Kinnickinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, also called Uva Ursi, Bear Berry, and Indian tobacco, is a common shrub planted ornamentally outside apartment complexes and homes and a common wild plant found in western and northern America.
Kinnickinnick is a diuretic and urinary antiseptic, which makes it an effective cure for acute urinary tract infections. To make the medicine, just strip the leaves off the stem, put ’em in a jar and douse in extremely strong alcohol with a little water mixed in. As per the late herbalist Michael R.S. Moore, the recipe is one part herb to five parts liquid, and the liquid should be 50% alcohol. To achieve this you could take 195 proof Everclear and dilute it with water.Let the mixture sit for 6 weeks in the dark before using. Be careful only to take this medicine short-term and for serious infections, as it will irritate the bladder and kidneys if used more than a few days. The dosage, according to Moore, is 30 to 60 drops in 8 ounces of water, three times per day.
Kinnickinnick contains tannins, so it has an astringent action that can also be useful as a tea to treat diarrhea. However, you would need to dry the leaves first and apply some hard alcohol to them to make the medicinal compounds extractable in hot water, according to herb author Gregory Tilford.
Some people smoke the leaves. I have tried this and did not like the flavor.
The red berries of kinnickinnick are edible, though not particularly worthwhile. They are very mealy.
To identify this plant, look for smooth, spoon-shaped leaves that are darker in color on the top than on the bottom, and that are attached to the twigs in an alternate pattern. This means pairs of leaves alternate rather than appear directly across from each other.
There is a closely related upright version of this plant, a pretty shrub/tree with distinctive red bark, Arctostaphylos manzanita, known as Manzanita, which can be used similarly for medicinal purposes. It is common in California. Photo here.
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