Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Did you ever wonder why your grandmother recommended Witch Hazel (Hamemelis virginiana) for your teenage skin problems over any of the commercial treatments?  She would have also recommended Witch Hazel to her friends for problems with varicose veins.  Just the name “Witch Hazel” conjures up images of the wise crone woman dispensing healing wisdom for those in her care. Today, Witch Hazel is one of the most well-known, GRAS (generally recognized as safe), and “kitchen witch” useful remedies everyone can stock at home.

Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel

Background Information:

Family Name:  Hamamelidaceae

Other common names:  Snapping hazelnut, Spotted alder, Winterbloom

General Information:  Witch Hazel is a shrub or small tree. Witch Hazel has thin forked branches, which suggested its use for divining rods). Hamamelis virginiana has yellow flowers with long narrow petals, not to be confused with common hazel nut. The shrub or tree grows in Canada and eastern USA. It is also grown in gardens and parks of Europe. Witch Hazel is wild-harvested in the USA ~ a lucrative business.  The parts of the plant used are the leaves, bark and twigs.

Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel

Active Constituents:  Both the leaves and the bark contain 10% tannins (hamamelitannins) and catechols, proanthocyanidins, ellagitannins, and 0.5% essential oils (safrol, ionon). The tannins are what makes Witch Hazel an effective astringent and anti-inflammatory.

Therapeutic Actions:  astringent, anti-hemorraghic, anti-inflammatory, cooling and soothing, tones and strengthens blood vessels

Purposes / Uses:  Witch Hazel is best known as a treatment (externally) for many types of skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, wounds, bruises, abrasions and general localized swelling.  It is also used as a gargle for inflammation of the throat and gums, as a compress to relieve hemorrhoidal itching or pain, as a compress to soothe varicose veins, and (internally) to assist excessive menstruation.

CAUTIONS:  There are no side effects currently known for the external use (lotions, ointments, steam-distilled “waters”) of Witch Hazel. There is a tincture that can be taken internally with the advice of a qualified health-care professional, as there may be contraindications with certain types of medications. ***Please seek advice of a qualified health-care professional if pregnant or nursing.

Make a tea to strengthen blood vessels especially for varicose veins:
Use 1 – 2 teaspoons dried Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) leaves in a cup of boiling water; steep for 10 minutes; drain off leaves; drink 2 – 3 cups per day.
Magickal:   Masculine, Sun, Fire
Powers:  Protection (to obtain), Chastity (decrease lust)

Magical Uses:
To fashion divining rods
Bark and twigs used to protect against evil influences
Carry Witch Hazel to mend a broken heart
Carry Witch Hazel to cool the passions (decrease lust)

*** The following is for educational purposes only.  The information is not meant to replace the consultation of a licensed health-care professional.  This author and CoG-OCLC are not to be held responsible for the use or mis-use of the information contained within this blog.


Medicinal Plants of the World
By Ben-Erik van Wyk & Michael Wink
Timber Press Inc.     2004     Pgs. 164, 412

The Green Pharmacy
James A. Duke, PhD.
Rodale Press     1997     Pgs. 100, 251, 395, 447

Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
Scott Cunningham
Llewellyn Worldwide     1985 & 2000     Pgs. 259 – 260

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