The name hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) comes from a Greek compound meaning “water vessel.” While this refers to the plant’s affinity to wet and sheltered growing conditions in the wild, it also has an interesting correspondence with its medicinal action on the water vessels of the human body, that is, the kidneys.
Many herbals refer to this herb’s effectiveness in diseases of the kidneys and especially where there are stones present (renal calculus). The root and the root bark are the parts employed medicinally. They contain mineral compounds of magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, and calcium, which chemically break down and change calcium oxalate and calcium carbonate stones in both the kidneys and gall bladder.
After treatment with hydrangea, the stones were passed without any damage to the ureter and were found to be smooth and round. Shook explained that once the sharp edges of the stones are dissolved, all pain, hemorrhage, and inflammation subside.
As well as having a dissolving effect on the sharp-edged crystalline structure of the stone, hydrangea chemically breaks down the stone into the “softer” compounds of sulphides and sulphates, which do not damage the ureter as they pass through.
Hydrangea is an elegant shrub of which four varieties are indigenous to North America. The garden varieties, hydrangea macrophylla and hydrangea paniculata, are native to China and Japan and are the types most commonly seen throughout the gardens of the world.
As is the case with all herbs, they lose their medicinal qualities as they are hybridized for ornamental purposes. So do not use your garden-variety hydrangea as an herbal tea and expect to get any results other than a sore stomach.