Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

HydrangeaHydrangea is a hardy bush that grows in rich, moist soil in North American woodlands. The bush contains beautiful flowers that are highly valued for their garden beauty. In addition, the bush can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It is best know for its ability to pass kidney and bladder stones.

Hydrangea is well known in folk medicine for this stone-passing property. European settlers were introduced to the benefits of hydrangea by the Cherokee Indians. In addition to using hydrangea for relief of pain associated with kidney stones, the Cherokee had learned to chew the bark in order to relieve upset stomachs or lower high blood pressure. They also put the bark on burns, wounds, sprains and swelling. An unusual use the Cherokee employed of this plant was to eliminate “wild dreams” in women.

While hydrangea has not been scientifically proven to eliminate kidney stones, many positive testimonials exist from people who have successfully used the herb. Eclectic doctors of the early 20th century say that while hydrangea does not actually dissolve kidney and bladder stones, it does help to dissolve their sharp edges, making them easier to pass. The herb works on calcium-related stones and appears to have the ability to keep calcium in solution in the body. Because of this property, hydrangea may also be used to prevent re-occurrence of stones.

Herbalists disagree on the exact reasons for the calcium stone-dissolving action of hydrangea. Dr. Edward Shook and others believe that the acid sodium phosphate is the principle agent. Other constituents of hydrangea include flavonoids, kaempferol, quercetin, saponin and volatile oil. Its major minerals include sodium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Hydrangea’s solvent properties are not limited to kidney stones. The herb has also been used to help dissolve bone spurs or calcification of muscles. It appears to help the body put calcium back into solution in the system.

Hydrangea has an anti-inflammatory action due to alkaloids which have a cortisone-like effect. This is useful for kidney infection and inflammation as well as for arthritis. Possessing a blood purifying action, it has also been used to break up lumps and tumors. It increases the production of urine (a diuretic action) and also has a mild laxative effect. This valuable urinary remedy also helps to correct other imbalances of the urinary system including headaches caused by kidney problems, chronic rheumatism and dropsy. In addition, some herbalists use hydrangea with other herbs to treat inflamed and enlarged prostates.

When using hydrangea as a stone solvent, take two capsules three times daily with eight to sixteen ounces of pure water. The addition of fresh lemon juice to the water (one lemon per quart of water) will enhance this solvent effect. It may be combined with other herbs like marshmallow (to soothe urinary membranes) and lobelia (to relax urinary passages) to further augment the action. Also use two capsules three times daily for osteo-arthritis or other calcium deposits in the system. As a preventative, one capsule three times daily should be helpful.


A Handbook of Native American Herbs by Alma R. Hutchens (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1992).

“Herbs” in Natures Field (May/June 1986).

Nutritional Herbology by mark Pedersen (Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman Co., 1994).

The Energetics of Western Herbs by Peter Homes (Boulder, CO: Artemis Press, 1986).

The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia by Kathi Keville (New York, NY: Mallard Press, 1991).

Today’s Herbal Health by Lousise Tenney (Provo, UT: Woodland Books, 1983).

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