Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana

Witch hazel (scientific name Hamamelis virginiana) is a deciduous shrub that usually grows up to a height of anything between 3 meters and 8 meters. The leaves of this plant are oval-shaped, arranged alternately, with undulating or smooth margins and measure about 4 cm to 17 cm in length. The genus name of this plant, Hamamelis, denotes "together with fruit", and has reference to the appearance of flowers and the fruits from the previous year becoming mature simultaneously.

H. virginiana or witch hazel shrubs bloom during the period from September to November, while the plants of other species bear flowers from January to March. Each H. virginiana flower possesses four slender petals shaped like straps that measure 1 cm to 2 cm in length. These flowers may appear in a number of colors including light to deep yellow, orange and even red. The flowers give way to fruits, which are each, a two-part capsule measuring 1 cm in length. Each part of the capsule contains a solitary glossy black seed that are about 5 mm in length. When the fruit matures, the capsule ruptures explosively on its own. This occurs around autumn, roughly 8 months after the flowering. When the capsules split, they eject the seeds with enough force, usually helping them to fly to distances of about 10 meters. Hence, this species is also known as the "snapping hazel".

Witch hazel is also known by other common names such as spotted alder and winter bloom. This flowering shrub is widespread in North America. Various parts of this plant, including its leaves, twigs and bark, contain elevated concentration of tannins. In fact, tannins are present in practically all natural astringents owing to their aptitude to constrict, dry as well as make the tissues firm.

Health benefits

Witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) offer several health benefits. For instance, if one's eyes become puffy owing to lack of adequate sleep or crying for a long period or both, they can get relief from the condition if they soak two little cotton pads in witch hazel and place them over his/ her eyes. Witch hazel has a reputation for contracting blood vessels.

You should consider yourself lucky in case there is a witch hazel bush growing close to where you reside. You can pick some leaves and twigs of the shrub and prepare a cup of tea with them in sizzling hot water. You may also add some cloves and soak them for no less than 15 minutes. Subsequently, strain the solid particles and use the tea to gargle. As witch hazel is soothing and can reduce swelling, this is a wonderful herb for treating sore throats. In fact, this herb has been used for this purpose since ancient times.

Lotions containing witch hazel are very useful for swollen, rough, carpenter's or gardener's hands. In addition, you can use this herb internally for treating a number of conditions including hemorrhoids, varicose veins or a prolapsed uterus.

Prepare an infusion with witch hazel leaves and twigs and immerse a thin cloth in it. Subsequently, apply the cloth on the areas affected by varicose veins. If you apply this natural as well as inexpensive remedy every day, it will work to lessen the emergence of varicose veins.

In addition, applying a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel, calendula and goldenseal tea to the external ear is effective for treating a condition called swimmer's ear, which is typically associated with moisture and pus in the outer ear canal. Use of witch hazel aids in drying up the secretions and, at the same time, calendula and goldenseal help to combat infections.

A combination of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and arnica is a wonderful topical medicine for treating traumatic bumps, bruises as well as sprains. This blend works to alleviate pain and also promote quick healing. Occasionally, some people combine witch hazel with isopropyl alcohol and rubbed on the skin for treating lesions. Here is a word of caution - this combination of witch hazel should not be used internally.

As far as healing bruises is concerned, witch hazel produces amazing results. In this case too, you need to immerse a thin cloth in a witch hazel infusion and then apply the cloth to the bruises several times daily till the bruise disappears. In addition, even your shiner will disappear much faster provided you employ witch hazel to accelerate the healing process.

You will often find many tattoo artists cleansing newly done tattoos using witch hazel. In fact, this herb rinses out bacteria and other germs from the skin, while soothing inflammation. You may also employ witch hazel for cleansing any big or small scrape or wound.

Certain conditions like a sunburn, chicken pox or poison ivy will tempt you to scratch the affected area. However, if you wish to avoid scratching these areas, it is advisable you immerse a cotton ball or a thin cloth in witch hazel and rub the affected areas with it. It will work wonders on the itchy skin, as witch hazel possesses amazing soothing properties.

You can also use this herb in the form of an ordinary skin freshener during the summer months. Soak a cotton ball or pad with witch hazel infusion and employ it to rinse away the dirt, oil and other impurities from the skin. This will not only refresh your skin, but also make the skin radiant. As witch hazel possesses astringent properties, it is excellent for constricting large skin pores, thereby making the skin appear tighter.

Although witch hazel helps to get rid of oils from the skin surface, unlike other commercial astringents available in the market, this herb will not dehydrate the skin. If you use witch hazel soon after taking a shower, it helps to tap the moisture. This is especially beneficial for people with dry skin, particularly during the winter. Elma Skin Care products contain this natural ingredient.

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