Kinnikinnick (Uva Ursi) | Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Family: Ericaceae

Parts Used: Fruit and Leaf

Appearance: Kinnikinnick is a low creeping shrub that contains small leathery, spoon-shaped, dark green leaves that produce trailing stems. The flowers are pinkish-white and bell-shaped that turn into juicy red berries in the summertime. It can be found from sea level to 11,000 feet, growing in the open hillocks, in the mountains, on the dry sides of canyons and in logged and burned forests — almost anywhere with acidic soil and sun.

Photo by Eduardo Jovel

Harvesting Methods: The easiest way to gather these plants is to snip the long runners at the major centre root. They may be dried in brown paper bags or bundled and hung to dry away from sunlight in a well ventilated area. Once dried, it is good for 3-4 years.

Medicinal Uses: Kinnikinnick is most well known for its use in the treatment of urinary tract infections and cystitis. It does this by keeping the urine slightly acidic to prevent bacterial overgrowth in the urethra and bladder. It’s main constituent, arbutin, acts as an antimicrobial to further reduce bacterial invasion of the urinary tract. Kinnikinnick is also high in tannins, which makes it an excellent tonic and astringent wash for abrasions, bruises, broken bones and herpes breakouts.

Preparation: Visit the ‘Medicine Making’ page for more details

  • The berries can be consumed either raw or cooked for its high vitamin content

  • The leaves can be made into a tonic tea or as a mouthwash for canker sores

  • The dried herb can be used to make a tincture of 1:5 in 50% alcohol, taken as 30-60 drops in warm water up to 4x/day

  • A sitz bath can be made with 8-12 ounces of tea in warm water for postpartum birth recuperation (best to wait at least 24 hours after birthing to start the bath)

Cautions: Due to its high tannin content, kinnikinnick may irritate the stomach lining with prolonged use. Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that Kinnikinnick is safe for you.

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