Wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is related to the garden variety of hydrangea, though a distant North American relative. Hydrangea macrophylla is of Asian origin and is also used medicinally.
The Cherokee Indians used hydrangea for kidney and bladder stones and introduced it to the early settlers. It became very popular with the eclectic American herbalists of the 19th century, entering the medical world in the 1850s as a treatment for any irritable condition of the urinary tract. In fact, it was used to treat one of the most uncomfortable conditions on the medical books, urinary stones.
The bark was used by the American Indians externally for wounds, burns, sore muscles and sprains.
Most of hydrangea's health benefits come from the root, which is usually collected in the fall. Hydrangea is found in herbal combinations and tinctures and is a welcome addition to any herbal program that addresses cleansing, elimination or general conditioning.
Hydrangea contains compounds that are antibacterial. The most common use for hydrangea is for the kidneys and bladder because of its effective diuretic quality which helps increase the flow of urine. This takes impurities out of the system and lessens the likelihood of infection along the entire urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, prostate (in men) and urethra.
Wild hydrangea is very specifically active in reducing unpleasant sensations issuing from the urinary tract, whether due to a stone or prostatitis. Dr. Ellingwood wrote in 1905, "Frequent urination with heat, burning, accompanied with quick, sharp, acute pains in the urethra, partial suppression of urine with general irritation and aching or pain in the back, pain from the passage of renal sand, are direct indications for this agent."
Diuretic herbs like hydrangea are a helpful addition to cleansing programs to assist in the elimination of toxins. Hydrangea is also known to be a tonic, as it produces a healthy reaction from the kidneys and bladder so that they can function better. When an organ works more efficiently, there is less strain on the entire system so that the rest of the body is rejuvenated.
Other uses for hydrangea include its diaphoretic properties (promoting perspiration and cooling the body) and its influence on the circulatory system.
Use as a tincture (1:5, 25% alcohol): 2.5ml, 3 times daily.
Wild hydrangea is very specifically active in reducing unpleasant sensations issuing from the urinary tract, whether due to a stone or prostatitis. Like most diuretic herbs, hydrangea is an excellent choice for treating inflamed or enlarged prostate glands. It is commonly combined with horsetail for this purpose. Maintaining healthy urine flow keeps the prostate less likely to constrict around the urethra, which prevents stagnant urine from causing more infection. This can also reduce inflammation by eliminating impurities from the prostate.
Hydrangea is considered an anti-lithic herb, which prevents stones or gravel from forming in the kidneys and bladder. Anti-lithic herbs can also assist the body in removing stones and gravel from these organs.
A Dr. Scudder, writing in 1874, wrote: "[Hydrangea] is a valuable remedy in diseases of urinary apparatus. It gives tone to the kidneys, improving their functional activity, and thus tends to arrest the formation of urinary deposits and calculi. It relieves irritation of the bladder and urethra and hence proves serviceable in cases of gravel."
A Dr. Ellingwood wrote, in 1905: "About the year 1830 experiments were conducted to prove [Hydrangea's] influence in relieving pain caused by the presence and passage of urinary calculi, and favorable reports were made of its direct usefulness. Its influence controlled the pain in a satisfactory manner, relieved general distress, and soothed irritation."
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