Hydrangea (botanical name Hydrangea arborescens), also known as seven barks, comprises the roots and rhizome (underground parts) of the herb. Belonging to the family Saxifragaceae, hydrangea is an erectly growing shrub that is found in a vast area in the eastern regions of the United States ranging from New York to Florida and westwards to Oklahoma. Initially, the Cherokee Indians used this herb and also introduced it to the early European settlers in the form of a medication for kidney stones. This herbal medication witnessed some more action as a remedy for kidney stones as well as a diuretic in conventional medicine in the first few decades of the 21st century. However, the plant's use for these therapeutic purposes came to an end for a while and it came into use again with the current resurgence of herbal medications. People who have been advocating the use of herbal medicines recommend hydrangea for treating the health conditions mentioned here.
Apart from experimental observations and tales, there is no proof that hydrangea possesses any remedial uses whatsoever. Nevertheless, there have been no current scientific researches regarding the physiological actions of this herb and virtually no explorations regarding the herb's chemical content. For instance, a crystalline compound that was isolated for the first time in 1887 as well as selected hydrangin remains anonymous chemically for over a century later.
Generally, hydrangea is grown for the ostentatious flowers of the herb. It should be mentioned that people have also smoked the leaves of hydrangea in the same manner as marihuana to cause a type of elation or ‘high'. Nevertheless, the books dedicated to this type of stimulants also stress on the fact that such a custom will make any person very ill or extremely stoned. This is primarily owing to a compound enclosed by the hydrangea leaves that produce cyanide.
There is little doubt that the practice of smoking the leaves of hydrangea will make a person extremely ill. However, there is still some uncertainty over the fact that the toxic nature of the leaves is owing to cyanide. In fact, a number of studies undertaken in the early part of 1990s did find that the leaves of a number of Hydrangea species (there are about 70-75 species) enclosed a substance that produces cyanide, but the ordinary ornamental type was not one of those species. In effect, Hegnauer had come to the conclusion that possibly just a few varieties of this genus may possess this attribute and also in considerable quantities just during the initial stages of the growth of the herb.
Even now, it is not advisable to smoke the leaves of hydrangea owing to the dubious characteristics of the poisonous principle, for the aliment may be caused owing to its use even in lesser levels. In effect, the use or misuse of the leaves and roots of any of the species of Hydrangea actually do not have any value, barring the weak diuretic effect of the underground portions of H. arborescens.
Herbal medicine of the West believes that the diuretic attribute of hydrangea is especially useful in treating gallbladder and kidney stones. In fact, it is believed that hydrangea not only promotes the expulsion of stones, but also aids in dissolving the stones that remain in the body. Hydrangea is also employed for treating several other health conditions that have an influence on the genitourinary system, counting urethritis, cystitis, prostatitis and prostate.
As mentioned before, the Native Americans used hydrangea therapeutically and, afterwards, it was used by the early European settlers to cure kidney as well as bladder stones.
Hydrangea possesses solvent attributes, which are not just restricted to expelling and dissolving gallbladder and kidney stones. In effect, this herb has also been employed to assist in dissolving bone spurs or muscle calcification. In addition, this herb apparently facilitates the body to restore calcium into the solutions in the system. Hydrangea also possesses anti-inflammatory properties owing to the presence of alkaloids that have an effect similar to that of cortisone. This is highly beneficial for treating infections as well as inflammations of the kidney, in addition to easing the symptoms of arthritis.
This herb also has a blood purifying effect and has been employed to crumble or disintegrate tumours and lumps. In addition, hydrangea enhances urine production owing to its diuretic action and possesses a gentle purgative impact. This is an extremely valuable remedy for the urinary tract and assists in correcting the other disparities of the urinary system, such as headaches due to kidney problems, dropsy and chronic rheumatism. Moreover, a number of herbalists also employ hydrangea in combination with other herbs to cure enlarged and inflamed prostate.
The root of hydrangea is an herbal tonic. In effect, tonic herbs have the aptitude to enliven as well as fortify particular organs, the whole body or the entire systems. In the instance of hydrangea root, its tonic attributes are specifically useful for the organs of the urinary tract, since this herb not only fortifies these organs, but also detoxifies them whenever necessary. Hydrangea is a mild herbal medication that has intense as well as enduring influences when it is used for a prolonged period of time. As the use of hydrangea root strengthens and makes the urinary tract system healthier, consequently the whole body gains vigour and strength.
In folk medicine, the roots of hydrangea are basically employed in the form of a diuretic, which denotes that the use of this herb encourages as well as augments urine flow. It may be noted that all diuretic herbs generally also enhance the flow of blood to the kidneys and, hence, are employed to cure as well as reduce the symptoms of the urinary tract contagion and assist in the passage or expulsion of the kidney stones from the system.
Hydrangea is a very showy indigenous shrub that is frequently grown for its ornamental use. The most familiar cultivar of this species is called ‘Annabelle' - this variety is among the hydrangeas species that are able to endure extreme cold conditions. Another cultivar of hydrangea called ‘Grandiflora' bears flowers that have resemblance to snowballs, akin to Vibumum plicatum.
Habitat and cultivation
Hydrangea is indigenous to the eastern regions of the United States and is found growing over a vast expanse extending from New York to Florida. Hydrangea is usually found growing in the wild on river banks as well as forest lands. The roots of this herb are harvested during autumn.
It is believed that hydrangea encloses flavonoids, saponins, a cyanogenic glycoside called hydrangein as well as a volatile oil. In effect, this species also contains quercetin and kaempferol. In addition, hydrangea also encloses a number of major minerals, such as calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
Apart from a decoction, therapeutically, the root of hydrangea may be taken in the form of a tincture - an extract blended with alcohol, or in the form of a tea taken a number of times every day. In addition, the root can also be employed to prepare syrup as well as a capsule.
Decoction: To prepare a decoction from hydrangea, add two teaspoonfuls of the plant's root in a cup (250 ml) of water and bring it to boil. Allow it to seethe for another 10 to 15 minutes and, subsequently, strain the liquid. This decoction ought to be drunk thrice every day for best results.
Tincture: The tincture prepared from the roots of hydrangea ought to be taken in dosage of 2 ml to 4 ml thrice every day.
Side effects and cautions
People who have allergic reactions or are hypersensitive to hydrangea should stay away from this herb. People having allergic reactions to this herb will have symptoms such as inflammation, rash and eczema. In addition, using formulations prepared with hydrangea may result in low levels of blood sugar. Therefore, it is advisable that patients enduring low blood sugar levels, diabetes or are taking medications or supplement that have an influence on the blood sugar levels ought to exercise caution while using this herb. In addition, people taking this herb or its preparations should undergo regular tests of their blood sugar levels and their condition needs to be supervised by a competent medical practitioner.
People using hydrangea may experience constriction of the chest or dizziness. People who are enduring gastrointestinal problems ought to use this herb with caution. Excessive use of the herb may result in congestion of the bronchial tract.
Collection and harvesting
It is best to harvest or dig up the roots of hydrangea during autumn. After harvesting, the roots should be washed and sliced while they are still fresh because the roots of this plant become extremely hard when they dry out.
While treating kidney stones, hydrangea is usually mixed with other herbs, such as bearberry, parsley piert and gravel root. On the other hand, hydrangea is combined with horsetail for treating problems related to prostate.
Native Indian tribes of America blended hydrangea with couch grass (botanical name Agropyron repens) as well as hollyhock (botanical name Alcea rosea) to treat acute kidney problems, counting nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys).