Witch Hazel Hamamelis virginiana
Winter flowering Witch Hazel flowers
- Common Names
- Witch Hazel , Spotted Alder, Winterbloom, Snapping Hazelnut
- Botanical Name
- Hamamelis virginiana
Medicinal Uses & Benefits of Witch Hazel
- Medicinal Uses: * Beauty
* Cuts & Wounds
* Insect/flea Bites
* Skin Care
* Varicose Veins
- Properties: * Analgesic * Anodyne * Anti-inflammatory * Astringent * Refrigerant * Styptic * Vulnerary
- Parts Used: Bark, leaves
- Constituents: tannin (up to 10% in the leaf, consisting mainly of gallotannins, also condensed catechins and proanthocyanidins), saponins, choline, resins, flavonoids.
How to Use: Witch Hazel
When distilled and combined with alcohol, the aromatic oil extracted from the bark of the witch hazel shrub makes a soothing and mildly astringent lotion. Witch hazel may be the most familiar of all home herbal medicines being mild and gentle in action. It is a general and all purpose first aid remedy for abrasions, burns, scalds, insect bites and other inflammatory conditions of the skin. Witch hazel also forms the base of varicose vein treatments.
As an acne fighter witch hazel reduces the swelling of minor pimples and blemishes. Witch hazel is an excellent astringent, toning facial cleanser, used to decrease bags under eyes, skin puffiness, and to reduce pore size. It can be used for all skin types, oily to dry and is a valuable ingredient in natural skin care formulations and anti-aging products.
Preparation Methods & Dosage :External applications. Use as a skin wash, facial astringent, or in a compress. Freeze in a Styrofoam cup to treat insect bites in summer. For puffy eyes use a compress of witch hazel on closed eyes for 15 minutes while relaxing.
Witch Hazel Remedies
Witch Hazel Side Effects: Many of the older herbals, including Grieve, (AMH), recommend an infusion of witch hazel for internal bleeding of the stomach and bowels. Witch hazel extracts and teas are found today at many health food stores. James Duke 1 warns against internal use.
Koehler's Medicinal-Plants 1887
- Plant Class:Shrub. Several small trucks may stem from one root, the whole shrub reaches 10 to 12 feet in height
- Etymology: (Hama = together with; mela = fruit
- Flowers The flowers are small, yellow, fringy, clustered in the axils of branches. Calyx 4-parted; 4 very narrow, curving, strap shaped petals about 2/4 in. long; 4 short stamens, also 4 that are scale-like; 2 styles./li>
- Parts used: The extract is made from the twigs, which are cut in the winter when the shrub is dormant. The leaves can be harvested when full grown and dried in a warm place for use in home remedies.
- Leaves:Broadly oval, with wavy, toothed margins.
- Flowering Season:Witch hazel reverses the usual order by blooming in the autumn after it loses its leaves.
- Distribution and habitat:From Main to Florida in the East, west into the Plains. Found in rich woods and along streams.
Many a well has been dug even in this land of liberty where our witch-hazel indicated; but here its kindly magic is directed chiefly through the soothing extract distilled from its juices. Its yellow, thread-like blossoms are the latest to appear in the autumn woods. Netje Blanchan. Wild Flowers worth Knowing (1917)
History and Traditions & FolkloreThe witch comes from "wyche" and from the old Anglo-Saxon word meaning bend. Native Americans used the shrub for the same kinds of skin afflictions which make it as common item in today's medicine cabinets as it was in our grandmothers time.
The Iroquois Indians made a tea-like beverage from the dried leaves of witch hazel and sweetened it with maple sugar. Unsweetened, it was used as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery and a gargle for sore throats. The moistened leaves where used in poultices for sprains and bruises.3
The pliable branches of witch hazel were a favorite among dowsers. The flowers sometimes emerge on Halloween, another witchey connection.
- Duke,James, Ph.D. (2000). "The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook"
"Internal consumption can cause nausea and vomiting, and the presence, albeit minimal of safrole and contribute to liver damage. "
- Grieve, Maud Mrs. "A Modern Herbal" (1931)
- Euell Gibbons. "Stalking the Healthful Herbs", Alan Hood (1966), pg 25