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American Witch Hazel
Hamamelidaceae
Hamamelis virginiana


Thunder
Thunder
Flower Petal # 4
Main Color    
Color 2    
Type Categories Useful Parts

Tree



Hamamelidaceae Family

Hamamelis Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Winterbloom, Snapping hazelnut, Spotted alder, Hazel nut, Tobacco Wood


Location

Native of Eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Wisconsin and south to Texas and N. Florida

Physical Description
Witchhazel typically is thought of as a coarse-textured broadly rounded shrub with a short trunk and numerous crooked branches. But it can grow into a 20-30 ft (6.1-9.1 m) tree with a trunk diameter of up to 10 in (25.4 cm) and an open crown with a spread of 20-25 ft (6.1-7.6 m). The smooth thin bark is light brown, developing rough patches and becoming scaly as the tree ages. The slender brown zigzag twigs arise from forked flexible branches. They start out covered with gray or rust colored hairs, but become smooth as they harden. The alternate leaves emerge from scaleless stalked hairy buds. The leaves are elliptic to nearly circular in shape, and irregularly roundtoothed along their wavy edges. They are 2-6 in (5.1-15.2 cm) long, nearly as broad, and have 5-7 prominent veins. The upper surfaces are usually smooth, but both sides of the leaf may be hairy and the veins typically are. The leaves are a medium green above and paler below during the growing season, then turn a clear yellow in the fall. After the leaves have fallen, in late autumn and winter, squiggly clusters of fragrant flowers appear dangling from the bases of the leaf scars. The very narrow and crumpled looking 2/3 in (1.7 cm) long petals and sepals (four of each) droop and curl in such a way as to make the blossom look rather like a little yellow octopus. The fruits that follow are hairy brown 1/2 in (1.3 cm) oval capsules. After ripening the following summer, they split open explosively and shoot small shiny black seeds up to 30 ft (9.1 m) in all directions. There are two botanical varieties of witchhazel: the widespread H. virginiana var. virginiana, and the "prairie peninsula" form, H. virginiana var. parvifolia. There is also a horticultural cultivar called 'Rubescens' which has reddish flowers.


Compare Species
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Hamamelidaceae
Saxifragales
Saxifragales
Rock Breaker Order
Core Eudicots
Core Eudicots
Main, Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Eudicots
Eudicots
Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Mesangiospermae
Mesangiospermae
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnoliophyta
Magnoliophyta
Magnolia Division
Spermatophytes
Spermatophytes
Seed Plants
Euphyllophytina
Real Land Plants
Polysporangiates
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Stomatophytes
Stomatophytes
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Embryophytes
Embryophytes
Multicellular Land Plants
Streptobionta
Streptobionta
Multicellular Plants
Plantae
Plantae
Plants
Eukaryota
Eukaryota
Cells with a Nucleus


General Information

Hamamelis virginiana was well known as a medicinal plant by Native Americans. Cherokee, Chippewa, Iroquois, Menominee, Mohegan, and Potowatomi tribes used it as a cold remedy, dermatological aid, febrifuge, gynecological aid, eye medicine, kidney aid, and in other ways (D. E. Moerman 1986).

Witch-hazel was subsequently used by the early European settlers in similar ways. A tea of the leaves was employed for a variety of medicinal purposes. The twigs were used as divining rods (water-witching), thus giving the vernacular name to the plant. Modern uses employ both the bark and leaves, and a good demand still exists for the pleasant-smelling water of witch-hazel, derived from the leaves and bark. The products are used in skin cosmetics, shaving lotions, mouth washes, eye lotion, ointments, and soaps.

The nutty seeds taste sort of like pistachios and were greatly enjoyed by native Americans. They considered witch-hazel an important medicinal plant. The bark was used to treat skin ulcers, sores, and tumors. Boiled or steaming twigs were employed to loosen and soothe sore muscles. Witch hazel tea was taken to stop internal bleeding and to treat dysentery, colds, and coughs. A decoction of leaves and twigs was applied to cuts, bruises, and insect bites

Name Meaning: The name Witch has its origins in Middle English wiche, from the Old English wice, meaning "pliant" or "bendable". Hazel is derived from the use of the twigs as divining rods, just as hazel twigs were used in England.

Medicinal Uses: The bark and leaves are astringent; the extract, also referred to as witch hazel, is used medicinally. Extracts from its bark and leaves are used in aftershave lotions and lotions for treating bruises and insect bites. Witch-hazel is the active ingredient in many hemorrhoid medications. It is also a common treatment for postpartum tearing of the perineum.

Witch hazel bark is a traditional herb of the North American Indians who used it to heal wounds, treat tumors, eye problems etc. A very astringent herb, it is commonly used in the West and is widely available from both herbalists and chemists. It is an important ingredient of proprietary eye drops, skin creams, ointments, and skin tonics. It is widely used as an external application to bruises, sore muscles, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, sore nipples, inflammations etc. The bark is astringent, haemostatic, sedative, and tonic. Tannins in the bark are believed to be responsible for its astringent and haemostatic properties. Bottled witch hazel water is a steam distillate that does not contain the tannins from the shrub; this is less effective in its action than a tincture. The bark is used internally in the treatment of diarrhea, colitis, dysentery, hemorrhoids, vaginal discharge, excessive menstruation, internal bleeding, and prolapsed organs. Branches and twigs are harvested for the bark in the spring. An infusion of the leaves is used to reduce inflammations, treat piles, internal hemorrhages, and eye inflammations. The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is made from fresh bark. It is used in the treatment of nosebleeds, piles, and varicose veins

Food Uses: The seeds contain a quantity of oil and are edible.

Seed - raw or cooked. An oily texture. The seeds are about the size of a barley grain and have a thick bony coat. The reports of edibility must be treated with some suspicion; they all seem to stem from one questionable report in the 'Medical Flora' of Refinesque. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and twigs

Other Uses: Used as a rootstock for the ornamental species in this genus. The plant is very rich in tannin. It is used cosmetically as an ingredient in almost any preparation made to relieve capillary weaknesses. The stems have been used for water divining. Wood - heavy, hard, very close grained. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot. The trees are too small to be a useful lumber source

Witch hazelís most outstanding characteristic is its habit of flowering in the winter when other blooms are scarce. It is cherished for branches that can be cut and brought indoors to flower where their soft sweet perfume can be savored. It is also useful for its tolerance of urban environments and its yellow fall color.

Cultivation: Prefers a moist sandy loam in a sunny position, though it tolerates some shade. Prefers a rich well-drained soil. Dislikes dry limy soils but will succeed in a calcareous soil if it is moist. Prefers a position sheltered from cold drying winds in a neutral to slightly acid soil. A very hardy plant tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c. Plants seldom produce seeds in Britain. Witch hazel is a widely used medicinal herb. The bark is harvested commercially from the wild in N. America. The twigs have been used in the past as dowsing rods for water divining. A slow growing shrub, it takes about 6 years to flower from seed. This species is notably susceptible to honey fungus

Propagation: Seed - this can be very slow to germinate. It is best to harvest the seed 'green' (as soon as it is mature but before it has dried on the plant) around the end of August and sow it immediately in a cold frame. It may still take 18 months to germinate but will normally be quicker than stored seed which will require 2 months warm stratification then 1 month cold followed by another 2 weeks warm and then a further 4 months cold stratification. Scarification may also improve germination of stored seed. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Over winter them in a greenhouse for their first winter and plant out in late spring. Layering in early spring or autumn. Takes 12 months. Good percentage. Softwood cuttings, summer in a frame

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Cautions or Warnings: If you bring flowering witch-hazel branches indoors, be careful to remove the seed capsules from the previous year. Otherwise, the warm indoor air will cause them to split open with alarming popping noises and spew seeds out across the room

With internal use, witch hazel may cause stomach irritation and cramping. In particular, it should not be taken internally in combination with medications, supplements or herbs containing alkaloids, as the tannins in witch hazel may interfere with absorption.
There are no known restrictions to the internal use of witch hazel during pregnancy or breast-feeding
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Recipes: A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and twigs.

Rose Skin Toner

3 ½ cups witch hazel
½ cup dried rose petals
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Mix ingredients together making sure it is all blended well. Strain. Splash on your face after cleaning skin.

Antiseptic Skin Spray

4 ounces Witch Hazel
20 drops Tea Tree Oil

Mix tea tree oil into the witch hazel. Pour into a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Spray on minor cuts and scratches.

Egg, Avocado & Mud Facial Mask Recipe

Clay is available in powder form at any health food store. Mix 1 tablespoon dry clay with 1 egg yolk, 1 4 of a mashed avocado and enough witch hazel to create a smooth mixture.




American Witch Hazel
The a horticultural cultivar called Rubescens



American Witch Hazel




American Witch Hazel
Koehlers Medicinal-Plants 1887

[Image in Public Domain]



Comment: American Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

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