Hydrangea (Xiu Qiu, Chang Shan)Hydrangea (Xiu Qiu, Chang Shan)

Botanical Name: Western – Hydrangea arborescens. Eastern – Dichroa febrifuga.

Hydrangea is a popular ornamental plant in many gardens. The plant’s roots and rhizomes are used as medicine in the West and Asia for treating the kidneys, prostate, wounds and bladder. The plant increases the body’s use of calcium, lowering the risk of kidney stones. The roots are also becoming well-known for their ability to fight autoimmune diseases. In China, another separate plant related to the hydrangea, Dichroa febrifuga, is also used as a medicine and is famous for being an outstanding herb for treating malaria.

Below is an overview of Hydrangea (Xiu Qiu, Chang Shan), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Hydrangea (Xiu Qiu, Chang Shan).

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Western Name: Hydrangea

Also Known As: Hortensia, Seven Barks, Wild Hydrangea

Organs/Systems: Kidney, Bladder, Lung

Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Diuretic, Antilithic (prevents kidney and bladder stones), Antifungal, Antihistamine, Anti-malarial, Cathartic, Tonic. Inflamed prostate, kidney stones, kidney gravel, bladder stones, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), rheumatoid arthritis, chronic chest pain caused by bronchitis, malaria, inhibits autoimmune disorders, diabetes, hay fever.


Pin Yin: Xiu Qiu (Hydrangea arborescens) and Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga). Chang Shan translates as “Constant Mountain.”

Also Known As: Chang Shan is also known as Dichroa Root.

Meridians: Xiu Qiu – Kidney, Bladder, Lung. Chang Shan – Heart, Liver, Lung.

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Xiu Qiu – Reduces Inflammation/Clears Heat/Expels Phelgm/Kidney Tonic: urinary tract infections, kidney stones or gravel, gout, edema, prostate disorders, PMS. Chang Shan – Malaria: in China this herb is famous for killing the parasites which cause malaria.  It controls the chills and fevers associated with the disease, and eliminates the phelgm that is said to contribute to malaria outbreaks. Prevents tumors and alternating chills and fever. Induces Vomiting to expel phelgm: phelgm collecting in the chest and lungs. Stimulates the Uterus: promotes childbirth.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Hydrangea is a genus of 70-75 species of flowering plants. They are marsh and aquatic plants. Most are shrubs, but some are small trees, growing up to 9 feet tall, and can be either deciduous or evergreen. The flowers grow in flowerheads also called panicles, most often at the end of stems. Most species are white, but some can be blue, red, pink or purple.

Hydrangea is native to Southern and Eastern Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, Indonesia, and the Americas.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Roots, Rhizomes, Bark

Flavors/Temps: Xiu Qiu – Sweet, Pungent. Chang Shan – Bitter, Acrid, Cold, Toxic.

Caution: The roots and rhizomes are considered safe. The flowers are mildly toxic and the leaves are toxic. Even smoking the plant’s leaves can cause illness and death due to the cyanide.

History/Folklore: Hydrangea shows up in the fossil record as dating back 70 million years ago in North America, and in Asia, as far back as 25 million years ago.

The name “hydrangea” derives from the Greek, meaning water vase. The common name, seven barks, derives from the many variously colored layers that encase its roots.

Hydrangea roots and rhizomes (Hydrangea arborescens) are used to treat urinary tract disorders, kidney toxicity and bladder infections and stones. The plant increases the body’s use of calcium, lowering the risk of kidney stones.

In Japan, “ama-cha” tea (meaning sweet tea) is made from the species Hydrangea serrata, whose leaves contain phyllodulcin, giving it a sweet taste. The leaves are crushed, steamed and dried yielding dark brown tea leaves. The tea is used during the Buddhist bathing ceremony on April 8, celebrating the birth of the Buddha. The tea is poured over the statue of Buddha and served to those attending the ceremony. In Korea, the same species is used to create a tea they call, “sugukcha.”

Native Americans used hydrangea roots and rhizomes to detox the kidney and bladder helping to support kidney, bladder, gall bladder, pancreas, prostate and urethra functioning. The plant has the ability to help prevent kidney and bladder stones from forming and are considered especially useful for helping to ease stones or gravel through the system if they have already formed.

The Nepalese use hydrangea to treat colds and indigestion.

In England, hydrangea were introduced in the 1730’s. English folklore says the plants are unlucky for girls looking for a husband, so if you grow them near your house you are cursing  your daughter to spinsterhood.

In China, two species of hydrangea are used as medicines: Xiu Qiu (Hydrangea arborescens) and Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga). Similar to the West, Xiu Qiu (Dichroa febrifuga) is also used in China to treat Kidney, Prostate and Bladder disorders, but Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga) is famous for treating malaria. An old Chinese saying says, “No phelgm, no malaria.” This herb is considered one of the main antimalarial herbs available. The constituent febrifugine found in Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga) is considered 100 times more powerful than quinine.

In China, a typical dosage for Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga), is 3-9 grams. It is generally fried in wine to reduce the plant’s side effects, except when being used as an emetic.

Good quality Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga), is hard, solid and heavy with a shape like chicken bones. The color will be light yellow and lustrous. The leaves of this particular variety of hydrangea have similar actions as the roots but are much stronger in their ability to induce vomiting.

A study conducted in 2003 in “Biotechnology and Biochemistry” noted that hydrangea root extract, Xiu Qiu (Hydrangea arborescens), contained more antioxidant power in liver tissue than milk thistle and turmeric combined. That’s a lot of antioxidants!

Hydrangea is being studied for its ability to help treat autoimmune disorders. Its constituent halofugione exhibits the rare ability to interfere with autoimmune pathologies but not by simultaneously suppressing the immune system in the way that other autoimmune interfering compounds typically do.

In Asia, pink hydrangeas mean, “you are the beat of my heart’ and are given as symbols of love.

The bark can be used externally to help heal wounds, burns, sore muscles and sprains.

The roots are externally pale grey, tough and splinter when fractured revealing a white inner core. When fresh the roots and rhizomes are succulent, full of water and can be easily cut. When dry, they are very tough and resistant, so harvest when fresh!

Hydrangea are popular ornamental plants with over 600 cultivars.

Key Constituents:

Cyanogenic glycosides, Halofuginone, Phytochemicals, Calcium, Selenium, Zinc, Magnesium, Chromium, Kaempferol, Manganese, Phosphorous, Quercetin, Rutin, Silicon, Sodium, Tin.

Did you know?

Tea, Extract or Syrup

Hydrangea is typically prepared as a tea, extract or honey sweetened syrup.


Two Species of Hydrangea in China

In China, both Xiu Qiu (Hydrangea arborescens) and Chang Shan (Dichroa febrifuga) are used as medicines. Xiu Qiu is used the same as in the West to treat Kidney, Prostate and Bladder disorders. Chang Shan is famous for treating malarial disorders.

Fun fact!


Hydrangea normalizes water-salt metabolism in the body.

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