Evergreen plant with several stems, growing to 8 in (20 cm). Has shiny wedge-shaped leaves and small flat-topped clusters of white flowers tinged with red.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to North America, Europe, and Asia, pipsissewa grows in woods and shady places, in sandy soils. The leaves are gathered in summer.
Pipsissewa contains hydroquinones (including arbutin), flavonoids, triterpenes, methyl salicylate, and tannins. The hydroquinones have a pronounced disinfectant effect within the urinary tract.
History & Folklore
Pipsissewa was much used by Native North Americans to induce sweating and treat fevers, including typhus. European settlers used the herb for rheumatism and for urinary and kidney problems. It was listed in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1820 to 1916.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Astringent, tonic, and diuretic, pipsissewa is mainly used in an infusion for urinary tract problems such as cystitis and urethritis. It has also been prescribed for more serious conditions such as gonorrhea and kidney stones. By increasing urine flow, it stimulates the removal of waste products from the body, and is therefore of benefit in the treatment of rheumatism and gout. The fresh leaves of pipsissewa may be applied externally to rheumatic joints or muscles, as well as to blisters, sores, and swellings.
In tests on animals, pipsissewa leaves appear to lower blood-sugar levels.