Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Sun Part Sun
rarely bothered by deer
Good late spring/early summer nectar source for bees
may be planted as a hedge
Large shrub, shrub up to 10' - may be pruned, space 3-4' apart
pH 5-7.5 neutral to acid
likes moist soil
shipped as 18-24" plant
We cannot ship plants outside the US or to the following states: CA, ID,WA,OR
Witch Hazel has a long history of medicinal use, primarily as an antiseptic and an astringent. The herb was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia of 1882, and it was still listed in the National Formulary as late as 1955. Native Americans applied the leaves and bark as a poultice on painful swellings and tumors and to reduce inflammation. According to James Duke (Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, 1989), the fresh leaves are highly astringent, and were used in tea form by the Cherokee "for colds, fevers, periodic pain, sore throat, and tuberculosis, and to wash sores and wounds." Other tribes used the herb to treat bruises, scratches, bad backs, and sprains, and in a steam bath to relieve rheumatism.
Many of these treatments passed on to the American colonists. In the 19th century, witch hazel extracts of various kinds were used internally and externally to treat myriad conditions, among them burns, diarrhea, dysentery, inflammation, phlebitis, wounds, and ulcers. Witch hazel is still used externally to treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins, and very dilute distilled witch hazel can be used in eye lotions.
Pure witch hazel extract, available in many drugstores and supermarkets, is the most frequently used form of the herb--more than a million gallons are sold each year. Useful as an antiseptic, astringent, or make-up remover, and even providing relief from hermorrhoidal pain and bleeding, it is a all-purpose first-aid lotion and cosmetic aid.
How to make your own Witch Hazel Extract
Here's the recipe:
Although the Pilgrims' tonic is not as potent as the commercial extract, you can follow this easy recipe to have fun brewing your own witch hazel remedy:
Prune one pound of fresh twigs from shrubs as soon as they have flowered. This practice produces the strongest tonic.
Strip off the leaves and flowers (save these for sachets) and chop the twigs into a coarse mulch using either a mechanical mulcher or pruning clippers.
Place the chopped twigs into a two-gallon stainless steel pot.
Cover the twigs with distilled water (available at the supermarket) and bring the contents to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, then cover and cook for at least eight hours; add water as needed to cover the mulch.
Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Pour the witch hazel tonic through a funnel containing a cheesecloth filter and into clean plastic squeeze bottles or other suitable, tightly-capped containers.
Use the tonic within a week unless it is kept refrigerated. You can preserve your tonic for long-term room temperature storage by adding nine ounces of vodka or grain alcohol to 23 ounces of tonic. Yield: one gallon.
Warning: Do NOT use internally! Keep out of the reach of children.