Uva-ursi has been used as a medicine for the past two thousand years in Europe and Nth America. The leaves were, and still are, frequently used as a treatment for urinary tract infections.
Uva-ursi has anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic and anti-microbial activity, with special affinity for the digestive and urinary tract. Studies show that arbutin, the chief active compound in uva ursi, converts in the intestinal tract to form hydroquinone. The antiseptic and astringent effects of uva-ursi are due to hydroquinone, however this only occurs if the urine is alkaline. The whole leaf is a more effective remedy than the isolated arbutin component.
Uva ursi has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against Proteus vulgaris, Escherichia coli, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma hominis, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Friedlander's pneumonia, Enterococcus faecalis, Streptococcus strains, and Candida albicans.