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There are significant safety concerns with uva ursi. The arbutin contained in uva ursi leaves is broken down in the intestine to another chemical, hydroquinone. This is altered a bit by the liver and then sent to the kidneys for excretion. 1 Hydroquinone then acts as an antiseptic in the bladder. Unfortunately, hydroquinone is also a liver toxin, carcinogen, and irritant. 2 3 4 For this reason, uva ursi is not recommended for long-term use. In addition, it should not be taken by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease.
- Frohne VD. The urinary disinfectant effect of extract from leaves uva ursi [in German; English abstract]. Planta Med. 1970;18:1-25.
- Nowak AK, Shilkin KB, Jeffrey GP. Darkroom hepatitis after exposure to hydroquinone [letter]. Lancet. 1995;345:1187.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Extremely Hazardous Substances. Superfund Chemical Profiles. Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes Data Corporation; 1988:1906-1907.
- Lewis RJ Sr. Sax’s Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials. 8th ed. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold; 1989:1906-1907.