Herb: Bigberry Manzanita

Latin name: Arctostaphylos glauca

Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Medicinal use of Bigberry Manzanita:

The dried leaves are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat. A tea made from the dried leaves is strongly astringent, diuretic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract. It is much used for kidney and bladder complaints and inflammation of the urinary tract, but it should be used with caution because it contains arbutin which hydrolyzes into the toxic urinary antiseptic hydroquinone. Externally, an infusion is used to treat poison oak rash.

Description of the plant:


4 m
(13 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Dry slopes below 1500 metres.

Edible parts of Bigberry Manzanita:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is used fresh or it can be dried and ground into a powder then used to make mush or added to soups etc. It can also be used to make preserves or a beverage that resembles cider in flavour. A drink is made from the berries by sprinkling them with water, kneading them with the hands, mashing them and then soaking them in the sun for about 12 hours. The liquid is then sieved to remove the pulp before being drunk on its own or with Chia (see Salvia columbiana). Water could be drained through the pulp a second time. The liquid was said to be sweet and fattening. The fruit is dry and with little flavour. The seeds can be dried, ground into a powder and used to make a mush or cakes. The seed is rather small, it would most probably have been used together with the fruit and not have been separated from it.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellowish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, it does not require a mordant. The branches have been used to make a broom. The wood makes a good fuel, producing a lot of heat and burning for a long time. The wood is hard and tough. It is used for making small tools, awl handles etc.

Propagation of Bigberry Manzanita:

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak dried seed in boiling water for 10 - 20 seconds or burn some straw on top of them and then stratify at 2 - 5C for 2 months. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 months at 15C. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first winter, Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of side shoots of the current season's growth, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August to December in a frame. Takes one year. Division in early spring. Take care because the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and keep them in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away actively. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry slopes below 1500 metres.

Known hazards of Arctostaphylos glauca:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.