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Herbally, I mostly use lingonberries and cranberries. And black currants. And bilberries ... not to forget red raspberry, of course.

The juice of both lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) (and American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon) (which we don't have) is very good for urinary tract infections.

While some think that it's because the juice is sour, thus making the pee more acidic, they're wrong: it's because something or other in cranberries (and lingonberries) makes the mucous membrane of the bladder more resistant to bacteria. They can't adhere, and are flushed out the next time you're going for a pee.

(On that note, did you know that princesses can pee through seven mattresses? Heh.)

The leaf of lingonberries can be used the same way as the leaf of bearberry or uva-ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): a decoction (or overnight infusion) will help if the urinary tract infection stems from alkaline urine.

That's arbutin, a hydroquinone glycoside, doing its thing, but don't ask me what that thing is. Lingonberry leaves don't contain quite as much arbutin as uva ursi, so they're a) not as effective, and b) not as bad for you.

See, if your symptoms haven't gotten any better after you've been drinking uva-ursi tea for three days you've got the wrong herb. Stop doing uva ursi and do something else instead: the arbutin can give you hydroquinone poisoning, although I forget what the symptoms of that are.
And that poisoning is why most people do their uva ursi as 10-day sessions, after which they stop taking it.

You can use the leaf of other Vaccinium species as well, but don't bother trying to pick cranberry leaf. That's tiny.

The leaf of bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) works, too, but again, it contains arbutin, although again, not quite the amounts found in uva ursi. That leaf is used to keep blood sugar down, but Weiss (Rudolf Fritz, you know) found that it gave people - wait for it - hydroquinone poisoning, in the long run. Bilberry leaf was in the list of herbs for diabetes which Paul Bergner dissected in his excellent article on the topic in Medical Herbalism, lemmesee now, Vol. 13, No. 2, Winter 2002. Unfortunately, nobody knows how it works - and only one action (reduce insulin resistance in the cells) is OK.

Another use for the uva-ursi: an elderly gentleman told me that he's been using uva ursi tea for his prostatitis, every year or so. He said that he hasn't bothered going to the docs with it for years, as all they do is give antibiotics. He was attending one of my lectures, so I didn't get to dig deeper: why would he have recurrent prostatitis? Hmmm.

The berries of bilberry, now. They're quite good for constipation (if fresh) (don't ask about the several bowls full I ate a couple weeks ago ... I didn't have constipation before, and I certainly didn't, after), and very good for the runs (if boiled, in jams, etc.).

And of course, they're an excellent source of flavonoids, which are good for your capillaries, among other things.

Black currants (Ribes nigrum): a hot juice of the berries is very good for various lung grunges, fevers, and things. I expect that we use that like others use the berries of black elder.

Black currants are my favorite of all berries. I'll even eat them dried, nevermind that they have large seeds, which get stuck in my teeth.
One of my friends supplies me with black currant juice (homemade) every year. In return, I supply her with salves. Very good trade, that is.
I do have a couple bushes in the garden, but this years' crop (all of 13 berries) got divided in two and eaten in one go. (They're young, these bushes. I put them in a year ago.)

Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus): very tasty berries, and the leaf is one of my main herbs for ladies' troubles. I'm told that a vinegar of the berries is good for fevers, but I don't like vinegars all that much, and I like raspberries a LOT, so I haven't bothered making any raspberry vinegars. Yet. I still might, one of these centuries.

So, was I late for this blog party? Bother ...

Related entries: Strawberries - Juniper berry syrup - Lycium berries - Elder toxicity - Aronia berries - Rowanberries - Schisandra berries - Bilberry for dandruff - Black currant leaf drink - Using juniper berries - Hawthorn berries


Nice! That's update number 2 for the berry blog party. Summer herb blogging is certainly a challenge. Thanks for this!

Nice! I was so hoping you'd do a berry post. Do you every tincture your bilberries?

No, I don't tincture bilberries. I've made a sweet vodka of our cranberries (which are much sourer than the American ones), though: boil sugar'n'cranberries, pour into jar, add lots of vodka, let sit. I haven't tried it yet - it was supposed to become "cranberry pearls", but didn't (pearls? This is a red soggy mess), and I don't have all that much of a sweet tooth. Gotta serve it to others, when I have the chance ...

Hello Henriette ... I occassionaly visit your great web site ... but today's the first time I've seen your blog. Great stuff!
Actually the flavonoids in cranberry and blueberry ... and I'm guessing other Vaccinium species ... keep bacteria from adhering to each other and the walls of the urinary tract. This prevents the bacteria from colonizing and enables them to be flushed from the urinary tract upon urination. Interestingly, the same effect happens orally to deter plaque built-up and tooth decay. This also has me wondering about the possible use of these berries' in vaginal infections ... perhaps as a douche or suppository.
Ed Smith .... aka Herbal Ed
(presently in Bangkok)

Just thinking about a bilberry douche made me laugh - but then, I have a weird sense of humor.

Hi Herbal Ed, welcome to Henriette's blog! It really is "great stuff."

I wonder if you want to weigh in re: uva ursi, urine alkalinity, etc.

I have always conceived of it this way: uva ursi works best for UTIs when the person in question happens to have urine on the alkaline side. But Henriette says uva ursi "will help if the urinary tract infection stems from alkaline urine." Hmmmm.

I don't think the infection has to *stem* from alkaline urine for uva ursi to be effective. I just think that it's best to use it when the urine isn't too acidic. (Is this what you meant, Henriette? Am I reading too much into the words "stems from"?)

(Interestingly, at least in 2001, Paul Bergner didn't think that the urine even *necessarily* needed to be alkaline for uva ursi to work. He also theorized that it might be best to take uva ursi a few hours before eating to take advantage of the "alkaline tide" following meals. I'd be interested to hear what he thinks about this these days. Medherb link)

Now there's a tough nut to crack ... does alkaline urine cause urinary tract infections or not? I think it does, as one of the defense mechanisms is acid urine.