Witch Hazel: Hamamelis Virginiana, Hamamelis, Snapping Tabacco Weed, Spotted Elder, Winterbloom

Botany: 

Witch Hazel is a perennial tree or shrub that grows in the spring and summer and blooms a yellow flower in the late fall. Witch Hazel prefers an area with mostly shade and moist soil, grows to be up to 3 to 8 meters tall, and can be found along the eastern half of the United States and Canada. 1

Chemistry:

Witch Hazel barks and leaves contain many chemicals with antioxidant properties such as gallic acids and kaempferol, the tannins found in the leaves and bark gives Witch Hazel its astringent properties2 5, and quercetin is a flavanoid that reduces the risk of cancer.

Fun Fact:

The trees flexible branches were used as dowsing rods to find water or precious metals.4

History:

Witch Hazel has been used historically by many different American Indian tribes including the Osage, Potawatomi, Iroquois, and the Mohegans. They used it to treat ulcers and sores, made teas for dysentery, cough, and colds, and it was widely used as an astringent.4 They also placed the twigs on the hot rocks in a sweat lodge to bathe and soothe sore muscles with the steam.4 Tribes in the South would eat the seeds because of the pistachio nut flavor.4 Early Americans Colonists also used Witch Hazel to treat insect bites and stings, teas made from Witch Hazel were used to stop internal bleeding, and they also used it to treat hemorrhoids, diarrhea, and dysentery.

Uses/Pharmacology:

Today Witch Hazel is a commonly used astringent and can be found in a wide variety of products including deodorants, after shave lotions, cloth wipes, soaps, and creams. It relieves the symptoms of varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea. 4 6

Dosing/Recipes:

Infusion- Pour 1 cup boiling water on leaves and let infuse for 10-15 min.3 Ointment- Mix one teaspoon of tincture with one teaspoon cocoa butter. Apply at least four times per day.7 Suppository- Mix one teaspoon of the tincture with one teaspoon cocoa butter. Form mixture into a suppository shape and place it in the freezer. When the suppository is solid, insert it in the anus. Do this three times per day.7

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

Liquid forms of the product may contain alcohol so it is not recommended for use in pregnant women.6

References Cited:

1.      USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( http://plants.usda.gov ). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

2.      Touriño S, Lizárraga D, Carreras A, et al. March 1, 2008. Highly galloylated tannin fractions from witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) bark: electron transfer capacity, in vitro antioxidant activity, and effects on skin-related cells.

3.      Hoffman, D. The Holistic Herbal. Great Britain: Element; 2002.

4.      Foster, S (2009) Witch Hazel - Hamamelis virginiana. Steven Foster Group, Inc. Retrieved October 6, 2009

From http://www.stevenfoster.com/education/monograph/witchhazel.html

5.      Vennat, B., et al. "Tannins from Hamamelis virginiana: Identification of Proanthocyanidins and Hamamelitannin Quantification in Leaf, Bark, and Stem Extracts. Planta Medica 54(1988):454-457.

6.      WITCH HAZEL (Hamamelis virginiana) – ORAL. MedicineNet.com. Retrieved October 6, 2009 From http://www.medicinenet.com/witch_hazel_hamamelis_virginiana-oral/article.htm

7.      Schar, D. (nd) Witch Hazel. Planet Botanic. Retrieved October 6, 2009 From http://www.planetbotanic.ca/fact_sheets/witch_hazel_fs.htm