Hydrangea arborescens L.

Hydrangea arborescens Hydrangea arborescens
Hydrangea vulgaris (1, 2).
Common names:
Seven Barks, Wild Hydrangea (1, 3, 4).
Part(s) used:
Dried rhizome and root (1, 2, 5).


Hydrangea arborescens L. is indigenous to North America and south eastern and southern Asia, including China, Japan, Indonesia and the Himalayas (6). It is generally found in marshlands and aquatic areas (2, 5) and is also found growing in rocky areas close to streams (1).
Positioned oppositely, the large dark green leaves are ovate serrate-dentate in shape (1, 7).
The flowers are small, roseate, and bloom in large festigate cymes. Their colour varies between white, pink or blue (1) depending on the pH of the soil (6).
The bark is rough and the different coloured layers peel away easily, potentially giving rise to the name “seven barks” (1, 2).
The roots vary in length and width and are prone to splintering. They are grey superficially and white inside (2, 4, 5).


The name Hydrangea is derived from a Greek word denoting a water vessel (2, 6).
The Cherokee Indians used Hydrangea to treat kidney and bladder stones (6, 7, 8), as did Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners (6).
The Physicomedicalists of the 19th century used Hydrangea as part of a remedial formula in treating kidney disorders including nephritis (1, 8).
Falial, a small island in the Azures, is known as the “blue island”, due to the abundance of Hydrangeas growing there (6).

Major Active Constituents

Carbohydrates (gum, starch, sugars) (9, 10).
Flavanoids (kaempferol, quercetin, rutin) (9, 10, 11).
Saponins (7, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Resin (7, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Hydrangin (a glycoside) (2), 3, 9, 10, 12).
Hydrangenol (a stilbenoid) (7, 9, 10).
3–phenylisocoumarin (thunerginol A) (6).
Febrifugine (6).
Isofebrifugine (6).


Diuretic (3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 14).
Antilithic (3, 10, 12, 13, 14).
Tonic (2, 11, 12).

* Any action upon calculi was thought to be due to an eliminatory process rather than to a dissolving function. Therefore Hydrangea was seen to be effective against small stones only. It was also seen to be of value against their formation (1, 2, 12, 14).


In vitro:
Hydrangeol, (synthetically derived), has been shown to inhibit hyaluronidase activity and histamine release (6, 15).

In vivo (animal):
Hydrangenol, from the sub species Hydrangea macrophylla, lowered blood glucose levels in mice after two weeks at a dose of 200mg/kg daily (6).
The above preparation was also shown to lower free fatty acid levels in mice at the same dose (6).

Clinical Outcome Studies

No human studies presently available.


Urinary calculi with gravel and cystitis (1, 2, 7, 12, 14).
Urethritis (1, 12, 14).
Prostatitis (3, 6,11).
Enlarged prostate (3, 6,11).
Nephritis (12, 14).

Contra-indications and Cautions

No contra-indications documented.

The flowers and leaves have been claimed to cause toxicity in humans, potentially due to the cyanogenic glycoside, hydrangin, which is also found in the root (6, 16).

Hydrangea has been associated with contact dermatitis ( 6, 9, 17). The plant has minimal potential for sensitization due to the presence of hydrangenol as an allergen (5, 17).
Hydrangea has also been reported to cause gastroenteritis (6, 9).
Information from older texts describe symptoms of overdose as being; dizziness, a feeling of constriction in the chest, and disorders of the CNS (1, 2).


6-12g/day of dried root or by decoction (3).
2-4 ml tincture (1:5 in 40%) three times a day (11).


1. Felter HW, Lloyd JIJ. 1983. King’sAmerican dispensatory. 18th ed. 3rd revision. Cincinnati. Ecclectic Medicine Publications.

2. Grieve M. 1931. A Modern Herbal. London. Tiger Books International (1994).

3. Mills S, Bone K. 2005. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. St Louis, Mo: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.

4. British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. 1996. London. British Herbal Medicine Association.

5. Montvale NJ. 2000. PDR for Herbal Medicines. New Jersey. Medical Economics Company.

6. Hydrangea arborescens. Natural Standard. Accessed 18th September 2008. <http://www.naturalstandard.com.ezproxy.scu.edu.au/>

7. Baïracli Levy J. 1991. The Illustrated herbal handbook for everyone. London. Faber and Faber.

8. Chevalier A .2001. The Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. Penguin.

9. Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson DJ. 2007. Herbal Medicines. 3rd ed. London. Pharmaceutical Press.

10. Newall C, Anderson LA, Phillipson DJ. 1996. Herbal Medicines: a guide for healthcare professionals. London. Pharmaceutical Press.

11. Hoffmann D. 2003. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, Vt: Healing Arts Press.

12. Ellingwood F. 1983. American materia medica, therapeutics and pharmacognosy. 11th ed. Sandy. Oregon. Ecclectic Medicine Publications.

13. Bone K. 2003. A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone.

14. Felter HW. 1983. The eclectic materia medica, pharmacology and therapeutics. Sandy. Oregon. Ecclectic Medicine Publications.

15. Kakegawa H et al. Inhibitory effects of hydrangeol derivatives on the activation of hyaluronidase and their anti-allergenic activities. Planta Medica. 1998; 54: pp 385-389.

16. American Herbal Products Association. 1997. Botanical Safety Handbook. CRC Press.

17. De Rooij J., Bruynzeel DP, and Rustemeyer T. Occupational allergic contact dermatitis from hydrangea. Contact Dermatitis 2006;54: (1) pp 65-66.


This monograph was authored in 2008 by Alexandria Brown, a student in Southern Cross University’s Bachelor of Naturopathy programme, and edited by Nena Aleschewski BNat. While the author and editor have strived to cite published information accurately, Southern Cross University will not be responsible for any inaccuracies that may have occurred.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you wish to use herbal medicine as part of your health care, seek the advice of an appropriately qualified practitioner.