi-purpose herb whose constituents include proazulenes (anti-inflammatory) and essential oils (antimicrobial)
echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)–an herb famous for its use in fighting infections. It is an established immuno-modulator, causing an increase in white blood cell production and enhancing the body’s capacity for phagocytosis, a process involving the cellular ingestion of bacteria (from The American Botanical Council: The Complete German Commission E Monographs Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines; Blumenthal et al, 1998).
You can purchase all of the above herbs here.
1 large jar
Dried corn silk
Dried horsetail herb
Dried yarrow herb
Dried Echinacea purpurea herb (as you can see, mine is from Mountain Rose Herbs)
Dried Uva ursi leaves
Mortar and pestle (optional)
80 proof ethanol (Vodka)
The amount of each herb will depend on the size of your jar. You want to fill it approximately halfway with your dried herbs, with each herb in equal amounts. It’s a little like making sand art. If it helps, you can draw a line at the halfway mark of your jar, and then divide that into five sections. But it’s really just as easy to eyeball it. Here is what mine looked like before adding the alcohol:
I like to grind the herbs a bit in my mortar and pestle before putting them in to tincture, but that is optional. Next, fill the jar to the very top with your alcohol. I prefer to use Vodka. It is cheap, tasteless, and extracts beautifully. Label your jar with its contents and that day’s date, as well as a date six weeks from the day you made the tincture. Store your brew in a cool, dark place. When your six-week date has arrived, strain the herbs through cheesecloth into tinted glass dropper bottles, like these.
I sincerely hope, from one UTI-sufferer to another, that this remedy helps you. Take it as a prophylactic or at the soonest possibly moment you feel an infection coming on. An effective dose will be 1-2 dropperfuls three to four times per day, while drinking plenty of water (at least one full glass every hour). Please remember, though, to seek medical treatment if you are not getting better fairly quickly. These infections are no joke!