Bearberry (also known as kinnikinnick) is a small evergreen shrub found in the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America. Found primarily in dry, sandy soil, bearberry has erect, branching stems, which grow up to 15 centimeters high, and dark green, leathery, ovate leaves. The plant flowers from May to June, bearing clusters of small, reddish-white blossoms, which eventually give way to glossy, bright red berries, each containing several one-seeded stones. The leaves are used for health purposes.
The primary active constituent in bearberry leaves is a phenolic compound called arbutin, which, after consumption, releases a compound known as hydroquinone. Bearberry leaves also contain urosolic acid and isoquercitrin.
The dosage approved by Commission E is three grams of dried leaves prepared as an infusion with 150 milliliters of water taken up to four times per day. There are no known health hazards associated with this dosage range, although some individuals may experience stomach upset and vomiting due to the herb's high tannin content. Bearberry is not recommended for use by pregnant women or nursing mothers.