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The wild hydrangea, which is also known as seven barks hydrangea or Hydrangea arborescens, is a deciduous shrub found extensively throughout the eastern part of the United States. Though it thrives near wooded and marshy areas, wild hydrangea will happily grow wherever there is humus-rich soil and partial shade. In fact, the clusters of white, sweet-scented flowers are a common addition to many gardens. The peeling bark of this shrub is equally attractive, giving way to several layers of varying colors.
Hydrangea arborescens has been a fixture in folk medicine for many years. Both the peeled branches and twigs have been used to make herbal tea for various medicinal purposes. These can also be fried and eaten. The dried root and leaves are used medicinally as well. The root of this shrub, which is harvested in the fall, is quite succulent when fresh; however, once it dries it quickly becomes tough.
The root decoction and tea were often used as a diuretic, as wild hydrangea stimulates the urinary system and promotes urine flow. Native Americans ingested the remedy to treat kidney and bladder stones. In many regions, this practice is still used today. In addition to the root decoction and tea, capsules made from Hydrangea arborescens can be administered.
The herbal remedy is also helpful for treating enlarged prostate and bladder infections. Antibacterial properties within wild hydrangea are thought to combat many types of infection as well as inflammation. In addition, Hydrangea arborescens is thought to be a blood cleanser. Use of the remedy may be useful in treating conditions brought about by poor circulation and blood. It can also be used to alleviate pain associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, edema, and gout.
The bark of wild hydrangea was once chewed to help treat problems associated with the stomach and heart as well. It could also be used as a poultice to ease sore, achy muscles, sprains, burns, and minor wounds. The use of Hydrangea arborescens can bring about various side effects, especially when used in high doses.
Many of the side effects associated with using wild hydrangea remedies come from the low levels of cyanide the plant contains. Mild side effects can range from itchy skin and hives to vomiting, headache, and muscle weakness. More severe side effects include dizziness and breathing problems with tightness in the throat or chest. The proper dosage of Hydrangea arborescens depends on the condition it is being used to treat and should only be prescribed from a qualified practitioner.