Arctostaphylos manzanita

Description: This medium-sized shrub grows at an elevation of 6500ft. to 7500 ft. It is plentiful in drier mountain areas, unlike it's lower-growing cousin, Uva ursi, which likes areas with a bit more moisture (both plants have identical medicinal properties).

Manzanita is a handsome plant, with fairly thick, ovate leaves, and quarter inch long, beautifully-shaped small hanging flowers, reminiscent of a tapered Japanese lantern or Greecian urn, and having the most wonderful creamy pink color, though coloration varies to almost pure white. These flowers are in their prime in April and early May (depending upon elevation), and last only a few weeks. They are followed within a month by the feature for which the plant is named... the small red berries. These fruits are much like tiny apples in texture and are sweet, providing good deer browse. They can also be boiled into a nice-tasting jelly. The "little apples can also be collected and dried and can be blended with other berries and nuts as a survival food. The Spanish word "manzanita" means little apple.

A much more long-lasting, and striking feature of this plant is it's bark. Especially the larger branches have a beautiful reddish-brown hue, which seems to remain for a long time after a branch has died. I understand these make wonderful stems for pipes, and are sometimes decoratively carved, although one would be hard-pressed to find pieces of any significant size. It is a beautiful wood, though. The shrubs reach a height of perhaps 8 to 12 feet on some really large individulals, so they have an almost treelike appearance, being very rounded and full in their shape.

Manzanita's sprintime flowers and contrasting red bark

The medicinal part which is used are the leaves. I usually try to gather it during it's flowering stage.) The whole plant is undoubtedly medicinal.. and so if you gather it for yourself, feel free to include some of the smaller stems in the collection mix...less of these if you're trying to provide some of it to commerce. It looks much nicer on the shelf to see just the leaves and flowers, although some stems are inevitably included.

This is one of the most beneficial local Southwest herbs to cleanse the urinary tract of bacteria which may have been lying dormant in the body, or at least were being kept in check by the body's natural immune defenses, until that latest sugar binge... or other refined carbohydrate overindulgence. These types of dietary transgressions can sometimes be immediately rewarded with symptoms of burning urine, frequent feelings of urgency to urinate, an an inability to hold even small amounts of urine in the bladder.. (cystitis or urethritis).. Manzanita works best in urine which is more alkaline.. somewhere in the range of 7.5 to 8.0... and works less effectively to eliminate infection as the acidity of the urine increases. The overall effect of taking Manzanita tea is to acidify the urine.

The most active constituent in Manzanita is called arbutin. This chemical constituent must be taken with others in the plant.. as a whole plant form, so that it can be absorbed as a complex (whole) into the bloodstream, where it is broken down into a series of chemicals.. hydroquinone, glucuronide, and hydroquinone sulphate. These new compounds, which are excreted in the urine are antibacterial, antisceptic, and antimicrobial.

To help neutralize acids which are already in the urine... (if the pH is too low )... it is appropriate to alkalize the urine with 1 teaspoonful of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in a cup of water. It would also be good to avoid coffee, which has oils that may irritate the mucus membrane of the urinary tract (which you're trying to heal). Manzanita is quite astringent, having as much as 7% tanic acid by weight in the dried leaf. This means that it has a limited window of useage and benefit before it tends to become irritating itself... usually 3 to 5 days.


Take 1 teaspoonful of the extract, (Strength 1:5, with a50% alcohol content.) up to 3 times per day in a glass of water.


Either a cold infusion (best) or a very strong infusion of the leaves, (left to steep longer than usual).

Drink 1 cup three times per day for 3-5 days. When using this tea, either do not sweeten it, or else use a non-fermentable sugar substitute (Stevia is best). Sweeteners encourage the growth of bacteria within the urethra, and they in turn, damage the mucous membrane lining of the urethra, causing scar tissue to form.

In either case, for making the tea, use approximately 1/4 ounce of the herb with three cups of water.(or approximately 2 tsp per cup) Try to take the tea before meals, unless found to irritate the stomach... and it is advisable to drink plenty of water between doses, in order to facilitate the flushing action of the urinary tract.

For more soothing qualities,Manzanita can be combined well with cornsilk, or any of the Mallow family, such as Marshmallow root or Scarlett globe mallow. If, after some time manzanita isn't accepted well by the body, or has no effect on the condition, other herbs which may be of use are: Yerba Mansa root, (Anemopsis), or Arizona Cypress leaf. .

If you would like to see which forms of this herb we can supply and for pricing, check our our master herb table

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